“This is overwhelming and surreal at the same time,” says Kruti Mahesh, who has just won the National Award for best choreography for the much-talked-about song of 2018 (‘Ghoomar’ from Padmaavat). The song, showcasing traditional folk dance from Rajasthan, featured Deepika Padukone as a Rajput princess.
While her inbox was flooded with congratulatory messages, the 34-year-old choreographer was actually busy in rehearsals. “It’s funny… I had no idea until Sanjay sir (filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali) called and then I froze.”
Ghoomar, traditionally performed by the Bhil tribes, was later taken up by the Rajputs. A newly-married bride performs this folk dance form as a ritual when she is welcomed by her in-laws. Ghoomar is also danced during other festivals.
“There are technical differences in the dance form performed by the Royals and tribes,” explains Kruti, who took up classes with folk artistes to master the folk style. “Understanding the vocabulary of the dance form was important, and it’s about incorporating the subtle technicalities,” she says.
The difference between the royals and the tribes, as seen in the song, lies in the dipping of footsteps in motion as the dancers move in and out of the circle in quick twirls. “The royal women use the right leg whereas the tribal women go left,” she says, stressing the point that while laymen wouldn’t know the difference, it was important to compose the sequence of steps and moves accurately.
“When you are working with the likes of Bhansali sir, it’s all about getting the details right.”
The song, however, was caught in controversy after the makers did a digital alteration covering the midriff of the actor, following protests against the film. Describing it as unfortunate, Kruti adds, “I was associated with the song alone and was not part of the entire filmmaking, so I wasn’t part of any changes that were made. For me, ‘Ghoomar’ started and ended at the set.”
Working with the multi-talented filmmaker was a ‘dream come true’ for her. Bhansali is well-known for being a task master, but for Kruti, it was as simple as “understanding the vision of the maker and delivering accordingly”.
This was not the first time that she was offered a job by the National Award-winning filmmaker. She was earlier approached for a song in Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela, after Bhansali spotted her in the reality show Dance India Dance. “I couldn’t take up the offer because of other commitments and I kept regretting that for three months.” As fate would have it, she met Bhansali on the sets of Bajirao Mastani, this time as an assistant to Remo D’Souza, for the song ‘Deewani Mastani’, which got the choreographer-director a National Award.
“There is no short-cut to fame,” says Kruti, adding that while reality shows opened many doors for newcomers, “getting into a TV show isn’t enough.” “You have to keep working, finding opportunities.”
At the moment, Kruti has her hands full with Remo’s Street Dancer, starring Varun Dhawan and Shraddha Kapoor, followed by Bhansali’s next project. “That’s going to be very interesting,” she promises.