Bosco Martis on bollywood choreography

After teaching our Bollywood actors how to dance and serenade their leading ladies on screen for more than fourteen years, choreographers, Bosco and Caesar are finally getting their due. With numerous awards in their kitty, including a National award for their choreography for the song Senorita from the movie, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, there seems to be no looking back for them. As their latest film, Cocktail, releases this month, Pandolin gets candid with Bosco Martis on life, dance and Bollywood.

Tell us briefly about your life.

I was born in Mumbai, Parel to be exact.  Started my schooling in St. Mary’s school in Byculla, and then went to St.Xavier’s. Then we shifted our base to the suburbs and I finished my schooling in St. Josephs School, Juhu, after which I went to Mithibai College to complete my graduation.

When did you meet Caesar?

I met him when I came to St. Josephs School, in the 7thgrade. We started playing football together.

How did dance happen?

On every annual day in our school, the 9th graders gave farewell party to the 10th graders. I used to see Caesar dance at such events. I was a very shy boy back then. At that time the whole fad was about break dancing and I didn’t see myself doing that until MC Hammar and Vanilla Ice became a rage. I got inspired by them and also by Caesar. So I did my homework and started dancing at home. Caesar was one year senior to me in school.  So I used to ape him. At the farewell party I performed and people saw me do my own thing. I was appreciated and that gave me confidence. Caesar and I moved to the same college (Mithibai) and we continued to play football together, but we also started participating in various college contests. It is during this time that we realized that the football faculty wasn’t very appreciative of us. When we had to go for any inter city football match, we had to travel by local trains and we weren’t treated very well. Whereas in dance, if we go for a show in some other city, we get to travel by flights, get to stay in the best of hotels and eat the best food available. Another fact which was playing on our minds was that we used to get paid for our dance shows, whereas in football, we never got paid for a match. Also, football is a contact sport, so if you get injured or pull your hamstring, then you have to miss those three or four months of football season until you recover. You aren’t doing anything at that time.

So, before you took up dancing as a career, you were all set to become a professional footballer?

Yes, we were. We also played for one of these football companies. So dance and football were running in parallel, until we decided on dance and changed our track completely.

Did you have any formal training in dance?

No. It was all by visual reference.  I used to watch Prannoy Roy’s World This Week that would come on TV. It used to air a three minute segment on International dance. While growing up, I also watched a lot of international stars perform at the Grammy awards.

Did your family support you in your decision to be a dance choreographer? We all know that dance isn’t a conventional career option in India.

No, they didn’t. I had plans to become a flight purser because I thought that it is a fairly easy job and a good way to make quick money. But then, we did our first show which was for the singers Shaan and Sagarika, after which we kept getting more work. So things worked out well. We started as freelance choreographers and then we started getting more and more offers. Caesar, though, used to work for Farah Khan. I went for only one shoot.
 I don’t think that my parents were too happy with my decision as they were completely ignorant about this field. I kept it under the wraps for a while. They didn’t know where I was going. I kept going for shoots. Sometimes, I used to give them money which I used to earn from my work, so they knew that I capable to fend myself. In their view as long as I could do that they were fine with it.

Which was your first major Bollywood choreography?

Our first music video was with the pop singer Rageshwari for her song Oye Shaava. After that, we got the opportunity to choreograph a very popular song named, Ho Gayi Teri Balle Balle by Daler Mehndi. Our first movie project was Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Mission Kashmir in the year 2000.

Tell us about your experience as a young and novice choreographer in the film industry?

Back then, we had song directors. So, we only had to do some dance moves for them. We didn’t have to worry about the choreography much. At that time, it was the song director’s headache. But of course things have changed now. Now we take care of the entire song. It was a great learning experience for us because we use a lot of what we learnt in our early years and apply it now.

You have been in the Indian film industry for about 20 years now. As we can all see that the Indian film industry has evolved in these 20 years as far as dance is concerned. It has now started acknowledging international dance forms like Hip Hop and Lyrical Jazz. How has this transition been for you?

We started off as hip hop dancers but we have our own style. We come up with dance moves we think are cool and I hope that our audience thinks so as well.  There is nothing clinical about our dance. We don’t categorise our dance as any particular form mainly because we didn’t have the opportunity to formally learn a dance form. We didn’t have that kind of exposure back then and also we didn’t have the money to go abroad and take classes. But I believe that I am a performer and I don’t need to learn any particular style of dance to entertain people. And it’s worked out great so far for us.

Have any of your ideas ever been rejected because it was thought to be too ahead of its time?

For us, it has always been a healthy creative mix. But I do remember this one instance, where the shooting was stopped while we were choreographing a song called Seekh Le from the movie Munnabhai MBBS. The director, Rajkumar Hirani, stopped the shoot because he felt that the choreography was too bold for our Indian audience at that time. The song had a dancer performing an item number for the critically ill Jimmy Shergill in a hospital ward. But due to the beauty of the dance moves and the grace of the performer, it didn’t come across as bold or cheesy and also, it went with script of the movie. That song became one of the most liked songs of that time and we were well appreciated for our choreography.

You have worked in some Hollywood projects as well. How was that experience? How is our dance perceived abroad?

I think, for them, Bollywood is all about the costume drama. They are best at B-boying, Hip Hop and all the other international dance forms. So, they find all the nuances, the expressions and the colourful costumes in our dance very fascinating. We worked a lot with Tarsem Singh in movies like The Fall and we also did a few music videos. The Hollywood projects that we have done so far have had very specific requirements. Mainly our choreography was run at the background of a scene or was a part of the paraphernalia. Very rarely it was in the foreground.

You worked with the famous pop star Christina Aguilera as well.

Yes, it was for a Pepsi commercial. It had a small chunk of Bollywood in that. But Caesar had the pleasure of working with her, not me. You see, we divide our work.

So, who is your favourite Bollywood actor that you have worked with?

Every actor is very talented in some way or the other. But the best dancers in Bollywood, I feel, are Shahid Kapoor, Ranbir Kapoor and Hritik Roshan. They learn the moves very fast and have the grace of a dancer. They belong to this new breed of actors which realises that in order to be an effective artist one has to be the complete package. But Salman Khan, though a veteran in Bollywood, has a lot style and attitude. You give him any move, he makes it his own. He is a true rock star.

You have your own dance company named Bosco Caesar Dance Company (in short BCDC). What was your motivation behind starting this company?

The main motivation behind starting our own company was to create a platform where we could teach our dance moves, our style to the common people. We have been invited to so many dance training institutes to teach as a part of their guest faculty. We have taught our dance moves to so many actors and sometimes, we have to teach them to relax and not be so rigid and inflexible while dancing. So Caesar and I thought of coming up with a dance company where people not only learn our dance moves but also learn how to have fun while dancing. We want people to love dancing and not be scared of it.

Tell us a little more about your company.

We started BCDC in Dubai in Nov 2007. We received great response from there. We had five hundred kids dancing our moves. But the partners over there, in Dubai, didn’t think of it as a very educational venture. They thought that it was just a money minting process for us, which I know is not true. I wish we would have made it more educational and organic because the business would have followed then. So, we had to get out of Dubai and then we launched our company in Mumbai. We keep doing dance workshops overseas though. We have been to Spain and Hong Kong. Our workshop is called Hook Up With Bosco Caesar.

You have won many awards. Which one is by far the most prestigious?

The most prestigious one is obviously the National Award which we won for the song Senorita in the movie, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobarathis year. In fact, this year has been phenomenal. We have been nominated for four songs namely Dum Maaro Dum From the movie Dum Maaro Dum, Senorita from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobaara, Disco Fighter from Delhi Belly and title track of Desi Boys.  And we have already won five awards this year. We won the Apsara awards, Filmfare awards, IIFA awards, the National Award, and the Star Screen awards. I don’t think any other Indian choreographer has bagged so many nominations and awards in the same year.

Which was the first award that you received?

We had to wait for almost twelve years for our first award. It was for the song Chor bazaari from the movie, Love Aaj Kal.

What’s your definition of dance choreography? For example, for your latest movie, Cocktail, when Homi Adajania, the director of the film, approached you with the concept, how did you attack it?

The director gives us a certain brief. For Cocktail, we were told that the choreography should look organic. It should seem that the song hasn’t been choreographed at all. Also, in our Bollywood films, not many of our actors know how to dance. They have to be trained in a specific manner. But of course, that trend is fast changing as the actors of this new generation are all ace dancers. Our industry is ruled by the masses and the Indian masses haven’t warmed up to the idea of dance forms such as Jazz –Ballet, Contemporary etc. They are now being educated which is nice, but it will take some time. Such a major shift in dance preferences doesn’t happen overnight. Also, there is a scientific way of going about it. When people go to the theatres to watch our movies, they see the actors dance on some songs, and it is the common people who make those dance moves popular. So they won’t be able to relate to things that they cannot comprehend. My aim is to connect with the common people through my choreographies and also to educate them about dance in a fun way.

So, when we are given a song to choreograph, we see what moves look good on the actors dancing in it and also if our ideas are in tune with the concept of the film. Keeping these parameters in mind, we choreograph the song according to our convenience and our style of dancing. So far, this has worked for us and I hope that it does for a long time to come.

Which songs did you and Caesar choreograph in the movie, Cocktail?

We did the song, Tum Hi Ho Bandhu, and two other international tracks. Tum Hi Ho Bandhu is a very fun song. We have shot it on a beach. We have tried to create a beach party where everybody is dancing and having fun. It looks like everybody in that song is doing his or her own dance moves but of course it’s not.

How was your experience working with the cast of the movie?

It’s not the first time that we have worked with Deepika Padukone and Saif Ali Khan. Deepika is a fabulous dancer. She has a lot of grace. Saif puts his own style in every move. So they were easy to work with. We had to work a lot with Diana Penty as it was her first time, but I think that she has done a brilliant job.

Tell us about your upcoming projects.

Well we have Karan Johar’s Student of the year, Madhur Bhandarkar’sHeroine and Ayan Mukerjee’s Yeh Jawaani Hai Diwaani in the pipeline.

In ten years where do you see yourself?

I would like to help build a platform, bigger than what we have right now, where people can learn dance and use it as a career option. Overseas, people dance professionally but in India that trend is yet to build. I would like to help facilitate that. I want dance in India to have more structure.

Are you planning to get into movie direction any time soon?

Yes, I am planning to direct a remake of a Korean film called My Girlfriend is an Agent ,which will be produced by UTV and Preeti Ali. Imtiaz Ali is going to be the creative director. So watch out for it.

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Bosco Martis on bollywood choreography

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