‘I Can show talent only through actors’

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Shabina Khan, choreographer of Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, speaks with SANGEETA YADAV about the signature step that has become a rage and her experience making Salman Khan & Sonam Kapoor dance

  • Was it enriching to choreograph Prem Ratan Dhan Payo?

Amid a known production house, director, actors and music director, I was the only one who was new to the project. So I had to work hard to match up. I worked only on this film for the last year and a half, saying no to around 10 -12 films. I experimented with 25-30 steps before finalising this one for the line ‘Prem Rattan Dhan Payo’.

  • This signature step has become quite popular…

It’s a dream come true for me. Seeing people copying the signature step ofPRDP makes takes me back to my childhood days when we used to copy Saroj Khan’s songs like chaney ke khet me, piya ghar aya, ek do teen etc. It’s unbelievable that it has turned out to be such a huge hit.

  • Can you lead us through creating this step?

The rattan in the song signifies jewellery so I showcased all the jewellery like the necklace, bangle and nose ring but the main focus was on the maathey ki bindya which, for me, is the best rattan. This song is inspired by Mira Bai’s bhajan payoji maine, ram rattan dhan payo. I thought to connect that zewar to love. In the end, I used Mira Bai’s pose to signify the completely lost in love bit. That’s when the light goes off and Sonam as Maithili stands with both her hands up in the air.

  • What kind of research went into choreography?

It was a difficult film to do as the story was very good but the characters not easy. I didn’t want it to look like we were needlessly and suddenly breaking into a dance. So I had to study hard to understand their body language and how they were doing the scenes leading up to the song and dance.

  • Who is a quick learner — Sonam or Salman?

Both. Sonam likes to rehearse more. She is very graceful and reminds me of Waheeda Rehman who, I think, is the most graceful dancer till date. Salman is extremely fast in getting the steps and has a unique style. He knows what the audience wants. We used to keep three to four steps ready for him and he used to choose one of them. As a choreographer, I can only show my talent through my actors.

  • How much time did you take to choreograph the songs?

Every song took a different time-frame. The title song took almost a month to choreograph the steps, rehearse with the actors, co-ordinate with the art director and costume designer. We had about 300 dancers on the shoot, 1000 junior artists and elephants and horses as well. Every shot was given a specific timing to shoot in a particular hue of daylight. A lot of technicality was involved.

  • Who has been your inspiration as a choreographer?

I’m a big fan of Saroj Khan and have observed that her steps don’t require camera angle as they are dynamic. You just have to fix the camera and shoot it. To create a step that can become popular and give me an identity, it was important to understand what kind of step it should be, how difficult and easy I should make it so that everyone can do it at the same time.

  • A choreographer’s work is appreciated when a song is a hit or because it features a superstar?

Sometimes we do good steps, but the film doesn’t do well maybe because of the music and of not having popular actors on board. Sometime the music is good but the steps are not well done and don’t suit the body language of an actor. The success of a dance sequence lies in having a good combination of music, steps, actors, production house and director.

(The article was published in The Pioneer Newspaper – http://www.dailypioneer.com/sunday-edition/sunday-pioneer/backpack/i-can-show-talent-only-through-actors.html)

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