Nithya Ramani in Mumbai
Rajkumar Hirani, who made the awesome Munnabhai series, makes sure his movies involve the best talent. And the talent does not have to come from the film industry alone.
The director roped in a dramatics teacher from Don Bosco school in Matunga, suburban Mumbai, to choreographer the song Aal Izz Well in his latest film 3 Idiots. And Avit Dias has managed to bring in a college feel to the song quite well, thanks to its freestyle form of dance and his own academic background.
Avit spoke to Nithya Ramani about his debut in Bollywood, and choreographing Aamir, Sharman Joshi and R Madhavan so well in the song.
How did a Don Bosco teacher like you get to choreograph a Bollywood song?
I teach dramatics and my forte is musicals. I've always done shows related to music like Happy Feet, Labamba and Grease. Ram Madhwani saw one of my musicals and recommended it to Rajkumar Hirani.
I met Raju and it seemed like we had known each other for life! I heard the song and instantly, some steps came to my mind. I showed them to Raju and from what I read in his brief, it wasn't what he was looking for.
That made me very apprehensive. I thought that if Raju wants something from me, he will get it from me.
If he likes what he sees, he'll say 'accha hai.' If he says okay, then you know it's not right.
He introduced me Vidhu Vinod Chora and the next thing I knew, I was signed on. What amazed me was the confidence they had in me.
'There is no difference in school musicals and Bollywood films'
What was the brief given to you?
Amazingly, I still don't know what the film is about. I didn't even get the music CD then. Raju made sure he did not give the track to anyone. I would practice in the rehearsal hall and forget the song by the time I came home. But we were in complete sync with each other.
Directing school musicals and choreographing for a Bollywood film are completely different worlds. How did you cope with the pressure?
To me, there is no difference. You have 3,000 people coming to watch our musicals. They can throw stones if they don't like it or boo the director. There is similar risk in cinema too.
'The choreography was mine but the thought process belonged to everyone'
What was your reaction when you learnt that you were going to choreograph Aamir, Sharman and Madhavan?
I felt bad for them! (laughs)
We met in Bangalore, not even in Mumbai. They were present at the rehearsals. They saw, learnt and performed. There were no questions asked, no time wasted. They were very supportive.
And they were okay with shooting in a bathroom, wrapped in a towel and foam covering their bodies?
The choreography was mine but the thought process belonged to everyone. The song happens in the bathroom, and what does one do in there?
The first shot had Aamir under a shower but there is no water. I gave him two options -- either put a bucket on his head or not. He chose to go with the bucket. So everybody put buckets on their heads.
The concept of them in drums also came up instantly. The dancers were meant to be inside the drums but later, we decided to have only the three actors inside drums with others looking in. Things like this wouldn't have happened if we were not comfortable with each other.
The water scene was the most challenging one. We broke our heads for a day and then sorted it out. We decided that Aamir would run with the hosepipe. He did it with no cuts. It was fantastic.
'Madhavan was insane on the sets'
Were you intimidated by Aamir at any point?
No way. They were all more of help. Aamir knew that I was not camera friendly. When I choreograph a scene and the cameraman doesn't get it right, I change the choreography. Aamir will ask me what the problem was and would sort it out. And they would be back doing the original routine. So it was an amazing experience.
Madhavan was insane on the sets. He would compete with everyone, either in whistling or with basketball. He was always in a mood for pranks. I think that makes the dancers comfortable.
Sharman is a fantastically talented actor. He had a problem with his shoe one day and wore my sandals. He found them very comfortable and then refused to give them back. (laughs)
Who was the best dancer?
I can't answer that. They are all very good.
'There was a time when Madhavan's towel fell off'
How involved was Aamir in the choreography, since he's known to be a perfectionist?
He was going with the flow. The inputs came from everyone.
What about Raju?
In the initial stages, his inputs were very strong. He did not want a proper dance but just a casual thing. He never showed that he was the director. He let us do our thing. He guided us but never imposed himself on us.
For the words Aal Izz Well, someone suggested we used a thumbs up. I felt that would depict something was already done, but here, we were saying that all will be well.
Any incidences you can share with us?
There was a time when Madhavan's towel fell off.
How are you dealing with this sudden fame and media attention?
I am not taking it too seriously. I am still the same person who travels by train, teaches in a school, has fun with his son and his students. Just because more people know me now doesn't change anything. But it feels nice when my students call me and say that they liked the song.
Have you bagged any more films?
No. If anything comes my way, I'll think about it.