MUMBAI MIRROR; February 17, 2012
I have choreographed over 2000 dances till date. However, the Dola Re number in Devdas was the toughest. Choreographing two leading heroines for the same dance was a challenge. Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai are both brilliant dancers and I couldn’t let either of them feel that they did not have good steps. I was scared that the one of them may feel left out, but luckily nothing untoward happened. Both of them loved the steps and put their heart and soul into the dance.
The dance was totally based on classical forms. I had to make sure that the ‘todas’ I gave each of them were balanced. I had to keep in mind that both needed to look bright on screen. Madhuri and I had worked before. She had the habit of rehearsing before the shoot. Her faults used to get corrected during the practice sessions. On the other hand, Aishwarya used to rehearse before the shoot itself.
The form of dance that I explored with Dola Re, is called Nautwary. It included steps of Kathak and Bharatnatyam. It was a mix of Indian classical dance forms. While many dancers have danced to the Dola Re song afterwards, nobody could achieve what Madhuri and Aishwarya did. They worked really hard. There were several retakes. At a particular point, they had to fall. It had to be perfectly in sync with the beats. It was physically demanding for both actresses.
I must add that Sanjay Leela Bhansali(SLB) was extremely involved with the dance number. He is trained in Kathak and choreographing for his film was not easy. If I made a mistake, he would have realised. He used to give inputs on the dance as well. In fact, he was so excited about the sequence that at times he would just get up and hug me. He would then whistle and get emotional. After the shoot was over, he even sent flowers and chocolates to my home the next day.
I got 17 awards for the song. This included the national award. It’s called the best dance in modern Hindi cinema. Earlier it was Hothon Pe Aisi Baat from Jewel Thief on which, Vyjyanthimala had danced. That was choreographed by my Guru Mr B Sohanlal.
–As told to Amrapali Sharma