PeepingMoon Exclusive: Didn't want to do Dil To Pagal Hai, but Shah Rukh Khan & Yash Chopra convinced me to do it: Choreographer Shiamak Davar as film completes 25 years


Though the Indian film industry has celebrated dance through films like Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje (1955), Navrang (1959) and many others, there's no competition to the impact Dil To Pagal Hai had on the entire fraternity. Today (October 30), the film completed 25 years. Headlined by Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit and Karisma Kapoor, the musical drama was directed by the late Yash Chopra. Known for the most path-breaking dance acts, Dil To Pagal Hai inspired many in various ways. The songs were choreographed by Shiamak Davar who bagged a National Award too.

In an exclusive interview with on Dil To Pagal Hai's 25th anniversary, Shiamak spoke about why he was skeptical about signing the film. He further shared some fun anecdotes from the sets and revealed how Shah Rukh and Mr. Chopra played a key role in roping him for the film.

Excerpts from the interview:

Though films on dance were made in Bollywood, there was nothing that came closer to Dil To Pagal Hai. Were you skeptical about doing the film when it was offered to you?

Yes, because my style is very contemporary and not jhatka matka. I thought it would never work but Yash (Chopra) uncle and Shah Rukh Khan were instrumental in making me do this film. I never believed this style would work. It showed a modern India and I was glad to represent that.

Do you believe Dil To Pagal Hai was a path-breaking film?

25 years later, I do think so but at that time, I didn’t know what was going on. All I understood was people loved the film and my dance.

The Dance Of Envy continues to be a favourite among dancers. How was the song choreographed?

There was a very small circular stage and I had to create a powerful dance performance between Madhuri Dixit and Karisma Kapoor. Madhuri was classically trained so I used her strength whereas Karisma was more contemporary, more Bollywood-y so there I used her strength. I had to fuse both to make something more like Shiamak's style. The song was a face-off between Madhuri and Karisma in which the latter took off her jacket and then took the centre stage. Even that was choreography for me. Telling a story in a little time was challenging but for me, it became easy thanks to my stage experience. Madhuri and Karisma never counted the beat like how we did. They would say 1, 2,3,4 and I would say 5,6,7,8 but they picked up really fast. Madhuri’s classical grace and Karisma’s contemporary magic made the song iconic. If they wouldn’t do a good job, I would have looked like a bad choreographer.

Which is your favourite song from the film?

The Dance Of Envy and Le Gayi.

Was Le Gayi the most underrated dance from Dil To Pagal Hai?

For me, even the appreciation I got was enough. People might not have understood the song back then but now, they are loving it. It’s become iconic. As I said, I never thought Dil To Pagal Hai would become a cult film and would be beneficial for Bollywood. I thought I was too Western for it. Every appreciation I got, I was grateful.

Chak Dhoom Dhoom is still popular and kids dance to it even now…

Because the dance steps were easy. They were meant for a child to pick up quickly. The hook step is so simple. When I was choreographing Chak Dhoom Dhoom, Aditya Chopra (producer) started laughing because he found the steps quite funny. The lyrics were so nice that I could do those dance steps.   

Characters in Dil To Pagal Hai spoke through dance. What was the brief given to you when you were brought on board?

I was told it is a choreographer’s film; it’s a dance film. I said no to Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Dil To Pagal Hai, but Shah Rukh and Yash uncle convinced me. The best part was I was given creative control. Right from the lights, costumes, hair, and makeup to even the music. I told Uttam Singh the kind of music I wanted for the jugalbandi

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge got its own broadway musical. Do you expect the same for Dil To Pagal Hai?

I would like to do something Indo-contemporary and something new. Dil To Pagal Hai and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge are done, I want to do something new. I want to do something that represents modern India. I want the world to respect India and its dance forms and music. Of course, the world does but I desire India to reach the highest stage.

Shows or film shoots, what’s your preference?

I love doing shows over film shoots. Shows are in the moment, you discuss and improvise. There are no shots, no cuts, and no drama. It is live, up close and personal. In shoots, you waste a lot of time. I find shows more inspiring than films because you are in the moment. You learn from your mistakes. 

National Awards have lost credibility. Do you agree?

I don’t follow all these things particularly. I am so much into my education world and my school. I would have been the biggest choreographer had I carried on with Bollywood films like Dil To Pagal Hai but I wanted to do more work for my school and in the education sector. I want every Indian to learn dance. My school is very important to me so I didn’t get into the rush of doing more films. I’m glad I chose not to be in the race. I did miss out on a few films but that’s ok. I still prefer what I chose and have no regrets. I remember Sanjay Leela Bhansali had asked me but that’s ok.

Who’s the best dancer in Bollywood currently?

Varun Dhawan and Tiger Shroff are fabulous. Varun is a wonderful dancer and actor. I loved him in October. Tiger dances well but I want him to do less gymnastics and more dance.