Meet Just Dance's talented dozenRajul Hegde in Mumbai
Yesterday's (August 7) episode saw the first elimination of Just Dance's top 13 contestants. Preeti Chafale from Umbare, near Nagpur in Maharashtra, got eliminated from the popular dance show on Star Plus.
Let's take a look at the 12 contestants, who remain on the show:
Karan has been dancing since the age of five, imitating his favourite actors. His mom is a professional Bhangra dancer so dance runs in the family. He recently started training in the classical dance, Kathak.
"I feel Hrithik Roshan has glamorised dance and I would like to follow in his footsteps in Indian classical dance," says Karan, who was one of the background dancers in the movie Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and so also performed at the IIFA awards.
"Just Dance will be the highlight of my career. I have been trained by people I have always looked up to. I enjoyed training under Michelle Johnston as I had never done Broadway before. My body has become a lot stronger and my technique has improved after the workshops."
He has his own dance company called K Spark and has performed at Wembley Stadium in London.
Karan, who was recently injured while rehearsing, says he was taken aback at the overwhelming response he received from his fans. The most surprising element for the UK lad was when his father told him about the 15 marriage proposals he received in UK for him!
Image: Karan Pangali performs on Just Dance
Soumita Roy Chaudhary
Soumitra is doing her post-graduate degree in Kathak. She has participated in India's Got Talent and reached the quarter-finals.
"(Judges) Farah (Khan) and Vaibhavi ma'am (Merchant) said that I am a clean dancer and I have the best expression while dancing amongst the top finalists."
She wants to become a choreographer or an actress like Madhuri Dixit. "My favourite actress is Smita Patil," she says.
Soumitra trained in classical dancing under Pandit Ramo Prasad Chattopadhyay. "I have been learning dance from the age of three. I teach dance to all age groups in a school near Kolkata," she says.
Image: Soumita Roy Chaudhary performs on Just Dance
Age: 17 years
Abhash has taken part in several dance reality shows, among them Boogie Woogie and Dance India Dance.
He has been dancing from the age of five and is trained in all styles of dance. "I get nervous before every performance," he confesses. He gives his family the credit for his success "My family always encouraged me to pursue dance and give the best performance."
So who are his dancing idols? "Michael Jackson and Hrithik Roshan," he says without hesitation. Just Dance has been a life changing experience for this youngster. "International trainer Michelle Johnston commented that if she ever does a dance show, I will definitely be a part of it. That has been the most memorable compliment I have received," he says gleefully.
Image: Abhash Mukherjee performs on Just Dance
Karan assists his father, an action director in films. "My father has always pushed me to do fights, learn dance and also animation (to help him in editing). I am a trained actor and my father's dream is to make me an actor."
Four years ago, Karan joined Terence Lewis's dance class and fell in love with dance. "I got proper training and even got a scholarship from Terence Lewis. I did a few international shows with him." He was an instructor in the school but now has an independent group that performs shows across the country.
His parents are most supportive and happy that he is in the Top 12. "I have participated in Just Dance to learn more and prove my ability as a dancer. Making my parents proud is my goal."
Who does he think is his biggest competitor? "Ankan is the best of the lot but it all depends on how you perform on that particular day."
Image: Karan Khanna performs on Just Dance
Age: 22 years
Meher is a professional belly dancer and runs the Banjara School of Dance in Delhi. She lived in the Middle East for 17 years and has grown up watching belly dancing and trained in London, Paris and Egypt and has also learnt the basics of Bharat Natyam for a year.
She has a purpose in participating in Just Dance: "To bring out belly dancing in the strongest way possible to the Indian audience and get out the wrong mindset about belly dancing. And also I want to challenge myself and see what I am capable of as a dancer."
Her dance icon is Leila Haddad, a Trinidadian belly dancer. "What inspires my work is life and people, it depicts real life situations; it's not dancing per se that inspires me," she says.
The best compliment she got came from Hrithik Roshan. "The judges have always commented favourably on my belly dancing but Hrithik once said 'belly or no belly you are a chamatkari', when I performed other forms which are not my forte."
Image: Meher Malik performs on Just Dance
Place: New Jersey
Kruti has majored in Biology and Evolution Anthropology and for her, dance is, "my hobby and passion. It's physically taxing for me to handle studies and dance but I never miss either. Dancing is an outlet for everything."
She continues, "Just Dance is a big deal and also a litmus test. I have come here to explore my skill and also it will decide my future."
She has been dancing since the age of six in tap, point, jazz, hip hop, ballet, and Bharat Natyam.
Her most memorable moment was when "I got the special gesture from Saroj Khan of Rs 101, which is an honour."
Kruti is a big fan of Hrithik Roshan. "He is such an amazing dancer and time freezes when he dances. You will not look at anyone else when he dances."
Who does she think is her toughest competitor? "Everyone is good and has something special about them. But someone who is similar to me would be Swarali. She is a trained and versatile dancer and will probably be my toughest competitor."
Image: Kruti Shah performs on Just Dance
Ankan eats, breathes, sleeps and even dreams dance. He is the youngest on the show. Ankan's love for dance took him away from home and he has been living with his choreographer for the last three years because his parents didn't approve of his dancing. "I have worked as a back up in Dance Bangla Dance. After coming on the show I understood what it felt to be a contestant."
He has now patched up with his parents who just want him to study along with pursuing dance. "I have promised them that I will complete my graduation if I get selected in Just Dance."
He is supremely confident. "No tension or worries about the next rounds because I compete with myself," he says.
His most memorable moment on the show, he says, was when "Farah Khan said that I danced like Hrithik and reminded her of him. I want to come to Mumbai to work because there is no future in Kolkata."
Image: Ankan Sen performs on Just Dance
Hitesh Patil's kidney stone emergency during the Just Dance competition couldn't keep him away from dancing. "I am not a trained dancer. I learnt by watching dance reality shows and films. I learnt hip hop from videos and my cousins taught me bit of folk dance."
Prabhudeva and Hrithik Roshan are his dancing idols. He admitted that it was "scary" to audition before Farah Khan, "but her comments made me smile. I want to change the opinion of people who feels dance has no future as a career."
Hitesh wants to get training in dancing. "I want to become a choreographer and also start a dancing school of my own."
Image: Hitesh Patil performs on Just Dance
Irfan wants to prove to his father that dance is a respectable profession. He has danced at weddings to make a living but wants to do more in the field of dance.
"My family wanted me to join their business because I wasn't interested in studies. Now, after coming on this show, they have realised my passion for dance and are very supportive," he says. He learnt mainly by watching films, TV and YouTube. "My biggest inspiration is actor Govinda."
He has an amusing anecdote to relate. Recently, at Mumbai airport, an elderly couple walked up to him and enquired if he was on Just Dance. Irfan was thrilled at being recognised, but it didn't last long. The couple scolded him for not doing better at his studies (Irfan has thrice failed his second year college) and gave him advice on his studies just like Hrithik and other judges do on the sets. Embarrassed initially, he soon charmed the couple who gave him their blessings and asked for his autograph!
"I hear from my parents that I have become famous in my hometown and local news channels come home for interviews," he says, obviously delighted at his new-found fame.
Image: Irfan Sheikh performs on Just Dance
Surjeet Bansal got a second chance after he was ousted from the top 21. He was recalled after another contestant had to bow out of the competition for health reasons. "It's like a lifeline and I don't want to disappoint myself and the judges."
He's a big fan of Hrithik Roshan and fell in love with dance after watching Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai. "I understood what dance is after watching him dance. It was a dream come true to meet my idol after admiring him for so long."
He has no formal training in dance and works in a dance troupe as a back dancer. "It was my wife who pushed me to try my luck in Just Dance," he reveals.
Dance for him is a creative outlet and freedom of expression and he wants to teach it when he returns to Delhi. His most thrilling moment so far was when Hrithik surprised him by calling his wife and daughter onto the sets. "I was overjoyed when Hrithik brought my family onto the stage."
Image: Surjeet Bansal performs on Just Dance
Rajit started working as a background dancer for Bollywood when he was 16 to support his family financially. He has done many stage shows for various awards events. He has no professional training in dance and has learnt by watching others.
"I gave my first solo performance in Just Dance. Neighbours used to think I work for a call centre. Now, after watching me on TV, they know that I dance. I have become kind of like a star in my locality," he says.
Rajit can be spotted as one of the background dancers gyrating to the song Main Aisa Kyun Hoon. "It was a dream come true when I shared the stage with the superstar (Hrithik Roshan in the song). Just Dance for me is a platform to showcase my talent in front of him."
Rajit says that the journey so far has been fantastic. He has learnt much from the international choreographers and particularly loved Terence's workshop in contemporary dance and Michelle Johnston's Broadway Jazz training. He wants to become a choreographer in Bollywood and try his hand at acting too.
Image: Rajit Dev performs on Just Dance
Swarali wants to become a dancer and having learnt several dance forms, she has an edge in this competition. "My mother is my role model and has inspired me to push the limits. I fell in love with dance and ended up learning many dance forms. I have given shows across the country as a back dancer."
She has learnt the basics of Bharat Natyam, Kathak and Marathi folk dance but received more training in contemporary and jazz. "Dancing makes me feel alive and to get good remarks at every stage is a high."
Farah Khan told her during the mega audition that "I am an asset to the show and have star quality. It means a lot to me when it comes from one of the best choreographers in the country."
Her dancing idol is Madhuri Dixit. "She is a performer and my all time favourite actress. If I get a chance, I would love to act in TV/films."
Image: Swarali Karulkar