Choreographer of Bollywood Blockbusters Blazes a New Trail with Innovative Style

Posted: September 2, 2012 in Shiamak in Media, Shiamak Interviews
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Hoards of film fans across India have danced the night away to some of Bollywood’s most popular tunes. While Bollywood fans regularly see Shah Rukh Khan waltz and whirl in Dil Toh Pagal Hai or Hrithik Roshan enthrall moviegoers with his spectacular moves in Dhoom 2, very rarely do they think of the very person who choreographed the high-octane dances. That person is Shiamak Davar, who choreographed some of Bollywood’s biggest films such as Dil Toh Pagal Hai, Dhoom 2, Kisna, and Tall, among others. He even worked on a film here in Hollywood, one featuring Anil Kapoor (Slumdog Millionaire) opposite Tom Cruise – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. In addition to his film work, Mr. Davar also teaches dance moves to a slew of students. Known as the father of contemporary jazz in India, Mr. Davar is also an avid singer

The acclaimed artist spent a few moments to have an in-depth conversation with Buzzine about who he is, what he does, and the release of his latest album Shabop.

Parimal M. Rohit: Hello Shiamakji! Let us start off with an introduction. Please introduce yourself to Hollywood. Who are you and what do you do?

Shiamak Davar: I’m someone who believed in my gift, and worked towards making that passion a profession to heal others. Since childhood, it has been the performing arts for me; singing, dancing and acting. I was legend in my living room, performing for my family and friends. Soon after I took to theatre and actively participated in school and college events. Dance happened much later and through my spiritual guides, the Bhavnagiris, I realized the power of dance and started my dance school. From seven students at the time of its inception to over 70,000 students globally, my aim has been to improve cultural exchange through dance taking India to the world. On an individual level it’s a platform to people who get an opportunity to be themselves and de stress while they learn. I’ve also been choreographing for Bollywood and have won a national award for my first film. It has been a fulfilling experience knowing that people across the world are recognizing the talent, and i recently received an honorary doctorate from Middlesex University, London, and also choreographed a dance sequence for Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

PMR: You are dubbed as the first person to bring contemporary jazz to India. How did that come about?

SD: Like I said, for me it was only singing and theatre. Early twenties were when I started attending master classes in London and U.S. and realized the power of dance to heal. I wanted to bring the western style to India and knew there would be apprehension amongst people. But I knew that the rejection and struggle would be worth it eventually. My style had to represent me; it brought together western jazz with our traditional folk movements. Initially people doubted men who danced and considered girls who attended western jazz classes as unmarriageable! But I knew I had to keep going and soon enough the word spread. Dil Toh Pagal Hai was the first time that Bollywood saw structured choreography; it created a revolution of sorts combining Jazz technique and Bollywood dancing. Winning a national award for it reconfirmed by belief in what I was doing. Today, it is popularly recognized as Shiamak Style for its unique combination of indo contemporary and modern movement.

PMR: You are also dubbed as the person who changed choreography of Indian cinema. What kind of responsibility is that? Does such a “title” add more pressure to what you do as a choreographer?

SD: Pressure always makes you work better! For me, this is the only thing I know so I give it my all. I’ve always tried to bring something new to Indian cinema, whether it was Bollywood Jazz in Dil Toh Pagal Hai and Taal, Indo-jazz in Kisna, or Hip Hop in Dhoom 2. People find an inspiration in my work and it’s great to see them following the trend. I really enjoy what I do, so work is never stressful!

PMR: There are so many choreographers in Indian film. In light of everything you have said so far, what makes you stand out from the crowd?

SD: Originality. This is the first and most important thing is you’re in the creative field. People recognize my work because it’s very Shiamak, very me! Your personality should reflect in your work. There are very few choreographers in Bollywood who have been able to create their own style and identity, you can’t do ‘run of the mill’ work and expect to stand out.

PMR: You have choreographed some major films, including Dil To Pagal Hai, Taal, Dhoom 2, Aladdin, Bunty Aur Babli, Taare Zameen Par, and Rab Ne Bada Di Jodi. Is there a film that is close to your heart? Which one is your favorite? Which dance is your favorite?

SD: Well, each time I look back at the work I’ve done and even with all the appreciation I always feel I could have done more. And it’s this hunger and wish to improve that keeps me going and working harder! The reason I don’t do too many films is also because I really take up projects that I believe in and give me creative freedom. So in a way each one has been equally special, just in a different way.

PMR: Dhoom 2 had some pretty intense dance sequences featuring a spectacular Hrithik Roshan. Was that a difficult film to choreograph?

SD: Aditya Chopra gives me a lot of creative freedom and trusts my work. In Dhoom 2, I gave the video a very grudge and Hip Hop feel, something new to Bollywood. And having Hrithik in the video was an added benefit for the brilliant dancer he is. Hrithik is really a perfectionist and his dedication really motivates the entire team to give their best.

PMR: How about favorite actor? Who have you enjoyed working with?

SD: So many!! Shahid, he was a part of my dance company and I’ve seen him grow, such a talent! Big B and Abhi (Abhishek Bachchan) my all time favourites, they’re really a treat to watch. Shah Rukh, Hrithik, Salman all all all!! I don’t belong to any camp and group, so I share a very good work rapport with all of them.

PMR: Was there an actor who was easier or hard to work with than the other?

SD: Well there are always a few that are humble and respect the work that you do and few who get so overwhelmed by the stardom that they can’t handle it. It’s in fact the newer ones that have an attitude.

PMR: Aside from film, you have done some other stage productions or award shows. Which is more challenging to choreograph, film or stage production?

SD: I am complete stage person. For me, the stage is my home and performing in front of a live audience gives you the greatest feeling. Film choreography is all about editing, one movement and it’s a cut; there is no flow in the choreography. Yes, it has its charm of locations and grandeur, but on stage you get to connect to the audience in person, you feel their energy and there is no better feeling!

PMR: Talk to us about your Institute. How did that get started? Where do you see the Institute in 5 years?

SD: It’s started out with my mission of spreading the joy of dance and reaching out to as many people. It has grown over the years and now has its presence in over 14 cities in India and in Canada, Australia, United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates. Through my institute, I want to reach out to as many people in as many countries as possible!

PMR: You also just released an album (Shabop) where you sing? Is this a new career in the works? How are you balancing singing with dancing?

SD: Singing was my first love. I had released two Hindi and one English album in the nineties that were huge hits. But dance based projects kept me busy and I didn’t find time to release my album. So I’ve finally come back to singing with Shabop, that means ‘don’t worry, just dance’ and is also a style taught at my classes which is my interpretation of hip hop and street funk with ethnic moves. Its an interesting album with a few duets and has acoustic versions, ballads, dance and club mixes; so there’s something for everyone.

PMR: Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now? 10 years from now?

SD: Still singing, still dancing and still teaching!

PMR: Here in the United States, Bollywood has gained popularity because of its formula of using song and dance to tell the story. Though we have musicals in the United States, it is not as commonplace as Hindi film. How do you think Hollywood can feature more musicals? What can Hollywood learn from Bollywood in this regard?

SD: Hollywood has in fact brought powerful musicals on screen like Moulin Rouge and Chicago. Their interpretation and story telling is difference, but the power of the medium is the same.

PMR: Just the same, what can Bollywood learn from Hollywood?

SD: Hollywood is very professional in their planning and the way they work. Bollywood is moving in that direction and there is a transitional change here as well.

PMR: Do you see more collaboration between Bollywood and Hollywood?

SD: Slumdog Millionaire was a great start off to the association between the two film industries and its only heating up now. There is mutual admiration between the two cultures and together they bring magic on the screen. So I’m sure there are many more to come!


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