Movers and shakers

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By More and more choreographers in Bollywood are venturing into film direction - and making a success of it, notes S. Ramachandran
  • Published 10.06.07

If you’ve got the inclination, the Mumbai film industry has just the right spot for you — the director’s chair. If there is one thing that the industry never fails to provide, it’s opportunities. Didn’t do well in acting? Turn director. Bored of facing the camera? Get behind it. Don’t want to merely teach dance steps? Get the stars to dance to your tune.

The latest in the directors’ club are choreographers. On Friday, dance master Ganesh Acharya released his debut film, Swami. And Acharya joins a long list of choreographer-turned-directors, starting right with Chinni Prakash and Ahmed Khan to Farah Khan and Saroj Khan.

The pioneer in the field was, surprisingly, Guru Dutt, whom few today associate with choreography. Otherwise known for his melancholic and poignant cinema, he actually started out in Bollywood as a choreographer with the Prabhat Film Company and conceptualised dances for films such as Lakharani. He, however, found his true calling with Baazi in 1951 — and never looked back.

Saroj Khan — the Queen B of the dancing stage — hopes to do just that. One of the best known choreographers in the industry — she is the one who is said to have shaped Madhuri Dixit and Sridevi as dancers — is now looking at directing a series of films.

“Well, it’s more or less a natural progression. From handling a song to an entire film is basically a promotion. It was always in my mind and now it’s happening,” says Saroj Khan, who entered the industry five decades ago and has choreographed in over 230 films.

Her first directorial effort is the soon-to-be-released Bhojpuri film, Dil Diwana Tohar Gayil, which has Ravi Kissen and Nagma in the lead. The film, which was kept on hold for a while, will probably be released soon after her Hindi film, Sati… A Burning Desire to Love, goes on floor.

Actor Ravi Kissen is all praise for her directorial abilities. “She is a brilliant technician and a great human-being. She has made a wonderful film,” he gushes.

And since the industry spawns its own dynasties, following in his mother Saroj Khan’s dance steps is choreographer Raju Khan. Raju Khan is filming Showbizz for Mukesh Bhatt. The film is expected to be released in late August.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali is another former choreographer who has made it big as a director. Bhansali, who did the dances for 1942: A Love Story, was urged by choreographer Bhushan Lakhandri to get into film-making. His debut film Khamoshi showcased his talent for dance.

“It is just that one has to grow and make full use of his or her talent. There were many with their good wishes who were backing me and finally I got to be a director myself. I guess it all depends on where you see yourself in the movies,” says Bhansali.

Not every story is as heartening. In 1997, choreographer Chinni Prakash decided to walk the path taken by Guru Dutt. His directorial debut, Ghoonghat, however, got washed out at the box office, putting an end to his directorial dreams. Prakash stuck to choreography after that. And after 130 films, he is still going strong.

Yet, Prakash’s experience did nothing to deter Ahmed Khan, who turned director in 2004 with Lakeer — Forbidden Lines. The dancer, who visualised the sensual steps that Urmila Matondkar essayed in Rangeela and Madhuri Dixit in Anjaam, roped in John Abraham, Suniel Shetty and Sunny Deol for his film. But his film’s fate wasn’t any better than Ghoonghat’s. Khan, however, is not the one to give up — he is the director of the recently released film, Fool N Final.

After all, if one Chinni Prakash fails, there are several others who make it big. The top name among the new lot of choreographers-turned-directors is Farah Khan. She slammed her way with the Shah Rukh Khan-Sushmita Sen-starrer, Main Hoon Na, which proved to be a big hit. Farah, who choreographed top hits such as Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander and Dil Toh Pagal Hai, is now directing Om Shanti Om, a film that is already making news. There is a veritable race for acquiring the rights of the film, and among the contenders are biggies such as Adlabs, Studio 18 and Sony. Farah also has a song in the film featuring 31 top actors and actresses.

Now, all eyes are on Ganesh Acharya, best known for his item numbers with Sonali Bendre in Bombay, Koena Mitra in Road and Shah Rukh and Aishwarya in Shakti. “I wanted to make a film for a long time. I had, in fact, decided to direct a film five years ago and open my own production house. It took some time but now I have completed my film,” says Acharya. “This film is emotional,” he says, referring to Swami, which stars Manoj Bajpai and Juhi Chawla.

Clearly, you can always make a song-and-dance out of Bollywood — and end up shaking the industry.