The king of wedding sangeet
The grandeur of Indian weddings today is phenomenal. The clothes, decor, entertainment and venue, combined with the unrestrained spirit of the bride and groom, their family and friends, have made Indian sangeet ceremonies bigger, livelier, larger-than-life and more fun than ever before. Today, any Indian wedding celebration has a minimum of four to six functions, be it a haldi, mehndi, wedding, reception and not-to-be-missed sangeet. You will agree with me when I will say that a sangeet ceremony is not complete without well-choreographed, glamorous dance sequences performed by the brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, naana-naani (parents from maternal side), dada dadi (parents from paternal side) and of course, the star of the evening — the bride and the groom.
Dance is the ultimate form of artistic expression. The magic lies in its subtleties and nuances. One lift of the eyebrow, the soft unfurling of a hand, the rise and fall of our hips, all this not only adds more expression to the dance but also helps us connect with others. The gamut of emotions that are unique to Indian dance is always beautifully realised, and there is no better place to reveal them than at a wedding celebration – the ultimate expression of love and emotion.
The name that consistently appears in an elite list of celebrated choreographers is Rajendra Singh, lovingly called Rajendra Masterji. Having spent many years in the field, Masterji is well-versed in Bollywood dance as well as classical and Western styles. He is regularly called upon by the crème-de-la-crème of Indian high society, around the world, who like nothing better than to ‘dance to his tunes’. His expertise in the field of dance combined with his humour and extroverted personality, make the preparations leading up to the wedding into a fun and unforgettable experience, with a unique personalised ‘Masterji’ touch.
I won’t be surprised if you will fall off your chair when I will enlist the never-ending list of names who’s weddings Masterji has choreographed and mind you these names are not just from Bollywood but the biggest in the corporate world too. So let me begin with the celebrations he has been a part of — Karisma Kapoor-Sanjay Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor-Saif Ali Khan, Abhishek Bachchan-Aishwarya Rai, Twinkle Khanna-Akshay Kumar are just a few. His client list boasts of the likes of Lakshmi and Usha Mittal, Ravi Sanghi, Rekha Mahtani, Geeta Piramal, Harsh and Mala Goenka, Tanya Godrej Dubash and Arvind Dubash, Riddhima Kapoor Sahni and Bharat Sahni and Pernia Qureshi and the list goes on and on.
When a celebrity or a business tycoon wedding takes place and we all see several trending dance videos from big fat Indian weddings around the globe which often take the Internet by storm, most are Rajendra Masterji’s creativity and hard work. He is one man who can boast of making the who’s who dance to his tunes.
This uncrowned king of Indian wedding choreography recently made his big screen debut, yes he played himself in the recently released Veere Di Wedding and also trained the main star cast of the film, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Swara Bhaskar and Shikha Talsani. His cameo appearance in the film playing Masterji himself has got this super talented man more recognition than before.
I remember meeting Masterji at Abhishek-Aishwarya wedding where my dancers had danced too. At the most talked about wedding of that time when this man walked in, he was hounded by stars, from Amitabh Bachchan to Anil Ambani all ran behind, pulling him to the corner and quickly revising and rehearsing their steps. From Tina Ambani to Sara Ali Khan all have shaken their hips and jigged to his tunes, but what has Masterji enjoyed the most and what more is he waiting for is something I am sure we all wish to know. So I called up my darling Masterji and he spoke his heart out –
Tell me about your own dance training and how did you learn so many styles?
I learnt Kathak from my guru late Pandit Madan Shyamji. I love Kathak but my love for Bollywood dance never stopped. I mastered film numbers by myself and now it has been 20 years that I am in this business of wedding choreography.
Which is the most memorable wedding celebration for you?
Oh! it is difficult to pick up one and it will be unfair if I do that, each wedding has its own beauty and emotions and I love the whole feeling of family and friends bonding and celebrating through dance. But honestly my work got its due recognition at Suparna Motwane’s sangeet (Karisma Kapoor’s former sister-in-law), all the bigwigs of Bollywood had come for the celebration and they loved my work a lot and praised it tremendously. Also wedding celebration of Vanisha Mittal (Laxmi Mittal’s daughter) in London was something I will remember forever as it was truly an extravagant affair. I believe it was almost Rs 240 crore, something totally unheard of amount for many.
Who has been your favourite student during these family reunion celebrations?
Oh my, you are asking me tough questions. I am sorry but I can’t choose one at all. There are so many who I have loved and till today their memories are fresh in my heart. Karisma Kapoor burning the floor on Bole Chudiya at her then sister-in-law’s wedding, Kirron Kher dancing to Beedi and Amitji (Amitabh Bachchan) rocking the floor to Kajra Re while Jayaji making moves like Aishwarya at Abhishek-Aishwarya’s sangeet. Also, late Sridevi grooving to Tumse milke dil ka hai kya haal at Riddhima Kapoor Sahani’s sangeet, I can’t forget them at all. But Neetuji (Neetu Singh) is someone I love the most. She and Karan Johar stole Kareena Kapoor-Saif Ali Khan sangeet when the duo danced and recreated the Sharmila Tagore-Rajesh Khanna classic Ab chahe maa roothe ya baba. They were phenomenal.
You have made everyone dance. I am sure all your wishes are over, right?
No, no. Not everyone (laughs). Yes, it is true I have made most Bollywood celebrities dance but the diva of Bollywood, Rekha is one person I have yet to teach and I wish soon I will get a chance to do that. Her slight yet very sharp lachaks (moves) and bhavs (expressions) are enough for a song to become a hit at any event. Today’s girls can shake from top to bottom and everything that they have (laughs) but they can never match up to her class and style. From a romantic number to a dhin chak item song, from typical Bollywood song to bhangra to a cabaret or classical, Rajendraji infuses loads of latkas and jhatkas (hip moves) with graceful and enjoyable dose of adaas (expressions). A true celebrity choreographer who indeed is a name to reckon with in the world of dance is happiest when he hears whistles while his students dance and his favourite dialogue to all is students is zor se hilao (shake your hips more). From Mumbai to Delhi and London to Singapore to United States of America, Masterji has travelled far and wide to help people create life long memories through their sangeet ceremonies, he is a Masterji in true sense who brings family together forever.
Sandip Soparrkar is a World Book Record holder, a well known Ballroom dancer and a Bollywood choreographer who has been honoured with two National Excellence awards and one National Achievement Award by the Govt of India. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org