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Feet firmly on the ground


His steps for `Lakshya' have earned Prabhu Deva the national award for best choreographer.

The music was good and Hrithik great. Above all it is Farhan Akhtar whom I wish to thank for giving me a free hand.

THREE-IN-ONE: Prabhu Deva, dancer, actor and director.

Close on the heels of a successful directorial debut, `Nu Vasthanante Ne Vaddantana,' in Telugu, comes his crowning glory — the National Award for Choreography for the Hrithik Roshan starrer, `Lakshya.' You think Prabhu Deva is going to sound elated with the honour. So his calm acceptance surprises you. Incidentally it is Deva's second at the national level. The first was for the Vennilavae ... ' number in `Minsara Kanavu' (Tamil), which had him doing a captivating romantic jig with Kajol. "Of course, I'm thrilled. But I also have my feet firmly on the ground," he laughs. He's in Mumbai right now to judge a talent show for STAR. "I enjoy watching dance and Javed Jaffrey who's also here is a friend. So I thought I'll come over, and I'm having fun," he says. Otherwise Hyderabad is his home now. "The first film kept me in Andhra for long. Now that I've begun my second film for the same producer, I'm staying back. I can't possibly direct the film by proxy, can I?" quips Deva.

One of the first calls Prabhu Deva made after learning about the award was to his dance master, Udupi Lakshminarayana. Deva was at a rehearsal for his next film then. "Master Dharmaraj was also my dance tutor. And he happened to come over to the spot that day. I told him about the award and his reaction was, `O! All right. Now go ahead with the rehearsal.' The matter-of-fact response brought me back to the earth with a thud. He always makes me realise that the way to perfection is long. An extraordinary guru!"

The award sequence

Deva had given the dates for the dance shoot a year earlier. "I'm a fan of Farhan Akhtar. Who can forget `Dil Chahta Hai?' But when he told me that the `Lakshya' sequence will be shot in three places, I didn't quite buy the idea. `If location is the criterion why me,' I asked." It was the first time Prabhu Deva was going to direct Hrithik for a dance and he was keen to make it different. He suggested the costume be in white and the ambience black. And for an audience used to pomp and parade, the simple set for the `Main Aisa Kyun' number was a refresher.

Aesthetics blended well with the excellent movements Deva had conceived and the song danced away with many an honour including the Film Fare. "The music was good and Hrithik's skill and flexibility went a long way in making it a winning number. Neither can you overlook the prowess of the Mumbai dancers who gave their best for the sequence. My friend and choreographer Vishnu Deva went to Delhi to train Hrithik for the song and did a wonderful job of it. But most of all I thank Farhan Akhtar who gave me a free hand," says Prabhu Deva. `Main Aisa Kyun' was the only song that he had done the whole year and it's been raining accolades ever since. Does the dancing star who took tinsel town by storm with his incredible movements a few years ago still practise the famed leg work? "Actually no. Somehow I've not been dancing much these days. I should take it up more rigorously soon. Otherwise physical flexibility could go for a toss," says the acclaimed boneless wonder.

As director

Did he feel he had it in him? "My producer M. S. Raju believed I could wield the baton. And I decided to go ahead, of course, with much trepidation. My second film, `Pournami' also in Telugu has begun and I'm still nervous. `Pournami will again have Trisha as the heroine. Prabhas is the hero. His dad, famous choreographer Sundaram's words, "I thought you would have made a run of the mill film with five dances and six fights. But you've done a really good job," are still ringing in Prabhu Deva's ears. "I'm glad I've made him happy in some way," he says wistfully.

Though the entire family, including his brother Raju Sundaram and Prasad, is into film choreography they hardly discuss cinema at home. Have his two young sons, Raju and Rishi, also been bitten by the dance bug like dad? "That's too early to say. As of now they are like other kids. I don't see any unusual taste for dance."

Deva is the hero of `Style' directed by colleague, choreographer Lawrence. And after `Pournami?' "It will be released on Jan 14 next. As of now I don't know what I'll be doing on Jan 15. I don't plan too much ahead." He strikes a rather philosophical note here. "It's not philosophy. Be it choreography, acting or direction, my commitment is always total. There was a time when I was working as choreographer in many Telugu films. I gave my best shot every time and eagerly waited for the national award that never came my way. So now I take things with equanimity."

Earlier the honour may have been elusive. But sincerity has reaped a rich harvest, not once but twice. And there could be more in the offing for this talented actor, dancer, choreographer and director!

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