How did ABCD happen?
It’s a funny story. Remo Sir (Remo D’Souza, the director of ABCD) became my fan after watching me on So You Think You Can Dance (a popular American TV dance competition show). He apparently used to tell people that he would bring me to Bollywood and make me a part of his new film. Three years later, when ABCD went on the floors, he remembered me.... He made an offer and the next morning I told my parents: ‘Would you believe it, I am going to India!’ I was yet to read the script and work out the schedule, but I knew deep down inside that I had to do this film… it was meant to be.
I am so eager to see my film in cinemas; I want to visit theatres to see the audience reaction… I want to know what people think of the film and of me.
Were you familiar with Bollywood before ABCD?
I have watched some Bollywood films… they are fun and colourful. I honestly feel that the West should learn from your films… the culture, the songs and, of course, the dance. Bollywood dancing has character and it’s so much more fun. We have dance movies there too, but ABCD is special because it has dance sequences that truly reflect India.
Any favourite Bolly dancer?
Hrithik Roshan. I think he’s a remarkable dancer. I keep trying to spread the word around that I am dying to work with him (laughs). His style and mine... it would be so perfect.... Bodyguard is the first Bolly film that I watched and I think Salman Khan looks really cute when he dances!
Preparing for the film must have been tough…
It’s probably the biggest challenge I have ever taken up but I believe that if you step out of your comfort zone, things will happen. I had to travel to a country I had never been to, speak a new language, learn a new dance style and live a new culture. It all happened so fast. I landed here and was on set the next day. It was surreal.
What was the ABCD experience like?
Remo is the best dancer I have ever seen and to have a director who knows dancing is half the battle won. And, of course, Prabhudeva is the Michael Jackson of India! I was learning Hindi and he isn’t too fluent at it and we both tried to speak in Hindi and ended up laughing! The moment I landed on the set, he took me aside and asked me to teach him how to dance. I was like: ‘No, no, no… you are Prabhudeva… you teach me!’ A large part of my heart now belongs to Bollywood. I went back home to the US after filming the movie and all I could talk there was Bollywood! I was constantly searching for Indian food there (laughs)! I am hoping to stay here for a while and meet people and see how it goes. I want to do a project that isn’t a dance film. I feel good things await me in India.
You’ve danced with some of the greatest performers in the world: Rihanna, Shakira and Britney Spears. Do tell our readers a bit about them…
Rihanna is a great performer and Shakira is the goddess of dance. I don’t think I really need to tell you about how good they are as dancers, but as people they are the best and that holds true for most of the celebrities I have worked with, whether it is Tom Cruise or Britney Spears or anyone. They have different strengths as dancers… steps that I would give Shakira are obviously not what I would expect Tom Cruise to dance to! It’s wonderful working with these people because they are so huge in their own right and to have them turn to you for advice is just so special and humbling.
How was it working with Tom Cruise?
Tom Cruise is absolutely splendid. He’s so handsome and one of the best actors we have but he cannot dance! And he has no ego about that. When I was asked to teach him some dance steps (for the 2010 MTV Movie Awards), he trusted me completely. He’s very generous and he taught me about life in general. I learnt from him that if you’re good, it will reflect in your character and work.