Making Jodhaa-Akbar dance

Published On: 2016-07-25

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Making Jodhaa-Akbar dance


Source: Rediff 

Date: February 4, 2008 


To get the dance moves in his period epic Jodhaa Akbar right, director Ashutosh Gowarikar roped in as many as four choreographers -- Raju Khan, Ash Kumar, Chinni Prakash and Rekha Prakash. Chinni Prakash has been a part of the film industry for years. He also trained his niece Vaibhavi Merchant, who gave us the moves in Kajra Re, among many other filmi songs. Chinni Prakash has worked in films like Saajan, Khuda Gawah, Thakshak and Tere Naam. Over to him as he takes us behind the scenes of Jodhaa Akbar. 


I have choreographed the song, Azeem-O-Shaan Shahenshah. 

I knew Ashu (Gowarikar) was doing a period drama because I had met him a year before the shooting started to wish him luck. We did not talk about the film's choreography then. About three or four months after that meeting, he asked me to come down to Karjat (about 100 km from Mumbai), where the shooting was on. So I went there with my son. 


'Ashu wanted to do the song like the Olympic opening ceremony' 

In Karjat, Ashu first asked me to listen to the song. I thought it was fabulous! Ashu had an idea of how he would choreograph it, with 300 dancers. But I felt that it should have at least 1,000 dancers. Ashu wanted to do the song like the Olympic opening ceremony, where they come in large numbers and dance in front of a gathering. Here, they were to dance in front of Akbar. Ashu also said that there should be groups of dancers, coming from different parts of North India. We had to keep in mind that the film is based on an era 300 to 400 years ago. So we had to visualise how they would dance; what their dance steps would be like. For this, I had to do a lot of research. I saw a lot of black and white movies and leafed through books on the Mughals. I researched on their clothes, postures, and a lot more. 


'I did research for six months, just for one song' 

My uncles (who choreographed films like Guide, Mera Naam, Joker and Ganga Jamuna) were great choreographers back in the 1940s and 1950s. So I bought the DVDs of their Hindi and South Indian films. I did research for six months, just for one song. Then I noted down how the dance would start and all the details from the first to the last shot. I made notes for three months, and then met Ashu again. I told him my vision and plan for the song for 45 minutes, and at the end of it, he was thrilled! He did not know which part to edit, and what to retain. I gave him three choices, and he chose the ethnic style, which included a lot of Kathak. 


'Apart from some 400 dancers, there would be about 2,000 people acting as a crowd' 

I called about 12 assistants, and each assistant was seen as a group of 100 people. With that, I designed the song in a week's time. We shot the rough version, edited it and showed it to Ashu. He incorporated some changes, and then we shot the song with 100 dancers. I wanted to go all out, as this was the first time I had choreographed such a big song. Apart from some 400 dancers, there would be about 2,000 people acting as a crowd. 


'I never thought I would get to choreograph such a huge song' I

've learnt that it is neccessary to keep in touch with people because when I asked Ashu why he did not take me in Lagaan, he replied that it slipped his mind. If he had seen my work in Azeem-O-Shaan Shahenshah earlier, he may have given me more songs in Jodhaa Akbar. I never thought I would get to choreograph such a huge song. After the song was shot, Ashu's wife Sunita -- who is also the film's producer -- told me that Ashu had me in his mind from the day this song was recorded. I was very happy to hear that. 


'Imagine a water break for 350 dancers!' 

We were given 10 days to shoot this song. But we went overboard, and took 15 days to complete it. It's difficult to stick to a deadline when you have a crowd this big. For example, imagine a simple thing like a water break for 350 dancers! But the dancers gave me a good hand. Without their help, this song may have taken a month to film! Usually, I divide my work with my wife Rekha. But for this song, both of us were involved. The song is designed and choreographed by me, but she helped me in getting the dancers together, getting them ready with their makeup and costumes... About 350 dancers travelled to Karjat from Mumbai every day. It would take us five hours to travel to and from Karjat. And since this was a costume drama, it was quite difficult.