You may not know their names but you have seen some of their dances on Nach Baliye, Zara Nach Ke Dikha and Dance Premiere League. We are talking about the dance making duo Harshal Kamat and Vitthal Patil. The two splendid choreographers met at a show they were independently doing together in 2001. They gelled so well that they decided to work together as a team. Harshall-Vitthal, as they are called in one breath, got their big break on Nach Baliye. After quite an interesting journey, they went on to work as the choreographers behind the boys team in Zara Nachke Dikha, but they are better known to most of the world as the mentors of the Western Yodha team at the Dance Dhamaka of last year: Dance Premier League.
The two were in Holland and Zhunaysha Gajadhar and I had a chat with them in the lobby of the Okura Hotel in Amsterdam.
It is hard to become a choreographer?
Harshall: It isn’t hard to go from dancer to being a choreographer, it’s just hard work. Whether it’s hard depends on your approach. Otherwise there is a lot of sacrifice involved. You cannot have a chilled out life especially when you are trying to get work for a video or a song. You have to go and meet people.
Vitthal: As a dancer, life is easier. When you have an eight hour shift, you just come over and do it, but as a choreographer you have other worries as well, like props, costumes and if your dancers know their steps.
Harshal: Basically you take your work home with you.
What do you guys see as your big break as a choreographer?
Harshal:That would have to be Nach Baliye. We have done a lot of movies, but Nach Baliye is our claim to fame. Sometimes people ask us why we aren’t doing movies, but we just want to showcase their talent.
Vitthal: As a creative person, when you are doing reality shows, there’s a freedom to work. There is a concept, there is a theme and you have to work according to that.
Harshall: There isn’t anything higher or lower as work. People who are doing stage-shows are as good choreographers as the people who are doing TV-shows or movies. It’s just that they have gone into different areas. You just have to showcase your talent in the best possible way.
Does television helps you create different platforms for yourself?
Harshall: It does, but it also creates unnecessary platforms for a lot of choreographers. What I mean by that, is that there are more choreographers than dancers right now. Everyone wants to be a choreographer. And the people who are making the TV show don’t really know if one is good choreographer.
Vitthal: And some TV-shows won’t repeat the choreographer. That’s just the format.
Harshall: So, every year there are 10 choreographers they make and there are 4 shows like that. So, every year there are 40 choreographers in the country. It’s like inflation, but can also be seen as a blessing in disguise, cause some of them are really good choreographers.
What do you think about the reality shows, what does it offer dancers?
Harshall: It’s putting dance as a good profession in the eyes of the parents.
But isn’t it quite hard for kids in India to say: ‘Mom and Dad listen, I want to be a dancer’.
Harshall: After DID and DPL, it’s become easier now. These shows have given newcomers a chance. I am not saying that kids should stop studying and start dancing but you can do dancing alongside your studies. A lot of people play cricket, football and volleyball. Dance has become one of those things which you can follow and follow well alongside your studies. As a country, we are not so open to the fact that one is getting into dance. It wasn’t looked upon very well. Thanks to reality shows parents have become more enthusiastic than kids.
Going back to reality shows, How was the DPL experience?
Harshall and Vitthal: DPL was a very good experience because the judges all had a background of dance and the judgment was fair. By that I mean, it’s fairer than shows where celebrities come and judge the contestants without any background knowledge. They misjudge people and mislead them. We would like to thank all of our fellow choreographers of DPL. We might not have agreed on some points, but the sense where they coming from was right.
Where do you guys get your inspiration to create a concept?
Harshall and Vitthal: From music, A.R. Rahman lot of times.
Share the process.
Harshall and Vitthal: Sometimes the concept comes first and then we will decide which song is appropriate for that, sometimes it’s the other way around. We take a song and we try to think of it in different ways. And that’s when we put everything together, from the choreography, to the character to the concept, to the whole look.
How does it work with a show Zara Nachke Dikha? You just have one week to prepare.
Harshall: There is a lot of pressure. But thanks to our team consisting of 5 girls and 4 boys, we can do it. Otherwise it would be impossible for just the two of us. It’s our team who makes us. We would really like to thank the team, cause they are the answer to the question.
According to you, who is the best dancer in this reality show?
Harshall: There are 3 or 4 of them, Abhishek is one of them, everyone knows Siddhesh. But they all have their strengths.
Vitthal: Improvement wise its KK. He himself is very surprised.
Who were the choreographers you looked up to when you were dancers?
Harshall: I have worked with one choreographer. That’s Terrence Lewis, I was a background dancer.
Vitthal: I have worked probably the whole industry, basically from Farah Khan to Saroj Khan.
Harshall: We do look up to a lot of work from people. Like Ganesh Hedge shot a lot of songs, which were great. We looked at their body of work and hope to make something like that one day. Farah Khan is great in capturing a song.
Vitthal: Some directors have a basic idea how they want to shoot a song. He has different ideas, if you got a director like Raju Hirani, then everything comes together nicely.
In India the choreographer isn’t only responsible for the choreography, but for the whole video, concept. Wouldn’t it be easier to just concentrate on the dance?
Sometimes it’s not, because you do great dance moves, but then become answerable to a very badly shot song. So you rather take up that responsibility as well.
The boys team may have lost the battle in Zara Nachke Dikha, but Harshall-Vitthall have done a terrific job throughout. Now they are on their way to their next projects. We wish them the best of luck and look forward to seeing what moves they come up with next.