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‘Dil Toh Pagal Hai’ was meant for me: choreographer Shiamak Davar on film’s 25 yr anniversary

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Mumbai, Oct 30: Besides its swooning romance, music and dance sequences, late filmmaker Yash Chopra’s “Dil Toh Pagal Hai” is also remembered for introducing choreographer Shiamak Davar to the world of Hindi cinema. Not many know that it was the leading man Shah Rukh Khan whose over an hour long “lecture” eventually convinced the then newcomer to choreograph the movie’s three songs and a dance-off sequence between female leads Madhuri Dixit Nene and Karisma Kapoor.
On the 25th anniversary of the 1997 musical romance film, Davar recalled how Shah Rukh’s wife, interior designer Gauri Khan invited the dancer to dine with the couple which would later lead to his debut in Bollywood.
“Gauri used to be my student for many years. She became a professional dancer with me on stage. When I would sing and dance, she would be my lead dancer.
“One day she said ‘Shah Rukh wants to talk to you’ and said come home for dinner. He told me, ‘There is a movie called ‘Dil Toh Pagal Hai’ and I want you to choreograph for it,” Davar told PTI in an interview.
It was not the first film that was offered to the performer, regarded as one of the firsts to bring contemporary jazz and western forms of dance to India.
Yash Chopra had previously chased Davar for choreographing the songs of his son Aditya Chopra’s 1995 directorial debut “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge”, starring Shah Rukh and Kajol.
“Yash uncle had asked me for ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ and I said no because my style is too western. I felt so bad. But I have no regrets,” the artiste said.
After Shah Rukh’s pep talk, Davar conceded only after laying down certain conditions about working on the movie, which the makers duly agreed to.
“Shah Rukh gave me a lecture for more than an hour and drove me nuts to say that I was a fool for not doing it. I was like, let me try…
“Somewhere, ‘Dil Toh Pagal Hai’ was meant for me. And God does things like that. God always chooses where he wants his people placed. The best part is till today you can see the songs and not feel it is old fashioned,” he added.
Released on October 30, 1997, “Dil Toh Pagal Hai” explored a love triangle between the members of a musical troupe — Rahul (Shah Rukh), Pooja (Madhuri) and Nisha (Karisma).
The film, which had music by Uttam Singh and lyrics by the late Anand Bakshi, had opened to positive reviews and was the highest-grossing film of the year with close to Rs 60 crore in worldwide box office collection.
Be it the foot-tapping dance number “Le Gayi”, the fun rain song “Chak Dhoom Dhoom”, the romantic “Are Re Are” or the memorable “Dance of Envy” sequence, Davar said he didn’t expect the hook steps of his songs to be remembered even after 25 years.
In fact, when had just begun dipping his toes into the Bollywood genre, he was filled with self-doubt, the choreographer said. But as fate would have it, the film also won him the National Award for best choreography.
“I can do ‘jhatkas’ and ‘matkas’ but my work is different… it is western, contemporary and jazz. All of this has a different kind of grace. I chose to do what I am good at with ‘Dil Toh Pagal Hai’, with their songs and music, and luckily it all worked,” he added.
Davar also shared how Yash Chopra gave him liberty in sequencing the dance the way he wanted, while Aditya Chopra, who had written the story and screenplay provided him all the key details about the plot.
“Every song should reflect a situation in the narrative. A song can’t just be a song. It has to come from somewhere…
“Like, in ‘Dance of Envy’, Karisma walks up and unzips her jacket as she gets jealous and upset for all this to happen. I need to know the story to design the dance in a certain way,” he explained. “Dance of Envy”, the dance-off set to an instrument track between the characters of Pooja and Nisha, was one of the highlights of the movie. According to Davar, Madhuri and Karisma took two-three days to learn the moves.
“The idea was to have Madhuri’s classic grace and Karisma’s high octane kind of choreography. It was modern and classic. They both complimented each other.”
He is all praises for the three leads for following his instructions to a T.
“They are legends. They are most hungry to learn. Even when they would get hurt during the shoot, they would do the steps,” he said.
“Every song gave me the scope to do what I want to do. Besides, the credit for the success should go to Uttam Singh’s music and the beautiful lines of Anand ji,” Davar added.
The remaining five songs were choreographed by Farah Khan.
After the success of “Dil Toh Pagal Hai”, Davar went on to choreograph songs for films such as “Taal”, “Bunty Aur Babli”, “Dhoom 2”, “Saawariya”, “Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi”, and “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”. (PTI)

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The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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