World dance day special: Madhuri Dixit Nene and Saroj Khan discuss the benefits of dance
mid-day brings Madhuri Dixit Nene and Saroj Khan together to discuss the benefits of dance, and walk down memory lane
Before we introduce ourselves during this conference call, Madhuri Dixit-Nene and Saroj Khan slip in at least a minute-long exchange of assorted greetings. Khan heaps praise on the way Dixit's dance track from Kalank, Tabah Ho Gaye - choreographed by Khan - has turned out. She then goes on to express gratitude for speaking well of her in subsequent interviews.
Ever so often, the duo punctuates the conversation that edges on memories of their time spent together, to express love for one another. "Madhuri is like my shadow," Khan says at one point when talking about how closely the actor would study her, before taking to the camera. "What I love about Saroj ji is that she knows which movement will look good on an actor," Dixit responds.
A file photo of Dixit, Khan. Pics/Facebook
Easily among the lot of stars who've defined the way the world perceives Bollywood dance, Dixit gives the art a prominence that goes beyond cinematic endeavours. Her recently launched app, Dance With Madhuri, aims to also promote a healthy lifestyle.
"People still ask me how I stay fit, and look good. I always say, dance is the best thing one can do for yourself," says Dixit, who has trained in Kathak since childhood. "You feel good about yourself while burning calories. Happiness plays a big role in [determining] how you look, and feel. Also, when you dance to new songs, you don't get bored. It's not like running on a treadmill for 45 minutes. Finally, one can work the entire body with this cardiovascular form."
Well aware that a cardiovascular component isn't sufficient to meet the physical requirements of women, Dixit says incorporating conditioning classes like pilates, and strengthening sessions of weight training, are crucial to restore muscle mass. "But the cardio component can be met through dance. On our app, we have a vertical called dancercise, which includes the hook steps of my songs put together to create an exercise routine. We also discuss Tabata [HIIT format], and different workouts here. When strapped with a heart-rate monitor, I've been able to burn 300 calories in 20 minutes with it."
While an additional fitness routine is almost an essential for aspiring dancers today, Khan reveals that the long hours of practice put into ensuring that every artiste was in sync with the other, went a long way in keeping her dancers in shape. "They would rehearse for eight hours a day. That's more than [the hours dedicated to] exercise, usually. But, to reap physical benefits, one should do it regularly. You must devote at least an hour to dance."
Tracing their association to several years ago, Dixit reveals that Khan enabled her, a stage performer, understand how to adjust to cameras. "She had no idea how to dance before the camera. In Kathak, we don't shake our hips, like we do in Bollywood. So, she had to learn hip movements. She was like a baby, learning the [ropes]," Khan says. It was Tezaab's (1988) Ek Do Teen, that made Dixit understand what a Bollywood track should look like.
"It was the first time we saw such a crowd," Khan recalls, as Dixit narrates, "They had filled up Mehboob studios with [fans who were stationed outside]. That was the first time that the crowd participated in a dance like that. I recall, in one of the shots, one person got excited, removed his shirt and flung it. And the director [N Chandra] noticed it and said, 'Let's do it'."
Blast from the past
The dance that wasn't?
Reuniting after 18 years for Abhishek Varman's Kalank, Khan recalls that the director was insistent on not making Dixit "dance too much" on the song. "But the song demanded a dance. So I was divided." Well aware that viewers would expect her to dance, Dixit says that the challenge for Khan and her lay in finding the balance between too much and too little movement. "My character is a recluse. So, we had to hold back, a lot."
Doing justice to raunchy lyrics
Khan reveals that Dixit-starrer Beta's track, Dhak Dhak Karne Laga was nearly stuck at the censors owing to its choreography. "But, I can't [make her] shake the hips and say Dhak Dhak. I have to show movements of the bust, right? A song will not look vulgar if the artiste, who performs the movement, [is careful]. Madhuri always made her dances look sexy, not [vulgar]. Also, for a song like Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai, I didn't use hand movements to prevent it from [looking inappropriate]. We used dupattas instead." Dixit reveals that the camera angle too plays a vital role in defining how apt a song looks.
On their most memorable number
Dhak Dhak Karne Laga emerges a unanimous choice for Khan and Dixit when recounting their most memorable (and toughest) song. "We had not rehearsed for it; it is among the most spontaneous songs we've done. Initially, the set was too colourful. Our cinematographer Baba Azmi didn't like it. He said, 'Sab hata do'. Finally, they kept only earthy tones. He played with the lighting, the jaalis. We had to make it look sensual, but couldn't go overboard while doing so, given the character I played," Dixit recalls.
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