Manik Paul, the winner of India’s Got Talent Season 6 on Colors was in Calcutta to meet his mentor and mates last Thursday. The 22-year-old self-taught gymnast, who hails from Assam’s Barpeta but has made Salt Lake his home for the last three years, was first introduced to dance at Sapphire Dance Academy, for whom he did events, shows and even films (like Mainak Bhaumik’s Take One) before heading to Mumbai. On a rain-soaked July 2 evening, t2 caught up with Manik at an adda with his pals in Sapphire’s Salt Lake HQ.
Climb every tree! Sapphire Dance Academy’s Sudarshan Chakravorty (right) is a “friend, philosopher and guide’’ to Manik. Everybody went ROFL when the mentor shared tales of how Manik had nailed the malkhamb, his trademark dance move. “He has prior experience of climbing supari trees!” laughed Sudarshan. “Yes, the technique is the same!” chipped in Manik. Even after moving to Mumbai, the Manik-Sapphire bond hasn’t weakened. “He would call me every week for all kinds of advice! Manik becomes a completely different person when he goes up on stage to perform. He can captivate the audience. That’s what makes an artiste!” said a proud Sudarshan. After Manik’s win, Sudarshan’s “respect” for reality shows has increased. “A solo performer won for the first time in IGT! His endurance and hard work paid off,” added Sudarshan.
Rebel to role model: Sudarshan knows the “other side” of an “otherwise shy” Manik. “He was a rebel but art has calmed him down. He had a victim mentality from a sense of deprivation.” Manik’s father passed away in a terror attack in Assam in 1991 and his mother — “my greatest support” — had to work hard to make ends meet. “Once he got angry with me and went for the audition of Dance India Dance Season 3 without informing me. He didn’t know hip hop, jazz and other formats so he was eliminated early. Then he understood his potential, got more determined and returned to me,” recalled Sudarshan. Now Manik is learning malkhamb at Uday Deshpande’s school in Shivaji Park, Mumbai, and contemporary dance from Terence Lewis. Sudarshan now wants Manik to go abroad for training and also open a dance school in Mumbai.
With the girl gang: Not surprisingly, Manik is quite the darling of the girls in the group. Madhurima Dutta (extreme right) recalled: “Often after class, we would try some moves after having watched a dance video online. That is how we bonded.”
That’s what friends are for: Even during his brief stopover on Friday, Manik managed some real fun moments with friends Anubhav Gupta (centre) and Amit Adhikari. “When I had come to Sapphire for the first time, Manik was the one who gave me a demo of what I was getting into. Looking at his passion, energy and good vibe, I was inspired to join,” recalled Anubhav, who is associated with Sapphire for the past three years. Amit recalled the times when he had to stay over at the Sapphire centre in Salt Lake after class. “We would go to the market to get chicken and after dinner, we would watch films and chat till late at night. I often saw Manik trying out various dance moves while watching TV!” laughed Amit, who was “tense” when Manik was performing in the last leg of IGT. Anubhav feels Manik’s win is a win for Sapphire! “Manik is humble. He has worked really hard and so people have voted for true talent,” he said.
The victory lap: Manik’s friends lifted him — and his trophy — to celebrate his IGT win. “He is someone who has always brought smiles to our faces whenever he is around. And he hasn’t changed a bit after moving to Mumbai,” said Team Sapphire.
From flying kicks to flying Colors: Dibyendu Nath (left) was the one under whom Manik first trained at Sapphire. “When I had first met him, I realised that he could rotate wooden sticks, break tiles and give flying kicks... I could make out he was physically fit but I was clueless how that could be translated into creativity! The best thing about Manik is that he never said no to anything,” said Dibyendu. Another Sapphire trainer, Pintu Das (right) used to scold Manik, his “brother and friend”. “Whenever I scolded him, he used to get angry and would stop talking to me for a couple of days. What I liked the most about him was that he always had many questions to ask about our dance acts,” said Pintu.