Choreographing Madhuri Dixit was like winning an award: Ranju Varghese
The choreographer speaks to us about his new project, Total Dhamaal, which hits the screens tomorrow
Indra Kumar's adventure comedy, Total Dhamaal, releases in theatres tomorrow. The film, starring Ajay Devgn, Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, Arshad Warsi, Jaaved Jaaferi and others, features two grand song sequences — Paisa Paisa and Speaker Phat Jaaye — choreographed by ace dance director Ranju Varghese. Ranju's filmography includes Mardaani, Kyaa Kool Hai Hum 3, Helicopter Eela and Mauli. His upcoming projects are Taanaji: The Unsung Warrior and Bypass Road.
We quizzed the choreographer about making the Total Dhamaal ensemble groove and the importance of dance sequences in mainstream Bollywood.
Excerpts from an interview:
Tell us about the songs have you choreographed for Total Dhamaal. How complicated were the set pieces?
The first song, titled Paisa Paisa, is a remake of the Kishore Kumar classic of the same name, and it has the entire cast of Total Dhamaal. The basic thought is that it's all about the money and how the characters in the film dream to be rich. When it came to the dancing, we had to work out a hook step that would be simple, catchy and look nice on all actors. Also, this song has choreographed moments where they are all trying to snatch a bag supposedly filled with money. But the best part of the song was added by song director Kookie Gulati, where we designed a special entry for Madhuri ma'am and included a small dance piece for her.
The second song is called Speaker Phat Jaaye. It's a new song composed by the Gourav-Roshan duo. This song is a pure party number and hence relatively has more choreography. The hook step is really simple and more symbolic. This song was fun and hectic at the same time, as it had no separate set-ups and we had the whole cast, and more additional and amazing actors like Esha Gupta, Boman Irani, and Vijay Patkar.
Given the importance of song sequences in Bollywood films, choreographers are considered a major part of the industry. As an artist and a dancer, how satisfied do you feel working in Bollywood?
It is amazing that music and dance are an indivisible part of a century-old Bollywood culture, and it feels great to be a part of this heritage.
It's addictively challenging to work as a choreographer than as a dancer. As a dancer, you can explore dance moves and concepts that you can physically perform and execute, but as a choreographer, you need to calculate and conceive moves and concepts that would suit and look better on someone else, or on a group of people. As a choreographer, one needs to think of concepts, colours, sets, props, and dance, of course. So it's a much wider scape of work. There's also more responsibility, and hence it is more motivating.
Who was the easiest, and who was the toughest actor to train in Total Dhamaal? Madhuri is considered a fantastic performer. How was the experience of working with her?
No one was ever tough, really. Because the steps were comfortable and choreographed as per the actors' ease. And secondly, they all are a bunch of super passionate, enthusiastic, and fantastic people, who were equally excited to be part of the song, and they all rehearsed wholeheartedly. Anil sir added so much energy to the choreography. Riteish Deshmukh looked fantastic and danced like a rockstar. Javed Jaffrey and Arshad Warsi are people any choreographers would dream to work with. Pitobash surprised me with his dancing skills. Sanjay Mishra added so much humor to the choreography. Ajay sir surprised us on the shoot as he performed every take with so much style and with no mistakes without any prior rehearsal.
Working with Madhuri ma'am was like a dream come true. On my first meeting with her, she looked just the same as when I'd seen her in the 90s. She is a timeless beauty. She has looks fab and classic in one song, and hip and cool in the other. Choreographing for her is like winning an award in itself.