Over 25 years ago, two buddies, Dheeraj Utmani and Ajay Shivlani, were enamoured by the magical game of skating. Though management students, the duo began conducting skating classes for school students.
Amole Gupte’s recent film Hawaa Hawaai that features Saquib Salim and Partho Gupte has sports as the backdrop
Their classes also served as inspiration for director Amole Gupte to make his recent film Hawaa Hawaai. Dheeraj and Ajay share their experience of working with the cast and crew of the movie and their dream to popularise skating as a sport.
Ajay Shivlani and Dheeraj Utmani with their students
Q. How did Amole Gupte’s film Hawaa Hawaai come your way?
A. His son Partho Gupte has been training with us for years. He is part of our speed training class, which is an advanced level of skating and is held at night at the Bandra Kurla Complex. Amole would accompany his son for the training and it was during one such skating class in 2007 that it struck him that a film about skating can be made. We were the creative and skating trainers in the film. We were on the sets most of the time.
Dheeraj Utmani and Ajay Shivlani
Q. How were actors Partho Gupte and Saquib Saleem to work with?
A. Partho is an intelligent and mature actor. He is hardworking and happily worked round-the-clock. Saquib Saleem is a natural actor.
Q. You also teach skating to special children?
A. Yes, we have trained many kids with special needs and we also help NGOs. Earlier we had special batches for them, but now it’s an integrated class. But we provide free training to them.
Q. You think films on sports affect people’s lives?
A. The memory is short-lived. There is a craze for sometime but people grow out of it and move on. Only passion and love for the sport can make a difference.
Q. What is your earliest skating memory?
A. We were childhood friends and used to practise at Shivaji Park. Our first success was when we were featured in a newspaper column. We are management students but decided to start skating coaching classes. Initially it was difficult to get recognition and we held free classes till we had decent enrollments. In 1997, we formed our organisation, Roll-o-Fit and today, we have over a lakh students in various centres around the city.
Q. You have several achievements to your name?
A. Yes, we are the most qualified skating instructors in India. We have been featured in The Limca Book of World Records. We have skated from Mumbai to New Delhi and also from Leh to Khardung La. We are internationally certified skaters. We had also applied for inclusion in The Guinness Book of World Records.
Q. Why has skating as a sport not flourished in India?
A. There are many young talents involved in this sport, who are representing us internationally but in spite of that the infrastructure has not developed. Traffic and the state of roads have to be improved and provisions have to be made for aspiring skaters.