‘Jennifer Lopez liked our original style’ — Shantanu Maheshwari and Desi Hoppers are on the big stage

Shantanu Maheshwari has added another feather to his already overflowing cap. The Kumartuli boy, who has made the country proud on both national and international platforms, is a contestant — along with his dance troupe Desi Hoppers — on the NBC reality show World of Dance. Shantanu and his Desi Hoppers pals — Macedon Dmello, Nimit Kotian, Mohit Antony, Rohan Virus and Niraj Lama — have cleared the first round of the dance reality show that has Jennifer Lopez, Ne-Yo and Derek Hough as judges and is hosted by Step Up star Jenna Dewan. In doing so, Desi Hoppers have become the first dance troupe from India to participate on the show. 

By Priyanka Roy
  • Published 17.05.18
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Shantanu Maheshwari has added another feather to his already overflowing cap. The Kumartuli boy, who has made the country proud on both national and international platforms, is a contestant — along with his dance troupe Desi Hoppers — on the NBC reality show World of Dance. Shantanu and his Desi Hoppers pals — Macedon Dmello, Nimit Kotian, Mohit Antony, Rohan Virus and Niraj Lama — have cleared the first round of the dance reality show that has Jennifer Lopez, Ne-Yo and Derek Hough as judges and is hosted by Step Up star Jenna Dewan. In doing so, Desi Hoppers have become the first dance troupe from India to participate on the show. 

t2 caught up with Shantanu for a chat on his big break… 

The Desi Hoppers on World of Dance

Desi Hoppers won the World of Dance championship in 2015. Did the current show happen as a natural progression?

We won in 2015 and then were called back to Los Angeles for a ‘showcase’ by World of Dance. They really liked our performance. The casting directors of the TV show were also present there and they thought we could make for good contestants on the show. We came back to India and then we were called for an audition again and got selected. We shot at Universal Studios in Los Angeles.  

What was it like being on the show?

We were really excited. Also, we were aware that we were, in a way, representing India and that was a big responsibility. We were the first Indian crew on what is probably the best dance reality show in the world. We had JLo, Ne-Yo and Derek as judges and they are all great dancers. The first time we went on stage, we were like, ‘Oh… we are actually here! This is something else!’ I don’t think I will be able to express my feelings in words. 

Apparently, all the judges, especially Jennifer Lopez, were very happy with your performance…

Yes, they really liked what we did. We danced to a mix of Shape of You. Derek was hopping on his chair. After the act, JLo said she liked our original style. She gave us a big smile. Ne-Yo came up on stage and did a couple of steps with us. 

Derek (Hough) was hopping on his chair. After the act, JLo (Jennifer Lopez) gave us a big smile. Ne-Yo came up on stage and did a couple of steps with us

How will this show change things for you?

Exposure-wise, it’s a big platform for us. This kind of a show opens us up to the international market. When it comes to western dance, no one thinks of India, but us being there could change that. Us being on a show like this shows that dancers in India are just as good as our counterparts in the US and Europe. Being on a show like this means a lot more opportunities going forward. 

You act on TV, host live events and reality shows and you also won Khatron Ke Khiladi last year. Do all these things distract you from dance or do they contribute towards making you a wholesome performer?

Everything I do contributes towards making me a better performer, a better dancer. Dance is a medicine I need to take regularly. I never stop my dancing for anything else, be it acting or anchoring. Whatever I do, I try and balance it out with my dance. Whatever little I am famous for (laughs), it’s primarily because of my dance. 

Are you a different dancer from what you were two years ago?

With every month and every year, I become a different dancer. You need to adapt to so many things. When I left Calcutta, my style was really different. It changed when I was in college in Mumbai. When we went to WOD (World of Dance) in 2015, our choreography was very different from what it is now. We now try and innovate with our steps. We observe a lot more and we try and incorporate our experiences into our dance. 

You are all set to host the new season of India’s Best Dramebaaz on Zee TV. Does hosting come as naturally to you as dance does?

I enjoy doing it. It does come naturally to me, but I also need to prepare for it! (Laughs) Hosting a TV show is different from hosting a live show, but I think I do well on both. I am looking forward to this show in particular because it has kids and I am generally good with kids. 

Growing up, were you a dramebaaz?

(Laughs) Not so much, but I would take out all my dramebaazi in my dance. 

Is there a plan to come back to Calcutta at some point and do something here?

I have been saying for a long time that I want to open a dance academy. But I want to do it properly. We started by doing dance classes in Mumbai, but getting enough hands to teach is a problem. We only have about seven crew members. I don’t want to open an academy in my name and not have the time and bandwidth to get involved. I want to open an academy where the students get proper attention, where I am involved to a large extent… I don’t want it to be just a business. We do plan to be in Calcutta soon for workshops.

Do people back home in Calcutta treat you differently now than how they did earlier?

(Pauses) I will be very honest… 

I do get mixed reactions. There are some who treat me like the Shantanu I always was and then there are some meetings that are odd and awkward (laughs).  

You travel the world and live out of a suitcase. Is there anything about Calcutta you miss?

Apart from friends and family, it will be jhalmuri and phuchka! (Laughs) Whenever anybody from Calcutta meets me in Mumbai, I break the ice by talking about phuchka and jhalmuri!