BizAsia at Farah Khan’s UK Dance Workshops press conference

BizAsia Correspondent



Bollywood’s top choreographer, Farah Khan will be heading to UK shores for her first dance workshops across London and Leicester this weekend. attended the virtual press conference, which also included other media outlets and journalists. is proud digital partner of Farah Khan’s UK dance workshops.

You share a very close bond with the UK. In fact, you made your Broadway debut two decades ago with Bombay Dreams. And after touring worldwide, you sort of hosted a set of dance workshops across the board. But now you’re coming to London and Leicester. So tell me, how have the preparations been so far? And what songs can be expected from the workshop?
Yeah, well, as much as we prepare, it all depends on when we reach over there, what’s going to happen, and the response of the people who join the workshop. So, I mean, preparations are on. We’ve got some tracks ready. They are usually my songs, though at some point, I would like to do other songs too. But I’ve always told it’s my workshop, so I should do my songs. And I normally take dancers from the place where I’m doing the workshop into as my assistants. So it’s nice to go there and source some local dancers. So I think this time we have two dancers from the Bollywood group from Mr Karan Pangali.

I know him because he was a contestant on ‘Just Dance’, which I was judging a couple of years ago. So his two dancers are going to come and assist me. As soon as I reach [the UK], we’ll meet, and we’ll set up what we have to do in the number. And after that, it’s fun.

Then I’ll have the mic and the music, and everyone ready to whip into shape.

But it’s a fun class. It’s not like you have to give an exam or something. It’s just the whole experience.

I’m looking forward. You’re going to get the whole experience. It’ll be like me on set. And probably you all will be the stars. So you’re all going to get the whole Farah Khan experience, which is, basically I’ll teach you to dance, but you also get yelled at a little bit. And the one-liners keep coming. But you also get, if you’re dancing well, you also get encouraged. And I think you get encouraged the worse you’re dancing also. It’s important, that too. But it’s a fun class. It’s not like you have to give an exam or something. It’s just the whole experience. It’s pretty hectic. So I would say wear proper shoes, like your sports shoes or whatever. Be comfortably dressed, because it’s a workout. And that goes on for about an hour, in which I manage to teach you about two minutes of choreography. Then you have to perform for me in groups of 5 or 10, depending on how many people are there. I probably then select the best dancers. From there are the most sporting dancers, or the most, the dancers having the most fun. And then there’s a little bit of a Q&A for about half an hour, where you can ask me. I mean, it’s like a master class. So it ranges from everything, from professional questions to personal questions. And then there’s a photo shoot with everyone. So it’s a good, two and a half, three hours. But you’ll have fun. It’s fun. It’s not boring.

I know. I’m so gutted, really. I am so, so gutted that I’m going to be missing this. But hopefully, everyone’s Instagram stories will keep me posted on that. But look, I think it’s wonderful, Farah, because you’ve always been an eye for good talent. I mean, of course, whether it is mentoring and honing, of course, Geeta Kapoor, the choreographer, and of course, the superstar, Deepika Padukone and Rakhi Sawant, which you kindly reminded me of in our last interview. But again, I think what sort of talents will you be looking out for at the workshop in particular?

It’s not an audition. So it’s not like y’all are coming to give an exam or an audition. It’s basically, if you ever love dancing or you love Bollywood, this is your one-time chance to be kind of choreographed by me. It’s always good. I mean, if you find great dancers, next time I’m here for a shoot or something, I know this is the bank of dancers that I can go to. But it’s… basically, it’s not like I’m auditioning for a movie or for a song. So there is no pressure on you to perform or like there’s pressure on you just like, come and have a good time.

Right. But I think in the interview that we did, Farah, and I think I love the point that you made about observation because I think that is definitely one of the key skills for dancing and for anything related to art. Bollywood dancing is all about expressions and all about the being very unhinged and allowing yourself to be inhibited. So what approach do you take when it comes to dealing with people who perhaps might have two left feet or might not really be professionally trained per se as dancers?

No, for a film it’s very different. If an actor or an actress can’t dance, you have to choreograph in such a way that you play to their strengths. You don’t make them do a dance step that you can, anyone can make out like we’ve seen in so many songs and say, “Oh my God, this person can’t dance.” Or we don’t want everyone laughing at them. Or sometimes I see the choreographer wants to show his or her work so badly that they don’t realize that that person is looking bad. So basically, I think the job of a good choreographer would be to make the actor or the actress look good while they’re doing the song. If you have to simplify it, if they can’t do footwork, you give them upper body. If they can’t do upper body, you give them expressions. So you try to make them look half-way decent. But if they can dance, rehearsals always help. I mean, everyone always asks who’s like the best… like technically best dancer. I would say it’s Hrithik. And if they then ask me who rehearsals the most, it’s Hrithik. He will rehearse like a mad person. And that’s when you get that finesse and the perfection.

So the choreography, the songs always dictate what the movie is about, what the characters are.

The choreography has to fit the genre of the film. I can’t do, if the movie is like a hard, hardcore Indian desi movie, you don’t want to give it, you don’t want to do a choreography that is a bit out of context in the song and the characters that are in the movie. So the choreography, the songs always dictate what the movie is about, what the characters are. And lastly, you also have to see who the actor is. For ‘Jawan’, it’s Shah Rukh. I’m not going to make him dance like Hrithik. I will play to Shah Rukh’s strengths. And so it’s all of that.

I like to do different, I love doing songs. I’ve cut down on a lot of work now. I don’t do it, I do very few songs and I do it only for close friends. I would say, I don’t know. They used to tell me I could only do Western songs earlier till I started doing Indian songs and winning awards. Then they said, “Oh, she can only do love songs till I started doing item songs and those became..” So, I mean, a song is a song you have to take, you have to do the best for the kind of song it is. You can’t be just wanting to show your work at all times. There is a lot of things to keep in mind when it’s like directing a five minute film. You have to look after everything from the costumes to the set design to… where is the location? How many days you have? It’s a lot of logistics. Oh, we have only six hours today to do this. So then you make it happen.

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What really interested me, a statement that you made earlier on when you started talking about the songs that you usually do at these masterclasses that you do your own, but you would love to do songs that you haven’t done. And what I really want to know is what songs come to your mind when you think of songs that are not for you.
I mean, there’s so many songs that I love dancing to. I would love to do a Govinda song or right now the mood of the nation is Sunny Deol’s “Mein Nikla Gadi Le Ke”. I mean, I would love to do “Moja-e-Moja” or Pritam songs. But everyone expects and wants me to do like my numbers. So they feel it’s the authentic workshop.

I wanted to ask you, so obviously the new Shah Rukh song has come out now, “Chaleya” from ‘Jawaan’, which you’ve choreographed. So what was it like working with him? You’ve worked with him over the years and making him do the signature pose.
By default, that signature pose always comes. Even if you tell him to, it’s like, “Meh hoon na bhai”. His hand keeps coming up. I only go out of my house either for Shah Rukh or for Karan. To do a song, I can’t be bothered anymore otherwise. But it’s great. I mean, it’s like no time has passed. It’s like our first movie, which we did ‘Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na’. It’s amazing to see that the passion and the hard work has not gone down. In fact, I think it’s gone double. This is the first time he said, “I want to rehearse before I come on shoot.” I’ve almost died because in all my 32 years with him, he’s never rehearsed once. But we were short of time and we had only a couple of hours on those locations to shoot. So he was like, “I’m going to rehearse the hook step.” I actually sent my assistants to his house for rehearsal. So that was the first.

You’re celebrated all over the world. So I wanted to ask, being such an admired choreographer, how do you deal with writer’s block when it comes to setting up a choreography?
It’s very difficult to explain how to do it. There’s a lot of work that goes into it. Let me tell you the dance, the steps are the last part of it. Like I said, it’s like making a mini film, especially if the song is part of the story, then you have to know what happened before. It’s a very boring process. Let me tell you, the process is not fun for anyone who’s listening to it. But it’s not like you just come on set and start showing dance steps. The dance steps are the last of it. You have to look at the color schemes, the dancers, what they’re wearing, what the hero and heroine are going to wear. It’s a lot of work. I mean, it’s fun for us, boring for y’all to listen to.

We’re seeing a lot more cultures becoming Bollywood. We’re seeing Bollywood coming more into Western media as well. When it comes to the dance and the choreography in Bollywood, which other cultural components would you like to see in the upcoming years?
I’ve always felt that for Bollywood dance is actually a melting pot of every dance form. If you say, what is Bollywood? And I was in LA recently and I was doing some masterclasses there. And the thing with Bollywood is that… see, I’ve grown up watching MGM musicals and Gene Kelly. And so if you say Bollywood, it’s not only Indian dance. We throw in tap dancing and we throw in swing and we’ll throw in jazz and we’ll throw in hip hop and we’ll mix it with a bhangra. It’s actually a full bhel puri of, it’s anything goes. And that is the beauty of it. It just celebrates dance. It’s not telling you, you have to stick to only one form of dance. Unless of course it’s a Kathak number or it’s a Bharat Natyam performance happening or something. You stay true to form. But other than that, you’ll see any of our songs from bhangra to tap dance can all be in one song. And if you see Salman dancing, you’ll feel anything goes.

I just love it the way the Bollywood music and songs are celebrated around the world, around different cultures. It’s not like you have to only be Indian or Asian to love it.

My question for you is, of course back in the day we never had social media. We never, you never had this online presence. So I wonder if you knew that how big your numbers were getting and how people were recreating your dance steps or even just doing exactly what you did, doing it at their weddings. And now you can see it on social media.
Now you see, it makes me feel that bloody they are choreographing it better than I ever did.

They’re doing fantastic work on all the songs. I mean, if you see the hip hop versions of “Chaiya Chaiya” and you see this, all these, sometimes you see these non-Indian groups performing to it, to the songs and they are just absolutely fantastic. And it inspires you to keep step up and pull your socks up because they are really doing a great job. I just love it the way the Bollywood music and songs are celebrated around the world, around different cultures. It’s not like you have to only be Indian or Asian to love it. I mean, from Europeans to Koreans to, everybody’s doing it. And that is the beauty of it. I’m just lucky that I was in the right place at the right time and doing the kind of work that I was doing because it’s paying off now when the whole world can see your songs on YouTube and appreciate them. Because earlier you could just go to the movies and watch them.

You do get that feeling when you’re, I mean, when I hear a song, I know it is a good song or it’s a okay song and you guys are going to be a smash hit. Because my taste in music is very messy. But sometimes some very strange songs do very well and it really surprises me. Like when I was doing “Ek Pal Ka Jeena” and then they gave it to me, this is almost like what, 20, 21, 22 years ago. And I was like, “What is this song? It’s not a typical dance number. It’s not like your Jing-Jang fast number.” So in a way, it forced me to choreograph differently because it was not your thumping kind of dance number. It was not Shabba Shabba or it was not that kind of number.

Tell me, how easy is it to style celebrities when you’re choreographing them? And are there any celebrities who just don’t agree with the styling?
I think it’s getting more and more difficult because everybody right now, I mean, everybody has an entourage of 8 to 10 people and all of them have opinions. It used to be much simpler earlier. You had reference Manish and we would go like. Even when we did Om Shanti Om, Manish literally styled the 15 or 16 girls that came in the song. And none of them passed us. And no one did “unnn annn!”. They were like, “Okay, you and Manish decide what we have to wear, which color we have to wear.” But now, yeah, it’s becoming more and more difficult because the entourage is… everyone has an opinion. And also finding most of the girls dressing up is very generic. You know what I mean? Like no one really has a unique style. Except for Sonam and Deepika who look different and they style themselves well, but that’s in their personal lives. But in the movies, yeah, it’s, see, you also have to keep in mind that they have to dance in that costume. How heavy, how light it’s going to be. The color scheme, the jewellery can’t be too heavy because they’re going to be. So all those things you have to keep in mind when they are… That the costume has to help the choreography. Not restrict it.

The workshops will take place over three days in August across London and Leicester.

Alec Reed Academy
Date: 18th and 20th August
Price: Early bird – £100 / Regular – £125
Tickets, click here.

The Jungle Club
Checkkets Road
Date: 19th August
Price: Early bird – £80 / Regular – £100
Tickets, click here.

Lyca Radio and Lyca Gold are exclusive radio partners. B4U Movies and B4U Music are TV partners for this exciting event.