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'The Songs Have Already Become A Craze'

May 07, 2024 11:28 IST
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'When it was confirmed that I would do the song, Manishaji walked up to me and asked, "Please Vijayshree, tell me how are you planning to do the song. Give me a rough idea so that I am mentally prepared".'

By choreographing two captivating songs in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Netflix series Heeramandi: The Diamond Baazaar, renowned classical dancer Vijayshree Chaudhary has showcased her talent on the screen for the first time.

When she first met Bhansali on the sets of Devdas with her guru Padma Vibhushan Pandit Birju Maharaj, she had no idea she would go on to collaborate with the master storyteller some 22 years later.

As the eight-episode series continues to garner rave reviews, she tells Contributor Mohnish Singh, "Bhansali Sir is such a talented artist that I fall short of words when someone asks me to describe my experience of working with him."


Heeramandi has two songs choreographed by you, and is receiving glowing reviews. How does it make you feel?

I am elated.

The songs have already become a craze among the audience and now that the series has also received love, it makes me extremely happy.

The first song that Bhansali Productions released was Sakal Ban. I created the entire Kathak choreography along with a Kathak bandish for the song.

How was it working with Sanjay Leela Bhansali?

He is such a talented artist that I fall short of words when someone asks me to describe my experience of working with him.

Working with him felt like a dream.

It took me a couple of days to believe that, okay, I am working with him, or that he is asking me to do this work.

Did you learn anything from him?

Yes. See, I come from a classical background, so we always consider ourselves as students. I am always open to learning anything new that comes my way.

This was my first work with him, my first big work in the industry.

I consider myself to be extremely lucky that I got to work with him. It's all because of my guru's blessings.

IMAGE: Vijayshree Chaudhary with Sharmin Sehgal. Photograph: Kind courtesy Vijayshree Chaudhary/Instagram

How did you become a part of it?

Sharmin Segal used to come to me, on and off, for Kathak classes.

I think Heeramandi had been green-lit, so she started coming to the classes regularly.

During these classes, Bhansali sir saw me teaching her.

One day I got a call from his office, saying that he wanted to meet me.

I went to the sets where he made me listen to the entire song.

When he said that he wanted me to do the Kathak choreography, I could not believe my ears.

Bhansali is known to be a tough taskmaster. How was the environment on set like?

We all know that a perfectionist does not compromise on anything.

If he wants something, you have to work hard and deliver it no matter what.

I cannot say if he is a taskmaster or not, but the thing is that many of us, at times, are not able to envision what he can and hence find it difficult to match up to his expectations.

His imagination starts from where most people's imagination ends.

At times, he pulls you up and then guides you for your own betterment.

It's his mastery to take the best out of you.

Tell us about the second song that you have choreographed in the series.

The second song that I have choreographed is called Azaadi.

There are two Azaadi songs in the series -- one has been released and the other one you see in the series.

Do you recall your first meeting with Sanjay Leela Bhansali?

My guru Pandit Birju Maharajji has done songs like Kahe Chhed Chhed Mohe and Mohe Rang Do Laal with Bhansali sir.

I had just returned from abroad when Devdas was happening. I had been posted at the Indian embassy in Indonesia.

The Government of India had sent me there as a cultural ambassador to promote Kathak.

Maharajji took me to the sets of Devdas. That's where I met Bhansali sir for the first time. It was a brief encounter, limited to just 'Hi', 'Hello'.

The second time I met him in Pune during a cultural programme organised in honour of Maharajji.

Is Heeramandi the first big project you were approached for?

Yes. We don't see Kathak or other classical dance forms being used in our films or television shows much.

There is a very limited scope for artists like us in the medium.

Having said that, I have trained Miss India contestants for eight years.

I have trained the winners of Miss India who later go on to participate in international pageants.

I have done Dance India Dance for a few seasons, along with a few ads with Shoojit Sircar.

Frankly, I have never been inclined towards films or TV. But if any opportunity presented itself, I did not say no to it.

When Bhansali sir approached me, I had to do it.

Who can do justice to a classical dance form like Kathak like him? Nobody else.

The song Sakal Ban features the entire female cast of the show. How was it choreographing seasoned actresses like Manisha Koirala to newer actors like Sharmin Segal?

They are such big starsm but extremely down-to-earth.

They know the importance of the work they do.

As outsiders, we often get to read about cat-fights and two actresses not getting along well.

But I did not come across any such thing.

On the sets, there used to be more than half a dozen actresses at any given time. They were all having fun, eating food together, etc.

I would like to praise Manishaji in particular. When it was confirmed that I would do the song, she personally walked up to me and asked, 'Please Vijayshree, tell me how are you planning to do the song. Give me a rough idea so that I am mentally prepared.'

She ever shared a Reel on her Instagram where we were discussing the song.

Richa would also ask for suggestions to perfect her shot.

There is a particular shot in the song where she lifts her eyes so aesthetically. They are brimming with sadnessM but, at the same time, you can also see the naughtiness of a tawaif in them.

Aditi Rao Hydari and Sanjeeda Shaikh are already trained dancers.

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