Ashley Lobo also talks about dance reality shows and his Delhi days.
Lately Bollywood has seen a lot of movies being centred on smaller cities and also simultaneously many new movies are cutting down on song and dance. In such a scenario, where does the contemporary western dance style — a genre choreographer Ashley Lobo masters — fits in? There will always be song and dance in Bollywood films, comes his answer almost instantly. We met the man, who makes many stars dance to his instructions, when he came to the city to stage his Navdhara India Dance Theatre’s second production Agni. Excerpts from the conversation:
Not easy to imagine Indian films without dance
Ashley feels India is country of song and dance. He says, “We have had song and dance for 2,000 years. I doubt we will ever have films without them. We have thousands of dance forms and styles from various regions. There will be a genre of serious films with more narrative, but the real essence of a Hindi film will not be complete without its songs and dance sequences. In our films, there will be four genres of dances — international style dance, folk dance forms like bhangra, classical dance forms like what Saroj (Khan) ji does, and they will be freestyle. Outside this space, there will be films that will have more acting and very little song and dance and they will also be films with less acting and more dance.”
On directing a film
He has choreographed songs in films like Jab We Met, Namastey London, Cocktail and many more. He now aims to make a dance film. He says, “I am in the process of making a film. In next one month or so, I will able to finish writing the script. I have couple of names in my head but I still need to figure out who will be ideal for the roles. I will have an actor act and a dancer dance and not the other way round in the film.” But doesn’t someone like Hrithik Roshan and Shahid Kapoor completely fit the bill? “It would make things easier to cast them in a dance film but not for the kind of dance I will be showing in the film. It will be very different.”
While few dance films have worked, others haven’t. Has he observed what makes a dance film work? He says, “Be it dance or no dance, it is all about engaging the audience. Today, you can’t keep the spectator glued to his seat by just showing him dance. Your story must have a strong narrative. Fabulous dance in it is like icing on the cake.”
Choreographing for the stars
He just finished choreographing for Imitiaz Ali’s next starring Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma. On being asked if the choreographing has to be kept simple for an A-lister, he says, “Not really. You choreograph for the actor, not for yourself. You got to know their strengths. The worst thing a choreographer can do is highlight the flaws of a dancer. In films, it’s important to do smart choreography than good choreography. That’s what I tell all the actors I work with – ‘I need to work with what you have’.”
On dance reality shows
Ashley has judged dance reality show, India’s Dancing Superstar. Ask him how are they are helping to hone talent, really, he answers, “The dance shows, when they first came out, were good. Now there are too many shows and there isn’t enough talent to push it to that level. And I don’t mean the raw talent but the trained dancers who can actually mentor them. Within India, there is limited understanding about certain forms of dance, especially the western form. We need to study western shows to see their genre of dance.”
On his Delhi days
“Though I am a Mumbaikar, Delhi is where I founded the Danceworx Academy. My foray into international genre of dance started here. So, I thought I am taking my productions to oversees, it’s only fitting that I bring them to Delhi as well. In 1988, I did my first professional choreography as a 21-year-old at Kamani Auditorium. It was the place where I started my career,” says Ashley, who used to stay at Sujan Singh Park.