Self-Taught Choreographer of Bollywood - Ganesh Acharya

Ganesh Acharya

Be it sensuous Kunda Khol, sexy Halkat Jawani, energetic Chikni Chameli, stylish Dabangg and Singham, sassy Beedi Jalaile, or cool Apni to Paathshala, all these song numbers have one thread in common i.e. they all are choreographed by Ganesh Acharya, Bollywood’s celebrated choreographer. Talk of any Bollywood masala item number; he is a man behind that super hit song and that too with no formal training in the art he masters. Pandolin on a freewheeling chat with Ganesh Acharya find out the journey of this self-taught choreographer, who boasts of n-number of super hit item songs in a career spanning almost 27 years.

How did you start your journey in choreography?

I am destiny’s child. I didn’t choose the career I wanted or I am in. It just happened to me. My dad Krishna Gopi was a known dancer. He used to group dance in South Indian films. It was his dream to become a dance master. But he expired when I was only 10 years old. With his dream only, I started dancing. The condition I was living in was bad. I used to live in chawl in a slum area of Mumbai. When I was 13, I started working as a junior artist and at the age of 15, I was a group dancer and at 17, I became an assistant choreographer with Kamal Master Ji. At 19 years of age, I did independent choreography. Then, Pappu helped me. He is the supplier and coordinator for junior artists and models for Dharma Productions. He asked Ramesh Modi, who was then making a film called ‘Anaam’ starring Arman Kohli and Ayesha Jhulka, to give me a song to choreograph, and he even offered to bear all the expenses of the song for me. Thereafter I kept on doing one or two songs of the films one after another.

My sister Kamla, who was also a dancer, said that my dance style matches Govinda’s dance style. So she asked me to meet Govinda. Then I had to struggle to meet Govinda. He gave me Karishma Kapoor’s song from the film ‘Prem Shakti’ to choreograph. Through Govinda I met David Dhawan. David Dhawan gave me the opportunity to choreograph a song ‘Tum Toh Dhoke Baaj Ho’ from the film ‘Sajan Chale Sasural’. He also let me choreograph another song called ‘Goriya Churana Mera Jiya’ from the film ‘Coolie No.1’. Govinda and I developed a superb tuning.

In between, I also choreographed the song called ‘Ikrar Karna Mushkil Hai’ from the film ‘Agni Sakshi’ in which Manish Koirala is dancing. It is after seeing that song, Director Raj Kumar Santoshi called me up and asked me to do a song for his film ‘Ghatak’. The song was called ‘Maara re! Koi Jaaye To Le Aaye’. The song was a super hit and it is because of this song I got famous. Since then, you all know the work I have done.

In which dance style you specialise in? Did you take any formal training in dancing?

I am doing typical Bollywood Masala kind of choreography. And no, I have not taken any formal training in any dance form. I have learnt dancing by closely observing the dancers and dance masters like Saroj Khan, Kamal Hasan, PL Raj and all other choreographers.

Ganesh Acharya Choreographing Halkat Jawani

Kareena Kapoor with Ganesh Acharya on the set of Heroine

Can you tell us the story behind your most recent item number ‘Halkat Jawani’ from the film ‘Heroine’?

Basically, Madhur is my close friend. We have struggled together in our initial years. I always told Madhur that I would definitely choreograph his song one day and make it a hit. Then he gave me this song. During those times, ‘Chikni Chameli’ was already a rage. But I told Madhur that ‘Halkat Jawani’ would also be a hit and I did my best. Kareena also rehearsed well. Everything be it costumes or sets was perfect and fell into place. The song came out really well.

I am happy that everyone liked it.

Did you get any specifications from Madhur for this song?

Not really! Before the shoot, I was preparing the song in the rehearsing hall. I showed the director and producer what I was doing before the shoot began and they all agreed to me.  At times, when the artist is not happy with the song, then director speaks. Generally, before the shoot, I clear everything about how I am going to shoot the song.

How about the song ‘Chikni Chameli’ and ‘Kunda Khol’?                                 

Not really! Before the shoot, I was preparing the song in the rehearsing hall. I showed the director and producer what I was doing before the shoot began and they all agreed to me. Generally, before the shoot, I clear everything about how I am going to shoot the song.

It was my first song with Dharma Productions. Last time I worked with Dharma Production was when the original Agneepath was made. I was a group dancer with Kamal Master Ji. All I can say that Katrina is the best. The hard work Katrina put into the song was commendable. She was superb. Sanjay Dutt, Hrithik Roshan, Karan Johar and Karan Malhotra also supported me a lot. Karan Johar gave me  good publicity. I believe ‘Chikni Chameli’ is a song for youth.

For ‘Kunda Khol’, I knew the story of Prakash Jha’s film ‘Chakravyuh’ and I was aware about where all the song was going to be used in the film . Sameera Reddy is a good dancer.

Ganesh Acharya with Hrithik Roshan and Sanjay Dutt on the set of Agneepath.

Your another song from the cult film ‘Rang De Basanti’ was extremely popular among  the youth.What do you have to say on that?

That was a good experience to work with Rakeysh Om prakash Mehra. With Aamir, I had already worked in ‘Ishq’ in the song ‘Mr lova lova’, thereafter I did ‘Mann’ with him. Choreographing the song ‘Apni To Paathshala’ was a fun experience.

I first listen to a song I am given to choreograph for at least 10-15 times. Then I try thinking what style movement I can give to it and what item can I create out of this song. For example, in Singham there is a movement of hand, in Bodyguard you see the movement of muscle, in Dabangg you see the step with pants and same is the case with Chikni Chameli or Halkat Jawani or Son of Sardar or Khiladi 786, I try do my best. I try to include atleast one style movement which people of every age group can follow.

Also, I try to learn the essence of the song and think what lyricist, director and music composer had in mind while they were making that particular song. So it’s not that tough but it is important.

When I am doing a song, then from sets to costume design to colour combination to camera movements to shot division be it close up, wide, trolley, everything is my decision.

Do you also take the character’s back ground into consideration?

Yes. Director briefs me about the character’s back ground and accordingly I choreograph.

How much time does it usually take you to compose choreography for a song?

Approximately 5 to 6 days at least.

Since not all actors are good dancers. How challenging it becomes for you to make a non-dancer actor dance?

Ganesh Acharya and Govinda

It is very easy to choreograph a non-dancer actor. In fact, it’s difficult to choreograph an actor who knows dancing. Because the actor who doesn’t know how to dance follows the steps what I ask him/her to do while the dancer-actor keeps on giving their own suggestions, which is again good but it gets little tough.

I have dance assistants, who help me make an actor perform . It becomes comfortable then. We need to push them a little. Besides, I am very good-humoured choreographer who likes to have fun at work. So this makes the task a lot easier.

Besides item song, do you also choreograph a scene, in which no dance steps are involved?

Yes, I have done a film like that. The film called ‘Special Chabbis’ , which is directed by Neeraj Pandey, who also directed ‘A Wednesday’. The film stars Akshay Kumar and Kajal Aggarwal. The film has three-four songs and one Punjabi dance song. I have also choreographed this kind of song in the movie ‘Mann’.

Which is more challenging?

Item song, of course!

Is there any role model whom you take inspiration from?

Yeah…it’s GOD! He is the person whom I admire a lot.

Ganesh Acharya while directing a song

Since you are in this industry for over two decades now. What changes have you witnessed in the choreography over all these years?

There is no such change. With time, the expressions and dance steps evolved but personally I have not witnessed any change.

Ganesh Acharya with Katrina Kaif

Ganesh Acharya with Katrina Kaif on the set of Chikni Chameli song

I have always competed with myself. I always wanted to do my best and be better than myself. I have been working for the last 27 years and transition has been from junior artists to dancer to assistant choreographer and now choreographer. Till now, I believe I have learnt much and now I am taking a first walk.

Would you call it struggle?

Yes, lots of struggle. I think struggle gives you strength. When you become a choreographer from a junior artist, of course struggle is involved. But I believe the rejection you face from producer and director is a kind of love in itself because it helps you build the strength to make it big. In this line, I don’t call it struggle but learning of course.

You are also known for appearing in your own songs. Are you fond of acting or being on screen?

Public like seeing me in the songs I do. I appeared in Ghatak first, the song turned out to be a hit; afterwards I appeared in ‘Nikal Le Bhaiya’ song in the film ‘Road’, the song again was a hit, so it just continues. As of acting, I did one negative role in a south Indian film and I am acting in Remo D’Souza’s upcoming film called ‘ABCD’. The film also stars Prabhu Deva. Yes, it feels good that public like me. As far as I am getting good work, I won’t mind acting.

Ganesh Acharya with Akshay Kumar

Besides ‘God’, ‘Chakravyuh’, and ‘Son of Sardaar’ which have recently released, I have choreographed songs in ‘Khiladi 786’. I am now doing David Dhawan’s ‘Chashme Buddoor’, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Ram Leela’, Sajid Khan’s ‘Himmatwala’, Indra Kumar’s ‘Grand Masti’ and many others.

How do you manage back to back projects while still maintaining the uniqueness about the songs?

It’s my work. I am just working and things happened to be managed on their own. In fact, all my dates for the year 2013 are blocked now.

Tell us about your team.

I have 6-8 assistants in my team in which 4 are girls and 4 are boys. There is one trainer, who trains them.

What message would you like to give to the aspiring dancers and choreographers?

Always consider yourself a disciple, and don’t think of yourself as a master. Till the time, you are disciple; you keep on gaining in terms of success because you learn. And most importantly have faith in yourself.

Self-Taught Choreographer of Bollywood – Ganesh Acharya