From time immemorial we’ve be accustomed to some very special dancing divas on the silver screen. People would rush to cinema halls when they heard it featured one of these particular divas. Their songs would become iconic numbers that every wedding, every school function and simply any occassin of celebration would feature. When you hear this description names like Hema Malini, Rekha, Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit come to mind, however very soon maybe you just might have another one to add to the list! That would be the name of debutant Gayatri Patel who is ready to melt your hearts away with every step, every beat and every breath of her performance in the upcoming dance extravaganza Lets Dance. After making her mark in the world of ad films, music videos and theatre she is now bringing together all the talents she groomed in these different arenas to the big screen! Speaking exclusively to BollySpice Gayatri reveals whats in store in Lets Dance, the journey to Indian cinema and of course dance!
How did Lets Dance happen for you?
Well, dancing is a passion with me and so is acting. When I was as young as eight years old, I had decided that I will be an actor. When Aarif Sheikh approached me with this story and I heard my character, I just fell in love with both. I didn’t have to think twice.
What is the film about?
Let’s Dance is about a bunch of youngsters. It’s about Suhani, a passionate young dancer, who dreams of being a star her entire life. Then there is fourteen year old Aftab, a gifted dancer who has never dreamed, ever. When she sees Aftab’s gang dancing on a street corner one night, she has no idea that her dreams are about to change. She’s moved by the talent these street kids possess and wants the world to give them their due. But Aftab has no faith in her dreams for them. [It’s a story about] how they both try to find an anchor in life. The rest of the film goes on to uncover if she able to restore his faith and if she is able to get them the life they deserve but cannot dream of.
Who is Suhani? Did you enjoy playing her?
Suhani is a dreamer. Her dream is to be part of RJ’s video. She loves dancing but a chance encounter with street kids changes her life. Hers is a journey that carries an underlying sense of community obligation, trying to correct the social disability of street kids, help them with their anger by letting it burn out thru dancing, but the story is treated with youthful appeal and feel good fun factor. In this journey, she is accompanied by friends and love, but eventually the journey is hers to make. And yes, I had great time portraying Suhani. She is not me but she is very close to me.
What was it about your role in Lets Dance that excited you the most?
The dancing and opportunity to make a sensible film. The story has an underlying sense of social obligation. It’s so youthful, so appealing. Rich or poor, young or old will connect to the story.
Dancing has been a huge part of your life so was it a conscious decision to debut in a film that has dance as its subject matter?
Yes, I am passionate about dancing and some day I would like to reach close to dancing divas of our industry like Hema Malini, Madhuri Dixit, Sridevi. I wanted to do a film with good script and when this story came, it was like a double bonanza. It has a very good story line, I get to showcase my dance and Aarif is an excellent technician to work with.
You’ve been born and bred in US so how has the move been to Mumbai? Tell us some of the predominant changes that have occurred in your lifestyle since the move?
I had moved to Mumbai some four years back. Initially I found the traffic and chaos little unnerving but soon I got used to it. I made some very good friends, started doing my acting, yoga and Indian dance classes. This was my effort to be a wholesome actor. I sat through Makrand Deshpande’s rehearsals. I learnt speech and drama technique from Satyadev Dubey. I learnt acting and dance from various gurus but finally settled with Veena Mehta for Hindi, Vijayshree Choudhary for Kathak, and Effa for Yoga. As for change in lifestyle, although I am still the same girl, I have become mighty patient. I don’t fret to be extremely punctual, and I can eat anything anywhere.
Having done theatre and having the acting workshop with Veena Mehta, was facing the camera easier than it would have been without all this experience and knowledge?
Definitely. When you are raw, it does become an overwhelming experience. To act, to understand lighting, camera angle, your co-star’s reactions…it’s the whole gambit. In fact, I had faced camera for the three music videos I had done. Still when I actually faced the camera for Let’s Dance, I was all nerves.
Your film has been choreographed by a range of talented choreographers all who have made a mark for themselves such as Saroj Khan, Longinus Fernandes, Rajiv Goswami and Pappu-Mallu so how has the experience been to work with such a team of choreographers and is there a particular favourite amongst this group?
Hey, we have variety of dance forms in the film. We have songs that are all unique to one style of dancing. So we needed all the best choreographers to handle various dances. Since the film is about dance, it was more so needed. And all four of them have their own distinct style. How can I compare one to another? It’s not correct. I have enjoyed each and every day of my shoot. And although I am a very good dancer, still each dance was a challenge. We have so many difficult steps. In fact when I got any easy steps, Aarif would interfere and request the choreographer to give more intricate difficult steps (laughs).
You’ve a range of dance styles in the film such as Kathak, Hip Hop, Jazz, Natwari and of course Bollywood. Which form of dance do you enjoy the most from this list and any particular reason why? Which number is your favorite in the film?
Natwari because I have a base in classical and working with Saroj Khan was a dream come true. Saroj Khan – it’s the finale song.
Why do you love to dance?
It’s like asking me ‘why do I need to breathe or why do I need to sleep?’ I have said earlier that it’s a passion with me. Even now I regularly attend my dance classes. It rejuvenates me, and it helps me to get rid of any frustration, anger etc. it keeps me fit. So many reasons. I feel free when I am dancing. Its like flying in open skies.
Who are some of our dancing divas that you admire the most?
Vyjayanthimala is my all time favourite and I can see her dance on the song ‘Hotho Pe Aisi Baat’ in Jewel Thief any number of times. I also like Madhuri Dixit and Sridevi.
How was it working with Aarif Sheikh?
I was thrilled! Aarif is a very well known editor and it was really exciting working with someone who’s so experienced. He’s very good with his actors. He never yells and he’s very clear about what he wants. I’ve completely followed his guidance on the graph of the character.
How was it working with the kids?
It was fun. In real life too, I used to give dance classes to kids in USA. In this film too, my character is similar. And I really enjoyed it. All the kids were so nice and together we would have fun. Abhaas was the youngest and so he was the pampered one.
Overall how was your first experience working on a film?
Experience was mind blowing. I loved it.
Have you watched Hindi cinema extensively in the past? If so any particular all time favourites?
Yes, Amar Prem & Bandini are my all time favourites. In current films it’s DDLJ and Sholey.
Hollywood has many films on the specific subject matter of dance such as Honey, Take the Lead, Step Up and many more, however unfortunately despite Bollywood and dance being synopsis we have not had many films have been specifically addressed this subject matter, do you think more of such attempts should be made?
Of course, since India is so rich in dance culture, dedicated films should be made. But only dance won’t work. In my film too, dance is the medium to the final means. In the process there are many beautiful songs and dances but every time they come as a character in the film and not as a patch. Although Indian cinema has dance as part of the story all the time and so don’t need specific dedicated film like the West, but they can treat dancing little more intricately. In Hollywood they need musical to do anything for dance.
What are your hopes for your career in Bollywood?
High. Versatile films with versatile directors. I want people to remember me even after many years.
What should audiences expect from Let’s Dance?
Class. Touching, heart warming story, great dancing and entertainment.
Well all we can say is that great dancing, heart warming story and classy entertainment is always a much needed break from the busy lives we all lead so clear your calendar guys and be sure to rush to a cinema near you this June 18th as this dancing diva unleashes her magic on the silver screen!