When someone like Prabhudeva directs a movie, the natural assumption is that he will choreograph the songs. But when the ace choreographer decided to direct superstar Salman Khan in Wanted (2009), he chose Rajeev Surti, a choreographer with lesser experience, to choreograph the chartbuster Mera Hi Jalwa. And we all know how well that turned out!
In one of his interviews, Prabhu said he thinks it’s great to see younger people enter the world of choreography in Bollywood and trying out new things. That, it seems, is a thought shared by many filmmakers and producers, who are increasingly turning to newer choreographers to infuse the much-needed freshness in songs and dances in the movies.
Reality shows such as Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, Nach Baliye and Dance India Dance, serve as a platform for the choreographers to show off their skills, and have given a boost to choreography in the film industry.
It’s difficult to replace the typical latkas and jhatkas associated with Bollywood dance, but it sure is a welcome change to see dance forms like salsa, tango and jive being introduced in the movies, courtesy the fresh batch of choreographers. But while some view it as a respite from the usual naach-gaana, others believe that the new lot still has a lot of catching up to do.
Lot more to choreography
Compared to earlier days, when a choreographer’s job was limited to coming on the sets and teaching dance steps to the actor, today’s choreographers have it much tougher. Ranju Varghese, who assisted Bosco-Caesar for many years before turning full-fledged choreographer, says, “Today, choreographers in Bollywood are known as song directors.
They not only teach dance steps to the actors, but also shoot the songs. They need to understand camera, techniques and lens,” he says. One of the reasons that so many choreographers are taking to direction, according to him, is that they tend to shoot so many songs back-to-back, that their sense of direction evolves with time.
“It feels great that we’re in this period of Indian cinema when choreographers are treated almost like directors,” feels Remo D’Souza. The ace-choreographer who has also directed the film ABCD -- Anybody Can Dance and is working on its sequel, believes that this is the best time for choreographers to be in Bollywood. D’Souza, who was one of the judges on the latest season of Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa says, “Reality shows have changed the way people view dance in the industry. You can see pure forms of dance and that’s amazing.” But not all choreographers who win reality shows get to choreograph for movies. “There are divisions,” says Varghese, “The reality show choreographers tend to do more reality shows. Then there are some who choreograph for live shows.”
Quality versus quantity
The winner of this season’s Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, Salman Yusuf Khan, though, has bagged for himself a project with director Vivek Agnihotri. “It’s because of the reality shows that we are getting a chance to show off our skills and that’s great,” says Khan, who’s also acted in ABCD. “There are choreographers who are there from season one, but not all are doing movies. I’m getting those opportunities because I’m working that hard,” he adds. Saroj Khan, who’s been in the industry for decades, believes that while those who have worked as assistants to established choreographers are doing good work, some of those who have come up from reality shows lack quality. “Earlier, dances were meaningful. They were there for a reason. Now, there is a dance without any reason. There is no quality,” she says.
D’Souza offers another point of view. “Earlier, choreographers in Bollywood had their distinct styles. Saroj Khan had her Indian touch, Ahmed Khan came up with western influences, Chinni Prakash used to have loads of dancers and Farah Khan’s dances were technically strong. These days, everyone is hooked on to the Internet and there’s something called referencing which has taken over. Many dances are copied from international videos. Since everyone is looking at the same videos, everything looks the same and nobody knows who’s choreographed the song,” he says.
But while they feel that way, the younger lot including Khan and Varghese have a different take on the matter. Both believe that compromising on the quality of the dance is not an option for them, as their next project depends on their work. “If I don’t deliver, then I don’t get my next job. It’s a constant struggle to step it up,” says Khan.
From 30 releases in a year to a time when Bollywood churns out more than 200 films a year, every department, including choreography has seen a boom. And while it’s commendable how far Bollywood choreography has come in terms of form and style, the question of quality still looms large. Time for gen-next to step it up!
From dance to direction
1. Ganesh Acharya has made everyone from Amitabh Bachchan to Hrithik Roshan dance to his tunes. He turned to direction with Swamy and Money Hai Toh Honey Hai. He now plans to make a film on dance.
2. Farah Khan not only tasted success as a choreographer but even as a director with films such as Main Hoon Na and Om Shanti Om.
3. Who can forget Urmila Matondkar’s sensual dances in Rangeela? The man behind those moves, Ahmed Khan, turned to direction with films like Lakeer and Fool N Final.
4. It’s every actor’s dream (and at times nightmare) to get a dance choreographed by Prabhudeva. He has directed many movies down South and made his Bollywood debut with Wanted.