What does it mean to be a DID judge? Have you watched the earlier seasons?
I watched all the editions and even the auditions on YouTube. Kursi jab samhali hai, one has to take the responsibility. So many fans wrote on Twitter ke woh baarish mein bheeg ke audition kiye hai. As a 28-year-old, I can interact on an intimate level with the participants and can bring fresh things to the show.
Which dance is your specialisation?
Hip hop. But when Salman (Khan) Sir gave me a chance, I had to learn other forms as well.
How did you meet Salman Khan?
A dance contest was on at Inorbit Mall in Malad, as part of the promotions of Wanted. I run a school in the area and have my own dance group, Sharpshooterz. I won the contest and when Sir came to give away the prizes, I performed in front of him. He asked me to meet him and later got me to choreograph Hum ka peeni hai in Dabangg. I did face some difficulty at first as I had never choreographed for films. But he was so mindful of that possibility that he had kept (choreographer) Chinni Prakash for camera angles and told me: ‘Beta, tu seekh.’ I was confident by the time I was doing Character dheela, Dhinka chika (Ready) and Desi beat (Bodyguard). I have also worked with Ajay Devgnin Bol Bachchan (Chalao na naino se ) and Akshay Kumar for Boss (Party all night).
How different is it to choreograph for fresh talent vis-a-vis big stars?
When we choreograph in films, we have to keep a dose of glamour. If there is ice in the scene, even the ice has to look good (laughs). In DID, har ek dancer ko har ek style karna padta hai. But in Bollywood, you got to make the star dance in a style the public likes him in. That’s why we came up with that pocket-mein-haath style in Dhinka chika. Par Salman Sir ko screen pe bas khada kar dogey, toh bhi public khush ho jayega. But DID is about hard core dance. Iss mein koi halka dance bithao koi contestant ke upar toh public bolega yeh dance mera bachcha bhi kar sakta hai!
Of the remaining contestants, who would you put your money on?
Swarali’s (Karulkar) level is higher than the rest. She has got more grand salutes from Mithunda (Chakraborty, the show’s Grandmaster) than all the others. She came to DID specialising in contemporary (dance) but whatever form I gave her she has excelled in it. Mithunda and Shruti (Merchant, another judge) are fans of Dhiraj (Bakshi). My top five are Swarali, Shyam (Yadav), Dhiraj, Biki (Das) and Manan. Let’s see how the public votes. Their choice also has a lot to do with our popularity as mentors.
A word on Bengal boy Biki?
His strengths are B-Boying and crumping but his contemporary is a bit weak. But I want him in the finals. I am aware of the Calcutta scene. I have choreographed for Shree Venkatesh Films in Rocky (Mithun’s son Mimoh’s Tollywood debut) and Proloy. In fact, I was in the city when I got the DID call-up.
Of the celebrities who have been on the show so far, which episode did you enjoy the most?
Sonakshi (Sinha) is a friend. We started together with Dabangg. The episode reminded us ke hum kahaan se kahaan pahoonch gaye. I am waiting for Salman Sir to come on the show. I think I will break down on the sets that day.
You just finished choreographing Jai Ho with him....
Yes, I did two songs — a soothing, romantic number called Love you till the end, filmed on Salman Sir and Daisy (Shah), and a club mix of the same song.