The world of Bollywood is incomplete without songs and elaborate dance sequences. And while it’s a joy to see our favourite celebrities ace those complex moves, there’s a whole lot of training that goes behind it. Although choreographers call the shots behind the camera, they are an indispensable part of the film industry. Whether it is veteran late Saroj Khan, Farah Khan, Vaibhavi Merchant or Geeta Kapoor, these women have been flag bearers of Indian dance, both in the country and abroad.
There’s also a new crop of female choreographers who have a more contemporary style and are more experimental than ever. Here’s a look at some of them:
A Dance India Dance participant, Kruti Mahesh is well-known for the magnificent ‘Ghoomar’ song in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus Padmaavat. Kruti also won the National Award for best choreography of 2018 for the superhit song.
As a child, Kruti learnt several classical dance forms, and performed at different temples. She also played the avatar of Matsya while performing Krishna’s Dashavatar. Thereafter, Kruti received formal training under Guru Vasanta Ji.
A graduate in Life Sciences, she moved to London to do her masters in Forensic Sciences. For these three years, she had cut off from dance. But when she returned to India, she participated in the second edition of Dance India Dance, and there’s been no looking back since then.
She received guidance from choreographers Terence Lewis and Remo D’Souza, and trained under the latter for over five years, assisting him in the song ‘Deewani Mastani’ from the film Bajirao Mastani and his latest film Street Dancer 3D.
This list is incomplete without the mention of Shakti Mohan, who has inspired several young girls to follow their passion in dance. At an early age, she had injured her leg in an accident, and it seemed like she had no chance of even walking again. But with the support of her friends and family, she overcame this challenge and is one of the most celebrated dancers in the industry today.
The winner of Dance India Dance 2, she’s someone who believes in experimenting, and that shows in all her dance numbers. Later, she was seen as a contestant of Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa in 2014, and was one of the finalists.
She assisted veteran choreographer Vaibhavi Merchant on Dhoom 3. She choreographed her first solo song, ‘Nainowale Ne’ from the Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat. In 2016, the Mumbai-based dancer opened her own dance studio Nritya Shakti. She has her own dance-meets-comedy web series called Break-a-Leg on her YouTube channel Nritya Shakti and also recently, launched her own make-up line, NY Bae X Shakti, in collaboration with purplle.com.
Shampa Gopi Krishna
She first came into the limelight with her moves in the reality show Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa 4, opposite her partner and late actor Sushant Singh Rajput. The next season saw her pairing with actor Gurmeet Choudhary, and the duo won the show.
Dance is in her genes; after all, she is the daughter of veteran dancer Gopi Krishna. She gave her first performance when she was only four. She is trained in Kathak, Bharatanatyam and Odissi. She was only in her teens when her parents passed away, and she stopped dancing for a while because Shampa felt she couldn’t carry forward her family’s legacy.
However, she soon got back to the scene, and has co-choreographed the song ‘Ang Laga De’ from Deepika Padukone-Ranveer Singh starrer Goliyon ki Rasleela: Ram-Leela, and was also one of the choreographers behind ‘Malang’ from Dhoom 3.
She’s not just known in the Indian film industry, but this choreographer is the brain behind some of the biggest Bollywood musical extravaganzas in Hollywood. Trained in a range of Indian classical and folk dances, Rujuta’s moves have made the biggest celebrities sway: right from Priyanka Chopra to Britney Spears. A graduate in Psychology from Boston University, Rujuta’s interests always lay in dance, which is why she came back to India and trained under legendary choreographer Saroj Khan.
Some of her most prominent work includes Sridevi-starrer English Vinglish, and assisting Saroj Khan for Jaan-E-Mann and Ta Ra Rum Pum. Rujuta has also choreographed Hollywood celebrities like John Legend and Black Eyed Peas. In 2009, she helped AR Rahman with his performance for Slumdog Millionaire at the Oscars.
She has also choreographed Priyanka Chopra’s NFL promo In My City, Disney’s The Cheetah Girls 3-One World, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Donna Karan’s and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Charity Fundraiser.
Popularly known as ‘The Indian Salsa Princess’, Sneha is known for popularising Indian salsa on the global platform. She is also the first Indian to represent the country at several International Salsa Championships. Through her career, she has used different forms like Salsa, Bachata, Merengue, Jive, Hip-Hop, Adagio, and Bollywood styles.
Sneha was an athlete, but her passion for dance made her switch careers. Her skills are unmatched, and have led her to win several accolades. In 2011, she broke a Guinness World Record for "Most Number of Swing Dance Flips in a Minute". The record of 33 flips in a minute was set earlier, but Kapoor and her team of three dancers set the new record at 39 flips.
She was also a part of the reality show Dance India Dance 3, and has choreographed Madhur Bhandarkar’s film Heroine, And reality shows like Just Dance and Perfect Bride.
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)