The name Shiamak Davar has become a trademark in terms of dance. But was your journey to success difficult?
I’ve been through horrible struggles. Initially, a male dancer was not accepted and the schools closed their doors on me. School principals said they cannot allow a boy who dances Western style to teach girls in their schools. I went through an immense struggle to get over it. Starting a dance class was another struggle, but by the grace of God, I’ve really been working on my craft. I feel that people who don’t work on their craft will never be able to emulate today’s superstars. Because the stars have gone through pain and struggle to get where they are. No one can be a star without training and hard work. Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt, Ishaan Khatter and Shahid Kapoor, are all expert dancers. Legends really work their craft.
Who do you consider legends of their craft?
When I say legends, I mean working with the likes of Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan and Abhishek Bachchan. It’s wonderful to work with them. And then, we work with young people and we can feel that there is a zameen asman ka difference.
Can you elaborate on this difference?
Legends are humble, they don’t keep my dancers waiting, they arrive on time, they learn their work and they don’t change the choreography. Today, if SRK has a broken leg and back, she will still perform for me. I remember at one of the awards functions, SRK had an injury, but she did the performance for me. These legends will follow our instructions the way we say it and the new ones will bring their own directors and choreographers, I don’t know what they want to do. I feel very sad. That’s why I love my legends. Old is gold no matter what you say!
You recently shared a photo of Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan on social media. What was the story behind all of this?
The photo was taken during one of the Filmfare Awards and I know Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan very well because of their work. I have worked with them in the past especially SRK because he and Yash’s uncle (Chopra) were the ones who really wanted me to do ‘Dil To Pagal Hai’. It was actually Shah Rukh who forced me to do the film. Interestingly, Yash’s uncle (Chopra) had even asked me to work on ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ but at that time I didn’t do the film as I was scared and worried about my style of dancing. I thought my style of choreography would never work.
What convinced you to say yes to ‘Dil To Pagal Hai’?
Gauri often came to my lectures and Shah Rukh often came to receive her. She stood in class, smoking a cigarette, patiently waiting for her like an adoring husband (smiles). Literally, I like an adoring husband. One day she told me that she was going to release a movie and she wanted me to do it. SRK invited me to dinner and I was surprised by ‘why are you calling me for dinner?’. But when I went there, SRK asked me to do ‘DTPH’. She convinced me by telling me they wanted my way of dancing. Frankly, if Shah Rukh hadn’t convinced me, I’m sure I wouldn’t even have done “Dil To Pagal Hai”. Because my style of dancing was very different. It was western but Yash’s uncle (Chopra) trusted me and SRK pushed me further. So I’m so glad I made the movie.
Shah Rukh Khan and you still inspire each other?
These days, I’m really excited for Shah Rukh. ‘Pathaan’ is doing very well. I called him and told him how happy and excited I am to see him again. I wanted him to do my shows again, I really missed him.
With ‘Dil To Pagal Hai’, the audience witnessed a new style of dance. What liberties were you allowed as a choreographer, since dance was the soul of the film?
So when I chimed in for ‘Dil To Pagal Hai’ I told Uncle Yash, ‘Now that I’m doing this, I need my own dance troupe, my costume and my understanding of music.’ So even when Uttam Singh was composing the song jugalbandi (The Dance of Envy) with Madhuri and Karisma, I said that I wanted to give music to the dance song. I gave the idea of u200bu200bthe music. I had complete control over the film’s music and dance. If someone is hiring me as a professional, he should get the best out of me. And Uncle Yash allowed everything. He was okay with my costumes and music and choreography and everything. This is why I was able to perform like a good dance director.
Your album ‘Mohabbat Kar Le’ was released in the same year as DTPH. How did that song get into the movie?
While I was rehearsing with Madhuri in my dance studio, just for rehearsal I said, let me play my song Mohabbat Karle Re. Yash’s uncle freaked out after hearing the song and decided to include it in the film. That’s how the song ended up in the movie.
Your songs Jaane Kisne and Mohabbat Kar Le are still favorites among music lovers. Have you ever thought about relaunching your singing career?
I really have some music video songs to release but I need to be free and right now my dance school takes up a lot of my time. I teach there and we give scholarships, which is a one-year program, especially for the kids who are from the low-income group, but have the talent. Between my school and the Book A Smile foundation, we are running this one year scholarship program. My school is very important to me and is the main reason I am where I am today. There’s also my Victory Art Foundation, which is for people with special needs. For people who have no money, the foundation pays for their education, food, lodging, and everything. All that work keeps me busy.
How did you end up collaborating with Vishal Bhardwaj for the musical short film “Fursat”?
I have been a big fan of Vishal Bhardwaj ever since I saw ‘Omkara’ and ‘Kaminey’. I also love all his other movies. I just called him and said ‘I’m a huge fan and I want to work with you’. He was very surprised and said, ‘Shiamak Davar is telling me this?’ But gradually the collaboration with the short film “Fursat” arose. One day he was just telling the story and as I listened to it I told him I wanted to show him something. It was something I was working on then. It was an Indo-contemporary style that was very different from the Shiamak Davar style that everyone saw in ‘DTPH’. I showed Vishal a video and he lost his mind. He immediately said that he wanted the style in the film. I retorted and asked him if it was possible because the style was very ‘hatke’. I also asked him, what will the customer say? But Vishal was very adamant to include that style of choreography in the film. When we started the auditions, he wanted Ishaan (Khatter) and I was so happy because he is my student and he knows the Shiamak style of dance. Then there is also a sweet girl named Wamiqa (Gabbi) who has also come on board. Before Ishaan, a boy, who had made a film, came into the scene, but he was so proud that we couldn’t catch him. Then Ishaan came and we were relieved. My assistant directors Jai and Anisha both handled the shooting and they did a great job together with Vishal. And Vishal dared to follow my Indo-contemporary choreography. That’s why I love it.
Many years ago, you said in an interview that Shahid Kapoor had more potential and people still haven’t seen the best of him. After so many years and so many amazing performances by Shahid, will you still say the same thing?
I will still say the same. Shahid has done great work in films like ‘Kaminey’, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat, Kabir Singh and others. But he will still say that people have not seen the best of Shahid. Because I’ve seen Shahid dance and it hasn’t been choreographed yet in a way that drives people crazy. He is such a good dancer.
The song “Naatu Naatu” from “RRR” was nominated for an Oscar. What do you think of the choreography of the song?
I can’t tell you how excited I was when I heard about the nomination. The choreography is outstanding. The music is fabulous and what should I say about SS Rajamouli? He’s done a fantastic job. I know Ram Charan very well as I worked with him at an awards ceremony in Chennai. He is such a humble, warm and so talented guy. When I saw Ram in ‘RRR’, I totally freaked out and called him and said, ‘I’m in love with him because of what he did in the movie.’ The way Ram and Jr. NTR performed is just amazing. Both are legends. I really hope and pray they win the Oscar.
The choreography is amazing. When people work like this, they tend to inspire everyone and I get inspired by the choreography of Naatu Naatu. These days, we see dances that look all too similar. While the steps and footwork are different, they end up looking the same. But the footwork displayed in “Naatu Naatu” is outstanding. We see a lot of footwork in many contemporary songs, for example there is the song “Pathaan” Jhoome Re Pathaan where there is a lot of footwork. Then there is the title song Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 by Kartik Aaryan which has a lot of footwork. They’re all cute, but after seeing ‘Naatu Naatu’, who has legendary footwork, we have to wonder what’s next?