The recognition of choreography is dependent on the popularity of the song — Vaibhavi Merchant
Choreographer Vaibhavi Merchant has been a constant with Yash Raj Films. She has given many Bollywood heroines that one iconic dance number they will be remembered for.
You’ve been a constant with Yash Raj Films. How has your association been with the banner?
It has been wonderful. We are likeminded people. They are organised and the people that they have, the system with which they work and their set up is great. Yash Raj follows a bound script — you read it and prep. Their pre-production is so strong that even when you are working on a song — with the production and on set — everything is running smooth because they have an x-amount of experience with it. When you say a film belongs to the Yash Raj production house, it carries a reputation with itself. So I guess, it becomes easier for you. And since I have done so many films with them, it is like working for a home production.
What was your connection with Yashji (Yash Chopra) like?
Yashji was a wonderful man. I loved to be around him. He encouraged newcomers and youngsters. A lot of new talent has been introduced in the last decade, so it has really been great. I started with Dhoom and ever since, I have done many films with them. People at Yash Raj like and believe in my work. And I guess, more than that, they also like me as a person.
What does good dance choreography depend on?
Choreography as a category is completely dependent on the popularity of the song. Sometimes if you have the most popular number, even with a slightly all right choreography, it might still work. I believe that ideally the music director should be awarded, as he has made the song.
Technically a piece of choreography is art and it is not just about setting a movement and shooting it. It is how you put all the pieces together and make it work. There are times when the choreography is fantastic but the film is pathetic, and sometimes it is a combination of a great film and great song. Many factors contribute to the recognition and success of a well-choreographed piece.
Talk about one of your favourites from the songs you have choreographed, like Ainvayi Ainvayi… from Band Baaja Baarat?
It is a song that was meant for families, meant to go into houses where it wouldn’t raise. It is not a raunchy, item number. It has its own charm and its own diction that connects with the audience. Every commoner should believe that he can dance to ‘Ainvayi Ainvayi’. Every young girl in a marriage ceremony should be performing this song in a sangeet or baraat. It is universal in that sense.
Any song that you haven’t choreographed but you like?
I loved ‘Munni Badnaam Hui’. When I saw Salman dancing, I knew that you cannot choreograph moves like that. He comes with his own language and style. It was so funny that as a viewer, I immediately connected to whatever he did. I have seen thumkas and jhatkas before, and so I look for something different. Did I want to be a part of this? Did it make me want to jump into the screen and start dancing when Salman entered? Most definitely.
— Priyanka Jain