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Tota Roy Choudhury on playing a kathak dancer and dancing to Dola Re in Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahani

The Karan Johar-directed film stars Alia Bhatt, Ranveer Singh, Jaya Bachchan, Dharmendra, Shabana Azmi and Churni Ganguly in key roles

Soujannya Das Calcutta Published 16.08.23, 03:47 PM
Tota Roy Choudury dancing to Dola Re with Ranveer Singh in Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahani

Tota Roy Choudury dancing to Dola Re with Ranveer Singh in Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahani Soujannya Das

Not just as Alia Bhatt’s screen father, Tota Roy Choudhury has stunned us all with his graceful moves as a kathak dancer in Karan Johar’s Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahani. Basking in the appreciation coming his way, Tota spoke to us about how the role of Chatterjee fell into his lap and how he then transformed himself to rise to the occasion.

Praises are pouring in for your performance in Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahani. What is the best compliment you have got so far?

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Tota Roy Choudhury: My director (Karan Johar) gave me the best compliment. In an interview, he said he wouldn’t have gotten a better Chandon Chatterjee for his film. This is my ultimate compliment. I’m such a Karan Johar fan, both as a director and a person. His compliment is equal to an award.

How did the role come your way?

Tota Roy Choudhury: Casting director Shanoo Sharma, who casts for YRF and only for Karan Johar, called me one evening and asked me to audition right away. She said she was in some kind of a hurry, so I did it immediately and sent it to her. Within half an hour she called me back and said — we all loved your audition and Karan loved it; we are on. I asked, ‘Which Karan?’ She said, ‘Karan Johar’. In the next two weeks, I was sitting across the table with the team.

The Dola Re sequence is a huge gender stereotype-breaking moment in the film. What was your initial reaction when you were approached for it?

Tota Roy Choudhury: From the very beginning, I knew I was playing the role of a kathak dancer, and there would be a place where I would be required to do the kathak sequence. It was a prerequisite for the role and I had to learn kathak and practise it diligently. Karan said I can’t cheat and had to practise it. That was a precondition and that’s what I did. I had no ambiguity regarding dancing kathak to the iconic song.

Take us through your journey of learning kathak…

Tota Roy Choudhury: It has been extremely challenging. I had to forgo my posture, from the way I move to the way my muscles react. I needed to learn a new form and recondition my body as per the dance form. It took a lot of work. At this age, it proves that I can take up a challenge and fulfil it. That was also empowering.

What went behind the shooting of the Dola Re sequence?

Tota Roy Choudhury: A lot of hard work went into it. For me, I would say that this was the highlight of me being in the film. One wrong step could ruin my characterisation. This is what the character builds up to. For Chandon Chatterjee, the Dola Re number with Rocky Randhawa is his high point in the film.

During the shoot, I knew that I could not put even one wrong foot. I needed to be very careful. I was absolutely zoned in during my rehearsals. I never do this but during the days I was rehearsing and shooting for the sequence, I had my phone switched off. I didn’t want any distractions.

As an actor, my work is to submit to the vision of my director. Karan Johar is extremely proficient in what he does and he was the one who guided me at every step. I just followed what he wanted me to do.

How did you find Karan Johar as a director?

Tota Roy Choudhury: There are three features that distinguish him from other directors. One, he has got crystal-clear vision. He knows exactly what he wants and how much of it he wants. And he knows how to extract it from his actors. He loves his actors; he has got a lot of empathy for his actors. It is a very rare characteristic.

Second, his love for his crew, cast and work. He’ll never say an angry word, never be irritated, never be impatient. He is very calm. His sets are always the happiest and the calmest. Third, he has supreme confidence in his storytelling abilities and his kind of cinema. There is no self-doubt. He says he’s very happy, comfortable and confident being Karan Johar and doing this kind of cinema. When I know my captain is that confident, I become confident and the performance reflects the confidence.

(L-R) Churni Ganguly and Tota Roy Choudhury at Priya Cinema.

(L-R) Churni Ganguly and Tota Roy Choudhury at Priya Cinema. Suvendu Das

How was it working with Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Singh?

Tota Roy Choudhury: Alia is born with her instincts, with her extreme ability to be with the character. She has a great grip on her emotions. She does her homework and comes to the set extremely prepared. She is very respectful of her seniors. Also, she is a fun girl to be with.

Ranveer is such a lovely young man. I have never seen anybody like him. He is so well brought-up, always smiling and laughing. He is exuberant and energetic. I don’t think we could have got a better Rocky than Ranveer Singh. He has worked very hard to get into the character. He worked on his body, clothes, swag and dialect. He had a dialect coach. He met a lot of Delhi boys to get into the mind space and constantly listened to Punjabi hip hop. After a while, we couldn’t differentiate between Rocky Randhawa and Ranveer Singh.

Both Alia and Ranveer are very talented and focused, and great co-stars. I have worked with actors who weren’t that cooperative but I was okay with it because they are superstars. But Alia and Ranveer are just not superstars, they are super workers. Their work ethic is great.

Have you got feelers for offers from Bollywood after the success of Rocky Aur Rani?

Tota Roy Choudhury: Yes, quite a bit. Many people have gotten in touch with me for future projects. Right now it’s in the discussion stage. Maybe something concrete will happen in another three or four months.

Having worked in both the Bengali and Hindi film industries, what changes do you see in how content is perceived in different languages?

Tota Roy Choudhury: Everybody wants to do something different. People’s tastes have changed in the last two years. During lockdown, people got to watch films from all around the globe and now they have a very good understanding of content. We cannot go back to what we were doing.

The difference is in the budget. In Hindi, the budget is enormous. They have more resources and a lot of time, which is important. But the love and passion for work is common to both the industries.

What projects are you busy with right now?

Tota Roy Choudhury: I have a Bengali OTT release, Nikhoj, on Hoichoi. It’s a thriller and a social commentary; it’s around a person who has gone missing. I was waiting for Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani to release. I had a feeling that things would change after this. I didn’t take up too many projects pre-release, which was a wise move.

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