Shah Rukh Khan's work ethic is also there in Suhana Khan, she doesn't give up till she gets it right: Ganesh Hegde
In an exclusive interview, choreographer Ganesh Hegde discusses working with Suhana Khan in her debut film The Archies, and how she's a hustler like Shah Rukh.
Ganesh Hegde is a veteran choreographer, who has been sporadically venturing into Bollywood over the years. In his only release this year, Ganesh has choreographed two songs – Va Va Voom and Dishoom Dishoom – for Zoya Akhtar's period musical The Archies. (Also Read: Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti on comparisons with Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar: 'They have given more hits than anybody else')
In an exclusive interview, Ganesh talks about experimenting with dance forms in The Archies, working with Shah Rukh Khan and his daughter, budding actor Suhana Khan, and why he's not choreographing in movies that often. Excerpts:
Zoya Akhtar has been the visionary behind refreshing dance songs like Baawre (Luck By Chance), Senorita (Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara), and Galla Goodiyan (Dil Dhadakne Do). How challenged did you feel when she approached you for The Archies?
Zoya wanted to work with me even for Luck By Chance, but it didn't work out then. I'm glad she came back to me for The Archies. I try to do something different with my songs. When I get a song, I try to make it look spectacular. Since I started my career as a dancer in 1991, I'm used to doing these different forms of dance, from Broadway to hip-hop to break-dance to Indian classical and folk. That came into handy when I had to design the rock and roll songs in The Archies. There was a skating song that Gene Kelly did solo back in the 1980s. When I watched it, I thought when we'd be able to do a song like this.
How tough was it shooting the skating song, Dishoom Dishoom?
The Archies is a film set in the 1960s. It has a different culture and flavour. So the song had to be in sync with that time of moviemaking. Zoya had this idea in mind that I want to do a skating song. The challenge there is that you need skaters who've been doing it since their childhood. Because you need to have practised for years. But we had these seven kids who are doing a film for the first time. And skating was just one of the skills they learnt for the film. Zoya showed me the Reels of skaters across India, from cities like Pune and Bengaluru. But their styles of skating were very different so to bring them to a sync would have been a challenge.
So I got professional skaters, who could serve as a good background. Then we trained these guys for two months because it's very difficult to first balance the skates, act, lip-sync, and then dance. Also to stay in a block, not drift away, to stay at the right distance from the camera. It's quite a tricky song if you ask me. It's not been done before for a reason. There are more cons than pros. But the cast worked very hard and made it look very easy. Because it's not.
In both the songs, the choreography is so fast and demanding. But these guys look like a breeze. How did you achieve that ease?
With newcomers, the good thing is that they're really kicked and hardworking. I could get a lot of rehearsals with them beforehand. The challenge with Va Va Voom is that the choreography had to be circular because Zoya had imagined it to be inside a set that looked like a two-tier cake. Also, we shot at night. People are tired then so we had to keep up the energy of everyone at the same time, even in the long shots. We couldn't shoot these songs with the regular cameras. So our crew came up with innovative cameras to capture the choreography, like a cycle Doddy and a rickshaw Doddy.
One constant collaborator throughout your career has been Shah Rukh Khan. From the Temptations tour to award shows to the intro song of Kaun Banega Crorepati Season 3 to films like One 2 Ka 4, Don, Ra.One, and Dilwale, you've given some memorable performances. How was the experience of working with his daughter Suhana Khan in her debut movie?
I told Shah Rukh also, "She's (Suhana Khan) so much like you." She'll never give up, keep rehearsing. Even when I tell her, “Bas ab thodi der ruk jao,” she'll keep doing it because she's very clear that she wants to nail every step with perfection. There's a lot of similarity between her and Shah Rukh because both are so hardworking and disciplined. I never used to compliment her because I knew she had a level she wanted to achieve.
Once she complained to me that you don't compliment me. I told her you're already giving me 100. If I compliment you, you will keep giving me 100. Once you finish the song, then I'll compliment you because you'd already be at 150 by that time. Shah Rukh had visited the rehearsals of The Archies. He told me Suhana complained to him that I don't compliment her. He told her that Ganesh never complimented me either because once you receive a compliment, you feel complacent.
Shah Rukh has always maintained that he's not a natural dancer, but works hard at getting it right. Is that also the case with Suhana or she has a natural rhythm to her?
Oh, she's a natural dancer. She's got a vibe, she's got grace. I think she's worked hard on herself right since the beginning. She's worked on her acting, dancing, and even skating. There's one shot in the song Sunoh, where she skates on one leg and you feel she must have been skating since her childhood. All the other kids also are out there to get it. They know how much competition there's in the market so they have to pull up their socks every time. That's what I love about the new generation.
Last year, you did only three songs – Manike (Thank God), Alcoholia (Vikram Vedha), and Kinna Sona (Phone Bhoot). What's the reason behind this low frequency?
People have this pre-conceived notion about me that I'd only do songs that are different and big. Well, doing different and new is important, but big not necessarily. If you look at the skating song, it's not big. It has about six dancers in the background, but it's heavy on the concept. Yes, I've done big songs like O O Jaane Jaana, It's Magic, and Chammak Challo, but for me, I always wanted to do songs that are different, more than big. Even if it has only two people, it should be different. So I'm always available to songs that are different. But usually these days, films only have promotional, end-credit songs. It's like filling in the blanks in a song. Every song has so much money riding on it, from production to marketing. And it has age. So it's better to do songs in a new and different fashion, like I did with my album Main Deewana in 2005.
You've been the force behind memorable ‘item’ songs like Mehboob Mere, Khallas, and Babuji Zara Dheere Chalo. The item number is looked down upon today. Do you feel we shouldn't throw the baby with the bathwater and focus on doing item songs with taste instead of completely eliminating them from our ecosystem?
Absolutely. We called it ‘item’ because it pops up in the middle of the narrative, like a special appearance from someone who's not in the main cast. Since it was always done with a female actor, it acquired that connotation. But I feel an ‘item song’ is any track which has a life of its own, both within the film and outside of it. I consider Chammak Challo an item song too, even though it was the lead actors who did it. If you do it differently, it stands out. You may call it an ‘item song’ or a ‘special song.’ But the trend is here to stay.
The Archies will release on Netflix India this Thursday on December 7.
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