During his recent visit to Cardiff, Bollywood choreographer, Adil Shaikh, took some time out of shooting his latest film, Aashiqui, to speak with Dr Sulien Morgan about his work, and his time in Wales.
Sulien Morgan – Adil, could you tell us something about you work as a choreographer?
Adil Shaikh – Basically I do every part of choreography, mainly films, Bollywood films, and I also do regional films, like I’m doing right now – India has different cities like Kolkata, Gujarat and Maharashtra, where I live, and these different cities have their own language. So this film I’m shooting now is a Bengali film which is based in Kolkata, as this is the language there. And I also do a lot of Bollywood films, so my most recent film, which is released right now in India, is Bajrangi Bhaijaan by Salman Khan, in which I’ve choreographed some songs, such as one called ‘Bhar Do Johli’ which has really become a hit. So I do a lot of regional stuff on the side, because as a choreographer you know what happens in Bollywood is that you’re busy for six months and sometimes you’re home for six months, so there should always be something going on, on the sides. And it’s always good to keep working on the sides in something which you are good at, something which is related to your work rather than doing something as opposite to each other as choreography and having a restaurant. I have a dance academy which is also my workshop where I rehearse for my own songs, where we do workshops with the team. The dance academy happens early morning and in the evening where people come and learn dance which includes Bollywood, Jazz, Hip Hop and everything.
SM – And what about this project which brought you to Cardiff? Could tell us more about the film that you’re working on?
AS – This film is called Aashiqui, which means ‘falling in love.’ Himanshu Dhanuka, from Kolkata, is a very good friend of mine. He is the owner and proprietor of Eskay Movies, and Aashiqui is his film. So I’ve come here to shoot all the songs. I’ve shot five songs. The only thing about this film, though, was that it was difficult for me to visualise the whole concept of the songs because, if you’ve seen Bollywood films, you will know that they have different flavours of songs: one is a dancing number, one is a love song, one is a club track, and all that. In this film I’ve shot five songs. All five songs are love songs. So when I came here, the difficult part for me was how to make all five songs different from each other; that was a little difficult for me. So when I came here I started listening to the songs. I had nothing in my mind when I came from India but, once I started looking at the locations and at the city of Cardiff, my mind started working, and then I thought of giving all the five songs a different feel. What I’ve done is kept one song very vintage. I’ve taken it very classical, with no crowds but with a vintage car, and the actors wearing black and white, keeping the film also black and white, and very vintage costumes. The best part about Cardiff, what I liked, was that I got everything on time – vintage clothes, vintage props, vintage car. So one song I did ‘vintage.’ And the second I did a little ‘young,’ like a couple on a date just going to have an ice cream, walking on the street, looking at people, shopping, laughing, playing, sitting in a corner, talking, kissing each other. I found Central London nice for shooting that, inside the shopping centres and all that; so different places. Today we are doing one more song, a very passionate love song. So what I thought was to give it, you know, contemporary dance and ballet dance of passion. So this song I’m shooting in City Hall today, and for this song I’m keeping a little ballet, a little warm feel, a little indoor feel. So the best part about Cardiff, what I like, is that you have new age, vintage, nice greenery, nice indoor set ups; and that’s what I love about Cardiff, and I would love to come again.
SM – Dancing appears to be an integral part of Bollywood and other Indian films, especially compared with films produced in the western world. Consequently would you say that the profession of a film choreographer in India is one of great importance?
AS – Before, for people, dancing was a hobby but today, because of dancing movies appearing first in Hollywood and then in Bollywood – and those being successful – people have become interested in dance. But the main reason for people getting interested in dancing is ‘reality shows.’ In India there are a lot of reality shows happening, based on dance, where the poorest people have managed to gain fame and money in one, two or three years, where before they couldn’t have gained such things in forty or fifty years. So every second person in India wants to become a dancer, wants to become a choreographer. Nobody wants to become a cricketer, nobody wants to become a footballer. It’s like that! So working in this field has become more challenging for me – what new things I’m going to do – because there is a lot of competition happening right now. If you are in a profession where few people want to become what you are, then it’s OK, but when you have a hundred people who all want to work in the profession you are in then, it becomes a little difficult for a person. So just to balance that you have to keep upgrading yourself, you always have to feel that you are young, you always have to be around the modern things, you always have to see what new things are happening around, being that energy and all that. So with dance and moves you always have to keep upgrading yourself. Once you stop doing that you’ll be out of the box!
SM – You mention that dancing has offered a way out of poverty for people. In contrast to all the glitz and glamour of Bollywood do you have the opportunity to use dance in a different setting, to do good, and to help people?
AS – What I do is I have a dance academy, which is called ADA, (Adil Dance Academy). So what I do is I sometimes go to help poor people who cannot afford to learn, by teaching them. I don’t publicise that, but my team and I speak to each other and, where I live in Mumbai, there are a lot of street beggars, a lot of kids, so what I do is sometimes I get these kids in my studio, give them some chocolate, some snacks and let them dance, teach them some choreography of a popular song. I spend, say, two or three hours with them. It’s nice, it’s fun for them because they can’t afford anything. I’ve recently done some stuff which they’ve really enjoyed, and all our team was also really happy about it. I sometimes also help the elderly. I’ll go to a house where old people live. I go there and spend an hour with them, teach them some dance. They feel happy and I also feel happy. So if I’m travelling or in India and somebody comes and asks me, ‘Why don’t you come and do this? – if it’s related to choreography and if it’s good and not bad, I go for it.
SM – You mentioned earlier that you’ve enjoyed your time in Cardiff. What are your general impressions of Cardiff as a city? You must find it very small in comparison with Mumbai?
AS – What I love about Cardiff is that it’s very small. That’s the best part about it – nice and cosy. Bedrooms are always good when they’re small and cosy and that’s how it is with Cardiff, small and cosy. People are cooperative and very sweet. Everything is like ten or fifteen minutes away from where you are, so that’s the best part. I also love the weather – light from 5 am till 9 pm which helped with shooting the film.
SM – I understand that this is the first time a film from India has used Cardiff as a film set; do you think after Aashiqui that more films will follow? Can we expect to see Bollywood productions and other regional Indian films being shot in Cardiff?
AS – Absolutely. I’m a hundred and ten percent sure that people are going to come now and shoot in Cardiff. Because mainly we go to London or Newcastle – these are shown a lot now, and people in India have seen them a lot now. But people always want to see something new, so I think people will come regularly now to explore Cardiff. And the best part is the permission – it’s quite easy to get permission to shoot over here . When a production or a company comes they want something which is comfortable and easy for them. So Cardiff is a beautiful city, It’s easy for people to compare and manage with each other and go ahead and shoot.
Categories: Culture / Diwylliant