Ngathingpei Khayi

You can make anything by writing – CS Lewis

Dancing With the Stars

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Amitabh Bachchan wants to dance like them and those mesmerizing moves of Honey Singh in video Blue Eyes belongs to them. Meet the choreographer duo Atul Jindal and Karan Kumar who are making big into the dancing league.

Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life. This is exactly what Atul Jindal and Karan Kumar did when they realized that they have one thing in common, their love to dance to musical tunes. Though they didn’t have everything right in front of them in a platter they believed in themselves and that was all they needed.  Today they have their own institute Big Dance Center in west Delhi, choreographed three songs (Blue Eyes, Ragini MMS 2 and Bhoothnath Returns) and recently did India’s first Broadway in the capital.

“Karan and I met in the college (SGTB Khalsa College, Delhi University) where I was doing English Honours and him Botany. We were in the western dance team and after doing shows we realised that we need to be trained professionally. That’s how we decided and convinced our families that we want to go to New York for higher studies in Broadway Dance Center. It is in Manhattan one of the biggest dance school where we did one year course,” says Atul Jindal sitting comfortably in their cabin while his partner across the table gives a nod of approval with a smile. “When we came back to India in 2009 we decided to start a dance institute mainly for two reasons. Firstly, we didn’t have much other career options so why not open a dance company with same guidelines and techniques. Also, it is a huge amount of money for a dancer to go abroad just to learn some dance moves. So we decided to give back to society what we have learned and that’s how everything happened!”

Among two of them, Atul does most of the talking. Is it because he is more expressive or because he is senior to Karan? “He is a year junior to me,” chuckles the senior who is 29 years old and gestures to junior to take the conversation ahead. Karan continues, “We are more into western dance form like ballet, jazz and contemporary. When we were coming up we realized that much emphasis was given to Indian classical which is good but to us contemporary appealed more. Classical is beautiful but we need to understand that Western is also a classical dance form from the western part of the world like ballet of Russia. Moreover, in our country we can’t just ignore Bollywood which is also taking all the western stuff and adding to our Indian culture.”

Though they are just couple of years old in this profession they have already worked with two big stars of our time – the ultimate star of Indian movie Big B – Amitabh Bachchan and the latest heartthrob of youths – Honey Singh. Atul pops-in to tell the best part of the story, “One fine day I got a call that he is Yo Yo Honey Singh and want us to choreograph his song. I didn’t believe it until I got a mail from him with the song and requesting us not to share it with anybody.” Then both laughs out loud knowing that it was then when the luck lady just came knocking their doors and changed their destiny. “And it was through Honey Singh’s video that Amitabh-ji came looking for us.”

Going into the details one can see the excitement in the eyes of Atul, “What do we say about Honey Singh. He is the god of Indian music right now, the X-factor of all the videos and movies and for us he is like the mentor and big brother. With him we did Char Bottle Vodka in Ragini MMS which has more than 14 million hits in YouTube and now Bhoothnath Returns where he is singing and dancing with Mr. Bachchan. We have done Temptation Reloaded in Malaysia, New Zealand and Australia. A world tour with Honey Singh and more shows are lined up in Dubai. He has given us so much exposure.”

Sharing the experience of dancing with stars, the Delhi based choreographer continues, “They are already famous so our main purpose was to give them dance moves which will become theirs not ours. So what we did was spend time with them to understand their body language. For example, Honey Singh is young and energetic and Amitabh-ji is not that young anymore.” For a while we thought Yo Yo Honey Singh’s praising was over but it started all over again, “I must say Honey Singh is a quick learner and sometimes he dance so perfectly that we are also surprised. He’s got this one interesting habit of taking videos while learning our moves and next day he will turn up with all the steps perfect!” Karan chips in to give his side of story with his star, “It was amazing just to be around Mr. Bachchan. We grew up watching his movies and now we’re standing next to him to teach him the dance moves, it was just a humbling experience. All he said to us was to take care of him as he is getting old. He is a perfectionist, initially we had some problem in coordinating the steps as he is left-handed to which we had to rehearse a lot. I even lost the count and the back-dancers were tired. Realizing it he did it all alone till he got the moves right.” Other than these two they have a very interesting list of dancing stars they look up to. Karan is totally gaga over Madhuri Dixit, “On screen no doubt it is Madhuri among the leading Bollywood actresses and there is Mia Michaels, her way of teaching, dancing and everything is just wonderful.” And for Atul, “I think right now the best dancer is Prabhu Deva in India. I was really inspired by Hrithik Roshan and Michael Jackson while growing up!”

Talking about their feats they have some interesting ones like the dancers from their institute, MJ-5 have won India’s Dancing Superstar last year. Along with that they have worked in Bollywood movies Anybody Can Dance, I Me aur Main and they are also venturing into Hollywood with Basmati Blues in pipeline. “In our company we have internationally trained teachers and we have Professional Dance Study Program which happens once in a year for three months where we invite best dancers from around the world. This time we have Bam Martin and Bryan Puspos who are the dancing sensations on YouTube right now,” says Atul with pride. Karan brings out another feather from their hat, “We just did a musical which is the first musical Broadway of India – Seven Days to Wonderland. It was something which we always dreamt of but never thought it will be us doing it. It happened a month back in Talkatora Stadium in Delhi, we had eight shows.”  Atul quickly adds, “By the way Karan himself was in the reality show Dance India Dance.”

Now that they have established themselves in the industry they look back and try to retrospect. “It was not easy when we started, there was hardly anybody to guide and we had to figure it out all by ourselves. Back then it was only Boogie Woogie now just see how many reality dance shows has come up. So much awareness has been created, as the country is also growing,” hopefully says Atul. To this Karan adds, “Government should come up with curriculum where dance is a subject like sports as an integral part of our education system. Making dance a performing art and it shouldn’t be just confined to Indian classical but let the students have their choice. You don’t have to take away our tradition and culture but add to it. And also if we start at the younger age it will be much easier to train their body than a grown up.”

Last December both got married to their better halves, to which they give a large credit for their change in fortunes. “We have done more projects and works in last three months than last three years after getting married. Don’t really know but the marriage thing really worked for us,” jokingly Atul. “Initially there was some doubt from the family members that we might not succeed because there were not too many examples who were doing well. There was just a bunch of people like Saroj Khan, Farah Khan, Shiamak Dawar among the millions. It was not a big market!” To which Karan sums up, “I think we really can’t make everybody happy. Earlier they were not sure with our choice of profession and now they are saying we don’t spend much time at home. It’s a part of life I think. Now we work our hearts out and after 5-6 years we can sit back and supervise people under us.” Looks like things are quite settled when Atul says, “Our plan is to expand our center to Mumbai and then get into the movies. Though we are not going to shift our base there we can’t just ignore Bollywood. We have already signed up one world tour, second musical and some numbers in movie are lined up.” On the lighter notes Atul thinks, “In my family not one person is close to either music, sports or any curricular activities, they are all into business. If not a dancer, I might have ended up being a property dealer.” To which Karan waves his hand, “A politician for sure he talks really good. But with me either pilot or biochemist as I always wanted to be in medicine or research.”

Their only advice to all who wants to take up their trait as career, “The most important thing here is to keep patience. Initial years don’t bear much fruit but it will grow. You need lots of training, like to get a normal job you spend 12 years in school and 3 more in college. So here in dance also at least 4-5 years you have to devote in training. Don’t go for short courses like for 6 months, I have trained for 10 years and still training, it is an art so there is no end.”  Atul shares about the best part of their job, “You get to travel around the world, best place to stay and meet famous people.”And for Karan, “it gives us everything and we don’t have to work because when we are performing on the stage it’s like in party having one hell of good time.”

(Published in Society June ’14, Page No. 80)

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