Ace choreographer Shiamak Davar was recently in town to enjoy a break from his busy schedule in B-town. The man who has been credited with the title of being “the guru” of modern and contemporary dance in India sat down with us to share his journey from growing up in Mumbai in a Parsi home to becoming one of the most sought after choreographers in Bollywood.
Shiamak Davar belongs to a Parsi family that is very closely associated with Wadias, the pioneers of Indian Film Industry who founded the Wadia Movietone Studios in 1930s. At the age of seven, Shiamak realised his inclination towards dance and music. Growing up in a Parsi family brought along exposure to Western Broadway culture. His experiences growing up reflect in his work where he fuses Western Jazz techniques with Indian movement. He credits his early experiences on Indian film sets, watching his aunt, the fiery ‘Nadia Hunterwali’, the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Elton John, and the movement of dancer Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, an American choreographer known for his athletic and energetic style as some of the driving inspiration behind Shiamak’s Indo-Jazz.
With the fusion of east and west in his dance style it was only a matter of time before Bollywood knocked on his door and he hasn’t looked back since. He won the President’s National Award for Yash Chopra’s Dil to Pagal Hai, his first Bollywood film as a choreographer. He attributes his entry into Bollywood to none other than the King Khan. “Gauri Khan was part of my dance company, when she told me of Shah Rukh’s upcoming project (Dil to Pagal Hai).
I told them that my style is completely different to mainstream cinema but they said they were looking to do something new”. This was before he became a household name with “Le Gayi Le Gayi”, a song from Dil to Pagal Hai. Strings of movies followed like Taal, Kisna, Bunty Aur Babli, Dhoom 2, I see you, Tare Zameen Par, Yuvvraaj and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. Shiamak’s style is unique and distinct because he pays attention to all elements of putting on a great show – from the sets, lights, costumes, props to the choreography, his is a cohesive vision. His dancers are toned and physically fit, which makes the dance moves very clean and precise, and his focus is very much on creating a larger-than-life audio-visual experience for the audience.
What many of us don’t know is that Shiamak trained Bollywood beauty, Aishwarya Rai when she was competing for Miss World. He choreographed a Sufi-Jazz dance number that was very well received at the pageant.
Although movies have brought him great recognition, he likes to focus on his dance schools that operate worldwide. SDIPA (Shiamak Davar’s Institute for Performing Arts) is India’s Premier Dance School and SDI (Shiamak Davar International) in Australia, Canada and Dubai are his initiatives to teach dance to all age groups. Shiamak’s Summer Funk™ and Winter Funk™ are student’s bi-annual showcases that are sold out shows across major North American cities.
Recently, Shiamak has been keeping busy working with Amitabh Bachchan for his upcoming film Aladdin and the Mystery of the Lamp; tutoring cheerleaders of SRK’s Indian Premier League team Kolkata Knight Riders and preparing dancers for IIFA as well as Film Fare Awards performances. Of the Bollywood brigade, Shiamak enjoys working with Big B the most, who he respects for his professionalism, discipline, humility and ability to take good direction. His favourite female dancer is actress Madhuri Dixit while leading hunk Hrithik Roshan is his choice among male actors.
Shiamak is a man who is very grounded despite all his success and the pressing demands of his career. He says, “Rejection, humiliation and pain has helped me get to where I am today”. As a philanthropist, he runs the VAF (Victory Arts Foundation) that teaches dance to children with mental and physical disabilities to help them experience the pleasure of expression through ‘dance as therapy’. His dedication to his art, unfaltering faith in God and belief in the power of prayer makes him a true role model.