“Every time a Michael Jackson song played on TV, I would watch it and repeat his steps. MJ taught me popping and break dance,” he states. Today, at the threshold of releasing India’s first dance-based 3D film, ABCD – Any Body Can Dance, D’Souza attributes this achievement to his “teacher”.
The idea of making a dance-based film took germ in D’Souza’s mind many years ago, soon after he turned choreographer. However, he lacked the technical expertise to make a film and it wasn’t easy to find talented dancers. “But the idea was revived when I started judging reality shows and saw the kind of talent now available in various parts of the country,” says the choreographer-turned-director.
The film, he knew, would be incomplete without the presence of Prabhu Deva who was the first contemporary Indian dancer to gain nationwide popularity for his moves. Once Prabhu Deva was on board, he roped in Dance India Dance show participants Salman Yusuff Khan, Dharmesh Yelande, Punit Pathak and Vrushali Chavan to play other, key characters.
The themes of D’Souza’s films are often rooted in his modest upbringing. His debut feature, FALTU, was about believing in one’s dreams and aspirations, while ABCD is about living one’s dream. “In Jamnagar, choreography as a profession was unheard of. So when I told my parents and my friends my dream of becoming a dancer, they were convinced I had chosen unwisely. But I insisted and shifted base to Mumbai in 1993,” he says
Once in the city, he started off as a background dancer with Ahmed Khan. “I trained in all the dance forms, from krumping to folk, while on the job. I learned about Chhau when I made a film on it,” he recalls.
This also acted as his introduction to the world of choreography. “I started telling myself that even I could do it,” states D’Souza, who now plans to write a book on 50 forms of dance. “I have used as many forms in ABCD and I want to document them all,” he says. Work on his book will only start after the release of ABCD.
Ask D’Souza about the importance of dance in his life and he simply states that dance is his life. He has, after all, choreographed nearly 1,000 songs. Of these, his most memorable have been when working with Amitabh Bachchan in Aankhen and Rajinikanth in Robot. “While planning his or her own career, one also decides certain milestones one wants to cross. For me, choreographing these two iconic stars was one such milestone,” he says.