He started off as a contestant and now have come a long way. MUSBA HASHMI speaks with choreographer TUSHAR KALIA about his journey to becoming a judge of a reality show
From a contestant to now a judge, how has your journey been?
It has been an incredible and overwhelming one. I have learnt a lot. I was a part of Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa Season 1 and 2, both went well for me. I feel fortunate that the panel of judges were great — Karan Johar, Remo D’Souza and Madhuri Dixit. I was also a stage director of India’s Got Talent and then eventually Ae Dil Hai Mushkil happened. I feel great when I look back at my journey. And, now I am judging Dance Deewane, it feels great.
How did you come on board as a choreographer for Ae Dil Hai Mushkil?
All thanks to Karan Johar who gave me this opportunity. He saw my work in both the reality shows — Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa and IGT and liked it. That is how I was offered my first Bollywood — Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.
How was the experience with the film?
It was a wonderful experience. I choreographed all the eight songs for the film. I was travelling with the team for two months and it was a great learning experience. I had never done a movie before, I was more involved in the stage work, so I didn’t know how the industry works. I remember that throughout the shooting, I was learning too.
What is the USP of this season?
The talent. We have brilliant performers on the show. The first season worked because the format was unique and it still is. This season audience is getting to see the bonding between four of us — Madhuri Dixit, Shashank Khaitan, Arjun Bijlani (who is the host) and I. This season the contestants are better than the previous one.
What qualities do you look out for in the contestants?
In the show we have three generations who are competing with each other. But, the moment the contestants come on the stage, they are equal for us. They all are performers. They have to perform to their full capability. The performance should touch our heart and soul. It has to be a good performance. That is all what we look out for in the show.
How is the environment on the sets?
It is fun to work with the whole team. We all bond so well. It is a very light environment on the sets. We crack jokes. We all gossip together and do lots of masti.
Any favourite contestant in the show?
All the contestants are good and talented. There are no favourites. As a judge, it is important to keep your emotions aside and give your judgement without any bias.
When did you realise your passion for dance?
It happened when I was in school. My mother was a dancer and she was a teacher in the same school as mine. You know how is it like to have your mother as a teacher in your school. Beta chalo annual function hai perform karo, beta ab yeh funtion hai school mein chalo perform karo. And, you can’t say no. That is how I got interested in dance. Then, it was my mother who insisted me that I should make a career in dance. She asked me if I would be interested in learning kathak and since I didn’t know much about dance that time, I said no to it. I thought it was too feminine. Then, she asked me to go and see a stage performance in Kamani Auditorium, New Delhi. The moment I saw the performance, I made up my mind that this is what I want to pursue.
How do you define dance?
In just three words — it’s my life. That is all. I don’t know anything but dancing. That’s what I have been doing from the last 15 years.
One thing that goes in your mind while you are performing on stage?
Step na bhul jaun kahin. I still have this fear. I still feel nervous whenever I am on stage. I still get butterflies in my tummy as soon as I step on to the stage. And, it is very important to have this fear. It helps in bringing out the best in you.
What advice would you like to give out to the aspiring dancers?
I would just say that go and dance your heart out. It is the most important thing. Your soul should be visible while dancing, it is not just about the physical moves. We should be able to connect to you. Most of the times, aspirers lack this quality. Earlier, it was missing in my performance too. Back then, I was a technically correct dancer, but not a performer. Now, people look for complete performers. So imbibe the quality of an overall performer in yourself and you are good to go.