'There were days when we survived by just eating bread'
Ragini Makkhar and her troupe Naadyog were crowned winners of India's Got Talent 5, the reality TV show, over the weekend.
The reward included a car and Rs 50 lakh.
The dance group -- comprised of women of different ages -- impressed the judges right from the start with their flawless Kathak moves.
Their mentor, Ragini, says, “I was confident about our talent but the victory was surprising. I made sure that we kept the rich tradition of Kathak alive with my innovative concepts.
“We barely slept. We strived for 22 hours a day. Finally, our hard work paid off with the audience’s support.”
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Image: Ragini Makkhar and her troupe Naadyog win India's Got Talent
'I have been dancing since I was two years old'
Ragini comes from a conservative Punjabi background where no one learns dance.
“But my father was different. He encouraged me to learn Kathak. I dedicate this trophy to him,” she added.
Ragini runs Naadyog in Indore, as a sort of family enterprise. Her father-in-law used to run a music academy and was a singer, her mother-in-law is also a singer, and her husband is a tabla artist.
“I have been dancing since I was two years old. I wanted to marry a person who respects the arts. With my husband’s support, I started teaching dance after our marriage. We also wanted to continue my father-in-law’s legacy.”
She says there are about 400 students from privileged and underprivileged backgrounds at her institute.
Image: Amitabh Bachchan performs at the finale of India's Got Talent
'My students and I would borrow costumes and ornaments from friends to wear for our performances'
For the past 12 years her husband and she have taught tabla and Kathak respectively at Delhi College, Indore. “The rest of the time we devote to our institute to teach dance and tabla. My son also has an interest in music,” Ragini says.
“We struggled for the first six years, when we didn’t have money to travel for performances. There were days when we survived by just eating bread.
“My students and I would borrow costumes and ornaments from friends to wear for our performances. I never imagined having such a huge troupe then, but I am glad everything worked out,” she says happily.
Image: Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla, Saloni and Andy at the finale of India's Got Talent
'I want Madhya Pradesh to have good classical dancers too'
Ragini Makkhar and her students blended classical dance moves and formations with traditional and contemporary music.
She says that someone suggested that the group should audition for the reality show “since our group of Kathak dancers are the only group in classical dance that will show different forms and formations in Kathak.
“We have shown that Kathak can be presented in many different styles and forms. A lot of kids will want to learn Kathak after watching us on the show.
“The southern states are known to give the country good classical dancers but I want Madhya Pradesh to have good classical dancers too.”
Image: Saloni, Gauahar Khan and Andy at the finale of India's Got Talent
'I would like to choreograph dances for Aishwarya Rai Bachchan'
Ragini wants to establish a gurukul with the prize money where she can teach Kathak to underprivileged students free of cost, with accommodation provided.
“The money will be spent on making a residence for the students who come from different cities to learn Kathak.”
Ragini and her troupe have taken part in many shows in India and she has travelled to Dubai and Canada for solo performances. She hopes the troupe gets to perform on national and international platforms after this win.”
Ragini says she is so dedicated to her institute that “I haven’t watched any films or attended any family functions in the last 11 years.”
If given a chance she would like to choreograph for Karan Johar's films “as I am a big fan of his creativity.”
Another favourite is Aishwarya Rai Bachachan.
“I would like to choreograph dances for Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. I like everything about her,” gushes Ragini.
Image: A scene from the finale of India's Got Talent