He moves like a dream and ends up partnering some of the hottest babes on Jhalak. The choreographer talks to BollywoodLife about Isha Sharwani and his upcoming B-town projects
Salman Yusuf Khan, the first winner of Dance India Dance (Season 1), is all set to foray into mainstream cinema with his first movie as a choreographer. And even as he gets candid about his future plans, he mulls over his journey with Isha Sharwani on Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa 5. Read on…
You’ve become a star choreographer and a known face on Indian television in a very short span of time. What is the secret of your instant success?
I think it was me as an individual that worked. I have always given my 100 per cent to whatever I have done. I have always aimed to do better each time and I think that is what has worked for me.
What is your equation with Remo D’Souza?
I consider Remo sir my mentor. I consult him before anything and everything I do.
So who did you learn dance from?
I have been a dancer ever since I can remember. Of course, it became more serious once I came to India. I was a part of a dance studio, learned a lot of things watching YouTube videos and sometimes took part in workshops held by foreign instructors. That’s been my foundation in dancing.
You’ve got your first big Bollywood break as a professional choreographer…Is this what you really dreamed of?
Not really! Honestly, I never dreamed of anything this big. I am a very practical guy and I never really thought I could make it this big. Coming from a conservative middle class Muslim family, I was very rooted in my aspirations as well. My dreams were just about settling down – finishing my engineering, doing my MBA, getting a nine-to-five job, and getting my sister married. I had my priorities and life sorted until it took a turn with DID. Now, I have more options and I let my creativity and hard work flow through my acting and dancing.
So would you say you have achieved all your dreams?
So far I am fulfilling my dreams one at a time. I am still on my way.
Would you describe yourself as a taskmaster?
I am a very tough person to work with. When I imagine something in my head, I want it to turn out exactly how it was in my mind. In that way, I’m definitely a taskmaster.
What did Vivek Agnihotri say when he offered the film Freedom to you?
My conversation with Vivek Agnihotri was my first job interview. He asked me if I could choreograph a song. I immediately said ‘yes’. Then he asked me if I was willing to do the entire album? There was no reason to say no. He asked me how was I different from my mentor Remo? Is there anything I could do that even Remo couldn’t? I just told him that I have never compared myself to anyone. I always think out of the box. Being conventional is just not my thing.
Then he gave me a situation and asked me how I’d shoot it. I gave him a few ideas and he was impressed.
What is Freedom – the film all about?
The movie is set in the ‘80s. It is about three friends. The film revolves around how creative people make a breakthrough in life, and the role played by our education system.
Coming to Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa 5, do you regret Isha Sharwani’s decision to withdraw at the last moment?
I was very upset and disappointed. Whenever I take up something, I am in it to win it. I am a very competitive person. It’s just the way I was born. Talking just about me – I am a fighter. I have never backed out of anything I have taken up – no matter what the situation was. I give it my all. I had put in a lot of time, effort and patience into the show. I knew that Isha is a brilliant dancer and I could use her to her full potential to achieve the title. So yes, I was disappointed. Nonetheless, I have made my peace with it now.
Did you try convincing Isha?
Yes I did. I tried my best, but it was just not meant to be. Jhalak this season was not in my naseeb (fate) that’s how I take it.
Two things you like and dislike about Isha?
I like Isha’s dedication and perseverance. On a professional note, there’s nothing I hate about her. And personally, we’ve never really interacted outside of work. Whenever we met, it was always about work and sharing new ideas. I am a really boring person that way. You can call me workaholic. For the past three and half years, I have been running a race to be the best at what I do.
As a choreographer, who was your biggest threat on Jhalak?
Truthfully, no one! I have never considered anyone competition. I got into this competition to challenge and compete with myself. I keep testing myself.
What was your first starry moment?
I can never forget this. I was invited to Meerut for DID’s promotional event. There was a crowd of 5000 people waiting to cheer for me, catch a glimpse of me and shake my hand. I was moving with eight bodyguards and four gunmen around me. The crowd was shaking the car and I couldn’t move. Finally, I had to roll down my window and get on to the mic to tell them that I was overwhelmed by their love, but I have to leave. Now I know what it feels to be Shahrukh Khan. And how can I forget the day I won DID. Twenty-five thousand people shouting my name was an experience I’ll never forget.
Films or reality shows?
After this reality show, I think I prefer films.
Ever thought of going international?
I would love to. I want to train myself and learn the LA style. If I get an opportunity, I will.
A Bollywood star you would want to dance with?
I have danced with Remo sir and Prabhu Deva – the Indian Michael Jackson. Nothing can be bigger than that. But I would love to dance with Hrithik sir once.
Moving to choices: Isha Sharwani or Yana Gupta?
It’s not a fair question. They were both blessed dancers. Both of them dedicated their time and submitted themselves to me as students. They didn’t have any starry tantrums, not that I would have taken it, of course. But I think Isha had lesser tantrums than Yana. But I managed to get what I wanted from them.
Who is a better dancer – Yana or Isha?
Isha of course, with the kind of training she has received. Isha any day!
Who is hotter – Yana or Isha?
Both are not my type.
Oh, so what’s your type?
I think a simple, cultured desi girl – someone who is a perfect blend of Indian and western values.
You seem very confused about that…
Yeah…of course I am. How would I know what kind of girl I’ll get? Insha’Allah whoever it is, it will be forever. I believe I am a one woman man, very old fashioned and romantic. So I am going to take my time to find the right person.