Dancer and actor Salman Yusuff Khan talks about his second film Freedom and his acts on Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa

“I was born with dancing feet,” smiles dancer-actor Salman Yusuff Khan adding, “When I was 10 days old, my mother noticed my feet shivering. She took me to the doctor thinking something was wrong with me. But it turns out I was completely healthy.”

At 28, Salman, one of the popular choreographers from Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, is now a mechanical engineer-turned dancer-choreographer and is also one movie old. He’s trained in various dance forms, including capoeira, meringue, salsa and other Latin American dance forms. “I started professional dancing when I was eight. During my engineering days, I would wake up at 4 a.m., go for dance practice, rush to college, get back in the evening and dance again. It helped me de-stress and I never realised when my hobby became my passion.”

Role by chance

The actor who played Rocky in the upbeat dance film ABCD: Any Body Can Dance, has just finished shooting for his second film Freedom. “Vivek Agnihotri, the director of the film was looking for a choreographer. He called me for an interview, and I was petrified. I got through and was signed choreographer of the film.” But barely a month before the film got on the floor one of the lead actors backed out and Agnihotri started auditioning actors for that role. “I really liked the script and I so wanted to tell Vivek that I have acted in a movie already and he could try me out, but I didn’t. Luckily, he himself asked me to audition one day. I did and that’s how I bagged the role of Rocker,” says an elated Salman.

Freedom is a socio-political drama set in the 1980s that chronicles the lives of three talented young boys and how they make their dreams come true even though their families aren’t supportive, and the changing Indian political scene. “My role is completely the opposite of what I am in real life. Rocker is an intense guy, a drug-addict with extreme mood swings. I believe the hero of the film is the script,” he says.

With the movie in its post-production stages, Salman is now fully focussed on the other job at hand, that of winning the Jhalak Dikhhla Ja trophy. It’s his third season as choreographer in the show and the gifted dancer says that he still gets butterflies in his stomach before each performance. Last year, he partnered with Isha Sharvani and year before last, it was Yana Gupta. This season he has teamed up with Drashti Dhami, a well-known television artiste. “Ever since I moved to Mumbai from Bangalore four years ago, I haven’t really made any friends. But Drashti is one of my best friends now,” he adds.

The contest, he feels, is getting tougher. Every act demands something new with a wow-factor. “I draw inspiration from my partner, from costumes, movements and even songs. I like gravity-defying acts,” he says.

And if given an option which celebrity would he like to choreograph? “Prabhu Deva, Hrithik Roshan and without a doubt, Madhuri Dixit.” And as we wind up he says, “I do not want to be confined as just a dancer or a choreographer. This present generation does so much at a time. Farhan Akhtar sings, acts, dances and directs. I would like to be that way.”