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Un dos tres

From an MBA to Mr India finalist to a dancing ensation and now an established instructor… how did it all happen?

Well, I started dance class when I was 14 years old. At that time, it was more like a hangout, to meet girls really! My dad was in the Army so these classes were held at the Army club. While studying, I started getting some modelling assignments. One such assignment took me to Germany in 1995-96 and during that trip I enrolled in dance classes again. I also began participating in competitions with my Polish partner.

I came back to India in 1998 — to Calcutta in fact — to take part in Graviera Mr India. After that, it was the International Male Model contest in Aruba that I won and went back to Germany for more dancing. My Polish dancing partner of nine years and I split around this time. Competing was out of the question without a partner so I decided to take up teaching. After a two-year teacher’s qualification course in Germany I came back to India in 2001 for a holiday but never went back!

How had things changed in those few years?

The metro cities had definitely changed. People were more open to ideas and it was not necessary to only become a doctor or engineer. I had a choice between returning to Germany where I had a couple of musicals and theatre offers or stay here, and I stayed back. I set up my first dance school in June 2001 in Mumbai.

How easy or difficult was it to break through in Mumbai?

It was very tough initially. I didn’t know people here. Since my dad was forever travelling in the Army, even he didn’t know people. I met Kitu Gidwani and she asked me to teach her something. Soon, we began to go to dance parties. Sunita Kapoor (Anil Kapoor’s wife) had a chain of gyms in Mumbai and she asked me to start classes in her gyms. That’s how I got going and before I knew it, we had branch after branch. From Mumbai, we went to Pune, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kathmandu…

How was your Bollywood innings?

I was introduced to Shyam Benegal and he asked me to assist in the Zubeida ballroom sequence. The experience was amazing. Then I did Kyun…! Ho Gaya Na with Ash and Viveik Oberoi. I also did The Rising with 800 foreign dancers and then the controversial Holiday with Pooja Bhatt that ended with a massive fight! Now, I have N. Chandra’s Cyclone coming up and also Phir Kabhi with Mithun Chakraborty. The disco king is doing the waltz!

Do you feel your Western classical roots will come in the way of your Bollywood career?

Oh yes!

You can’t do jhatka matka?

I can do it but I can’t create it! I was offered lots of item numbers and item girls like Yana Gupta are my students but I still can’t do it. I can’t think wild. I can’t imagine a girl with a buffalo and wine pouring down her leg! My Western dances are authentic and because I have never learnt Bollywood style, it might never really look convincing.

How is the dancing scene now?

It’s rocking. Salsa is happening everywhere. Reality TV shows are making people want to dance. It’s no longer girlie and reserved for dandiya and bhangra season. There also came a phase when dance was viewed as a fitness option but now people are dancing for pleasure.

Did supermodel Jesse Randhawa become your dancing partner first or did you begin dating her first?

We met when she auditioned for Holiday. She didn’t become part of the film but since she was a very good dancer and genuinely graceful, she became part of our dance school show. She did more shows with us and eventually became my partner. When she’s travelling, then Kitu dances with me. Jesse and me have been together for three years now and we co-ordinate very well. It’s very enjoyable to dance with her.

What else do you love apart from dancing?

I love kids. That’s how Arjun came into my life. I adopted him eight months ago and now he’s three. But at the moment he hates dancing and is only into aeroplanes!

High 5

Winning the European Latin-American Championship in 1998.

Teaching Beyonce. “We did Samba and Tango.”

Kenny G playing Besame Mucho after class. “It was so special. He played it just for me.”

Teaching Kajol. “She is a surprise package.”

People saying that Dino Morea dances like Sandip in Holiday. “I worked on him for nine months and it truly paid off.”

Favourite dance show on TV:
So You Think You Can Dance

An actor with two left feet:
Dharmendra

An actor whose dancing skills you envy:
John Travolta. In Bollywood it is Govinda

A dance form you find tough to tackle?
Pasa doble, a Spanish dance form

Solo or with a partner — which one brings out your best?
With a partner. Always.

An Indian dance that is closest to your style sensibility:
Bihu and Dandiya

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