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SANDIP SOPARRKAR

The most loved man of Bollywood

Life&More September 29, 2018
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Choreographer Longinus Fernandes pours out his heart

Today, I want you all to meet a dynamic Bollywood choreographer who has made our country proud the world over. I met him over a decade back when I was the technical director of the season one of the super hit television reality series Jhalak Dikhla Jaa which was then telecast on Sony Television and he was the choreographer partner to the sensual Shveta Salve. It was all because of this ideal partner and his fantastic choreographies that Shveta was crowned Chhote Parde ki Madhuri Dixit (Madhuri Dixit of small screen) and adjudged first runners-up of the same show.

For me as the technical jury of the show, Shveta and he were one of my favourite couple dancers. Each time they danced the Bollywood-ised standard and Latin American ballroom dances, this highly creative man brought in freshness and newness on the Jhalak dance floor. I am talking about the articulate and very stylish Longinus Fernandes who has choreographed Bollywood films such as Border, Satta, Page 3, Barfi, Indu Sarkaar etc and many Hollywood projects including the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire.

He is one of the most loved choreographers in Bollywood, from Shah Rukh Khan to Ranbir Kapoor, all look up to him to make them look great on screen. Not just that, at the 81st Academy Awards ceremony, director Danny Boyle thanked him in his acceptance speech while receiving his award for best direction, and also apologised for missing out his name in the credits. That is how much he is cared and loved for by everyone who has worked with him. When quizzed by me along with talkie-tive tid bits about his extraordinary work which has won him many awards including the prestigious Fred Astaire Award in 2009, he had some interesting things to talk about.

Hollywood vs Bollywood: You preference?
I like Hollywood for only one reason and that is precision. The precision and zest to do things in the most apt manner. In Bollywood, we are slowly getting there with actors like Hrithik Roshan, Tiger Shroff and Shahid Kapoor who are winning hearts and setting the trend too. Varun Dhawan is also following the suit and it indeed is a great feeling and I hope and pray that one day a time will come when people will get inspired by Bollywood and take it to Hollywood.

People have been using our music and have been very excited about the same, in the past music such as Chamma Chamma has been used in Moulin Rouge, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom has been used in Second Best Marigold which I am humbled to say I choreographed. I love Bollywood as this is my home but I like Hollywood too as they have been doing work with great precision for over the years.

Bollywood choreography then and now?
Dance in cinema has evolved a lot over the years. Some iconic songs were brilliantly shot by Satya Narayanji, Hira Lalji or Sohan Lalji. The dance routine they worked on were fabulous and of course, very memorable. I can never forget a few legendary song and dance routines like Hoton pe aaisi baat picturised on Vyajanthimala Bali and Dev Anand in the 1967-film Jewel Thief, Aaj Ko Junli Raat Maa featuring Sharmila Tagore and Rajendra Kumar from 1969-film Talaash.

When we see these dance numbers, we realise there is so much scope for us today and there is lots to learn from them in the aspects of film choreography. The problem today is that every Tom, Dick and Harry (sorry for my language, he says with a smile) who know nothing about choreography feels they can become a choreographer and it is all because of the reality shows. One needs to understand that every good dancer may not be a good choreographer.

I am not saying that the reality shows are not good. Of course they are good. I, myself have been a part of many, but they are good and fine till a certain aspect. One needs to understand that there are various medium of choreography, there is choreography for films, stage, theatre, musicals in Broadway style, Hollywood style and they all need and have to be dealt differently.

If we dig into the classic Bollywood film, we will realise the dances took the movie, the story and the script ahead with effortless ease and that is what is an actual mark of a good choreographer and his or her great choreography work.

In your opinion, who are the iconic dance choreographers?
What Saroj Khanji has done in various songs in Devdas, be it Maar dala or Dola re is incredible. No one could have done better than that and delivered what was needed at the box office. She has done great justice to each of her songs and I give a total hats off to her. Seeing of her illustrate work, we have all got inspired and learnt what choreography means. Her work is most aesthetic with originality and exactly how things in dance should be.

When we have to look at choreography that is something which has novelty, I look up to Farah Khan and Ahmed Khan as they have got something new to the table, because when we look at their songs there is so much of vibrancy and exuberance. Be it Rangeela Re from Rangeela, Ruk Jaa Oh Dil Deewane from Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge or Pehla Nasha from Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar. People have actually loved what they have seen, what they did one could never have imagined that something like this can also be done on our larger than life celluloid.

Ganesh Acharya is brilliant choreographer too. According to me, he is the man of the masses, he is one man who can make anyone dance and not just dance but make them look great too.

Which Bollywood actor you think is a great dancer and can be an inspiration for youngsters today?
At the time when I worked with Ranbir Kapoor, he was a newcomer. He had done Saawariya. Right at the start when I met him I knew he was not only a fantastic actor but had the qualities of a superstar, all mixed together in one man. He had to do crazy things in the title track which I was choreographing for him. It was not up is alley but the efforts he put in and made it all look so effortless speaks volumes of his greatness.

Who are the most inspirational filmmakers for you in Bollywood and Hollywood?
I am fortunate that I have had the privilege of working with directors like Sanjay Leela Bhansali who made everything look so larger-than-life and there is a meaning to each film he has made. What he makes has complete style, elegance and grace. He makes his artistes look so beautiful that it is a like a dream to work with them. Working on songs for his films such as Saawariya and Guzaarish was incredible. He has made every dance look much better that what it could have looked in reality.

My answer would be incomplete if I do not talk about Danny Boyle. He is the one who gave me an opportunity of a lifetime. The words of appreciation that he showered upon me still remain in my heart and I will take the memories of working with him to my grave. In short let me say working with him was a lot of masti in the Dharavi basti.

Longi, like he is fondly called, has also choreographed for the most loved television show, So You Think You Can Dance, three times. He has reached the height of success in both Bollywood and Hollywood but is totally unfazed about the same. That is the humility of this highly creative man. Today I wish my dearest Longi all the best and pray that one day he will get an Oscar to our nation.

 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 [email protected]

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