The very talented choreographer, Shabina Khan has learned from and worked with some of the best choreographers India has to offer. We recently got a chance to interview Shabina on her latest project, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo and more.
You have worked as an assistant choreographer for some of the country’s leading choreographers like Prabhudeva, Saroj Khan, Ganesh Hegde and Ganesh Acharya. What was it like working with them?
It’s has been an honor to assist them and earn a great knowledge of choreography. I started my journey of assistant choreography when I was 13 years old; I use to be the youngest person working on the sets and can’t forget studying at the same time. it has not at all been easy for me to understand the maturity of people around me, but by God’s grace I became versatile and could adjust in all situations. Even today before arriving on the set I feel nervous and anxiety fearing how I would complete the job and give my best even after so many years of experience and I enjoy this feeling now.
What are some qualities that you picked up from the choreographers that you have worked with?
I guess choreography was also my calling and with God’s grace I’m here. My first choreographer was Ganesh Hegde, a very young, smart and dedicated dance director, the qualities I adapted from him are punctuality, time management and a sense of unique movements.
The second choreographer was Ganesh Acharya, again he was completely different from my previous boss. He has an eye for very easy and catchy movements which can be done easily by anyone. He just couldn’t abstain from being graceful. He was one choreographer who could very well choreograph the ‘Govinda’ kind of steps which are filled with enjoyment and grace. So I would say ‘Grace’ is what I cultivated in me through him.
The third was Prabhu Deva whom I personally appreciate and admire as an actor as well as technician. He is the one who submerged in me the combination of unique camera angles and dance movements which is the most important quality a choreographer should have. We cannot ignore the fact that choreography is just not compiling good dance moves together, but it’s about designing the shot and execution of movements in a way no other choreographer can with your own creative mind and that’s what I have learned in the process of assisting.
The last choreographer whom i worked with before I became an independent choreographer is Saroj Khan, the woman who is the reason behind the “Choreographer” Departments Acknowledgement. I personally respect and admire her for the kind of person and choreographer she is. Though I assisted her only for one film, her grace just doesn’t die; it’s so alive in Bollywood that nobody can forget her hit songs like “Channe Ke Khet Mein”, “Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai” and “Mera Piya Ghar Aaya” to name few. From the time I understood dancing I was in love with Sarojji’s dancing abilities and style. I grew up watching her songs and that’s how her grace was deeply growing in me as i was her great fan. I cannot forget me and my sister watching her songs and trying to copy her and it’s a great coincidence that my first film as a choreographer was “Main Madhuri Dixit Ban Na Chahti Hu” when i was 19, where I got to re-choreograph Sarojji’s songs. She was always on my mind while doing that film. Grace was modified and brought in the frontier by Saroj Khan I would say. She is a true inspiration not only to me but to all the actresses.
What is your favorite dance form?
It’s kind of difficult to say exactly which dance form I like the most, for me dance is not only bout movements of the body but movements of the soul too. You just can’t do it without passion and interest. The diversion was made by people by giving different names so I would choose only an unfiltered and pure ‘dance’, that’s what I love. A dance form where body, mind and soul connect.
How did you get into dancing?
I didn’t get into dancing, dancing got into me (laughs). I was learning dance and acting in Madhumatis School of Arts where I was spotted by Ganesh Hegde, I was inducted to assist him in his team and as the saying goes, there was no looking back.
In an interview you once said that Raveena Tandon had pushed you into becoming a choreographer. How did she convince you to take the plunge?
By God’s grace I have always been a favorite of all the stars. Raveena Tandon (bossy) was one of them. A true motivator. When she was producing her first film “Stumped”, she took me from the rehearsal hall directly to Pritam’s (music director) studio. She very sternly told me that I am doing her film, which is really very loving about her. That released as my second film and that’s how I started.
You’re choreographing Salman Khan’s most awaited Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. What has the experience been like?
Salman sir has got an altogether different iconic style and knows what his fans expect from him and he perfectly delivers that. I have done maximum songs with him as an assistant choreographer so keeping that in mind when I choreograph him. He has his own unique style and modifies and puts his own touch of himself which makes it more attractive.
How has it been working with Sooraj Barjatya?
I get speechless when it comes to Soorajji. He is an angel with a human body. I always question myself how someone can maintain the consistency of being so good, positive, honest, sincere, accurate and filled with so much enthusiasm and motivation. I must say Bollywood is blessed to have one of a kind maker like Soorajji. I have implemented his qualities like always maintaining our roots, being polite, positive and being calm in all circumstances, truthfulness no matter what and to always hold on to ourselves, which makes me a better person today. As this is my second film with Rajshri Productions the most important thing I have learned from him is the ultimate focus and being positive in all kind of situations which has made me a different person for good. This journey of ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo’ since one and a half year, I have experienced the best of my whole career.
Salman Khan’s dance moves end up becoming iconic. How has the experience been choreographing him? Is he a quick learner?
Yes, that’s true. It’s a dream to be on the same set as him let alone choreograph him, he is a superb dancer in his own charming way and adapts to steps very quickly and makes it look easy. One thing you need to be very much be aware of is that as a choreographer you need to be ready with 3 to 4 different options in the dance steps as then he would choose the best which would ultimately be the correct or rather the right step for the song.
What about Sonam Kapoor?
Grace is a quality which Sonam Kapoor has in her naturally, but can’t abstain her from being like that, which is amazing. I had a long process of looking for her positives which could be enhanced by me for which I researched a lot seeing her past work and figured out that grace is something which can be her major feature helpful in my choreography.
What is your take on item numbers? Are they necessary to make a film popular?
It completely depends on the requirement and the situation of the film.
What are your plans for after Prem Ratan Dhan Payo?
I never planned and I never will.. will rely on the universe for it.
What advice to have for aspiring dancers and choreographers?
I suggest to all the aspiring dancers to always direct their steps in a way your heart wants you to. There is nothing called as amazing choreography. If you focus well and do your work dedication even the normal steps you design will turn up to be awesome.
According to you, which stars are the best dancers (male and female) in the industry?
Govinda, Hritik Roshan and can’t deny Salman Khan, bunch of new boys and girls who are superb dancers, just to name a few.
What is your favorite song (choreography wise) from Prem Ratan Dhan Payo?
For me I believe that whatever we can’t express in words can be expressed in a form of dance. Amazingly I got an opportunity to express every emotion of love in “Jalte Diye”, pain, love, care, concern, separation, romance, and nature. There couldn’t be a better song for me to explore my sense of love. One more song I’m in love with is the title song “Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo” which is rocking at the moment all over the world because of the lovely moments.
Please tell us about a memorable moment with Salman Khan from Prem Ratan Dhan Payo.
There’s a moment in the song “Jalte Diye”, where we see Salman Khan in tears according to the situation in the song. Every time we had a second or third take, I and Soorajji had tears in our eyes seeing Salman crying and we always concealed our tears so that no one could see it. That’s how we know that we love Salman sir so much that just can’t see him crying even in a film shot.
Any message for your fans?
To my fans all I want to say is it’s because of your motivation and encouragement that I’m here today. Never forget your family and from the place you came from. Never plan things, just take it the way it comes, continue to work hard and with dedication. There comes a turning point in life when you realize that yes, now you are capable of choosing your work. Wait for that moment and then sky is the limit. God bless.