Dil To Pagal Hai changed the way dances were filmed in Bollywood films, making it modern and more in tune with the times. Choreographer Shiamak Davar, who won the National Film Award for best choreography in this Yash Chopra directorial starring Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit and Karisma Kapoor, says this is the film that made people realise that “dancing was not vulgar, it was not a bad thing, and dancing was not cheap.”
As Dil To Pagal Hai turns 25, here’s us revisiting what Shiamak Davar had to say about one of the greatest dance films of modern-day Bollywood. In an earlier interview with indianexpress.com, Shiamak had opened up about how he thought Dil To Pagal Hai “would never work”, as his style of dance was not quintessential Bollywood but SRK made him take up the project anyway.
Reminiscing about the YRF project, he said, “In the beginning, I was very apprehensive because I thought it would never work. My dance style is so different. It is a very Indo- modern style. It is not a typical Bollywood dance. I told Yash (Chopra) uncle that I was very scared that it will not work.”
Davar then opened up about how and why SRK wanted him to do choreography for Dil To Pagal Hai. He shared, “Shah Rukh (Khan) brainwashed the hell out of me to do otherwise. He convinced me to do it as he too wanted to change the kind of dance that was there in the movies. Eventually, after I did my first song, I did ‘Chakk Dhum Dhum’ and then I did ‘Le Gayi Le Gayi’. After these came the most challenging sequence of them all – the jugalbandi between Madhuri (Dixit) and Karisma (Kapoor) in ‘The Dance of Envy’.”
‘The Dance of Envy’ has to be one of the most importance dance sequences, not only in the film, but also for a new generation of dance enthusiasts, as it has had people dance on it over the years. In the song, Davar reveals, Madhuri and Karisma had almost similar steps but looked different because of how they approached them.
Explaining why ‘The Dance of Envy’ turned out to be one of the most difficult project he ever took up, Davar shared, “The place where we were shooting this piece was very small. There were no lyrics. We had nothing but the rhythm. It was an empty space with literally nothing, not even props. It was just two people dancing. Now when I look back, I feel very happy that people loved that one. Madhuri is a trained Kathak dancer, Karisma was sensational.”
About how he made sure that Madhuri’s formal Kathak training and Karisma’s contemporary dance style don’t clash, but complement each other, Shiamak shared, “We wanted to show the jugalbandi between a classical girl and a modern girl, and we wanted both to complement each other. I gave them the same choreography. Both of them had very similar steps. Since Madhuri was a classically trained dancer, her pelvic and hip movement had a breezy flow, whereas Karisma would do it like fire. Both of them were emitting such different energies.”
Shiamak, then also opened up about how Madhuri and Karisma’s dynamic energies came together to make a dance song so memorable. “Madhuri was like a queen who knew what she was doing, she was very subtle. Whereas Karisma had a young, strong and high octane energy. It was lovely. It used to be difficult sometimes for them, but then they complemented each other,” Davar shared.
In the film, Madhuri played the role of Pooja, a dancer who falls in love with a dance choreographer Rahul, played by Shah Rukh Khan. Karisma too played the role of a dancer, Nisha, who falls in love with Rahul, her dance partner.
The Dance of Envy was definitely a high point in the film. Looking back, we can’t imagine anybody other than Madhuri and Karisma dance on it. However, Karisma had recently opened up about how she was not the filmmaker’s first choice, in fact she was the last person to say yes, as most leading ladies had declined the offer to dance opposite Madhuri Dixit in Dil To Pagal Hai.
In 2021, Karisma had opened up about the film on Indian Idol 12, where she revealed, “Every single heroine refused the film (Dil To Pagal Hai). The role came to me…it was a dance film and that too to work with opposite Madhuri Dixit. Everyone said, ‘No how can we dance alongside Madhuri Dixit ji.’ Initially, I too said no to it as it was a dance film and competition dance with Madhuri Dixit. I said, ‘This isn’t happening’.”
However, Karisma then took up he challenge because she was a Madhuri Dixit fan. She further shared, “Then finally, Yash ji and Adi (Yash Chopra and Aditya Chopra) narrated the story to me. My mother told me, ‘You must take up the challenge. You are a big fan of Madhuri Dixit, you must do it. You work hard and you will shine.”