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Best Feet Forward! Baichung Bhutia and Sonia Jaffer with the trophies
Best Feet Forward! Baichung Bhutia and Sonia Jaffer with the trophies

Anuj Kumar speaks to Baichung Bhutia and Sonia Jaffer, who have just won the third season of “Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa”

The BEST was the tapori dance because it allows you to do your own thing

Baichung Bhutia has dribbled past controversies and a stiff competition to win the third season of Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa. He is the first sportsperson to win the Indian version of Dancing With The Stars. “I enjoyed every moment of it,” says a relaxed Baichung from Kolkata. “I am a complete non-dancer and dance was never on my mind during my growing up years. Except for one or two steps that I later experimented in night clubs, I never took to dance floor.” He says it is his fitness and agility that saved him the blushes. “None of the dance form is easy. I didn’t realise it will be that difficult before signing. I wanted to give up after the first round but my wife and choreographer felt I can do it. Slowly I began to enjoy. The best was the tapori dance because it allows you to do your own thing” He gives full credit to his choreographer Sonia Jaffer for turning it around. “Actually, she has won the contest. She came to Kolkata to train me while others were rehearsing in Mumbai.” He has shared the 40 lakh prize money with her. “I will donate my share to charity. I have already given 1.5 lakhs to the Aila cyclone victims’ relief fund.”

Sour steps

On the controversy that emerged during the show, when he was given a show cause notice by his club Mohan Bagan, Baichung says, “I have already said it could have been handled in a better way. There was no need to go to the media. I haven’t missed a single match or practice session because of my commitment to the show.” He confirms he is going to switch to a new club soon. “I am already in talks with a few clubs.”

Would he like to do a reality show again? “No, but this is not a reflection on Jhalak…I will always cherish the time I spent there. Now I want to completely concentrate on the game.” Sports bodies and the media often call such shows a distraction but Baichung says it essentially depends on the individual. “If you have some free time and can balance the two, go for it. Don’t comprise on your priority.”

He stays clear of commenting on the state of affairs in Indian football, where the bench strength seems weak.

“My job is to give my best as a player and leave the rest to the authorities. I hope we will do well this year.”

The masterstroke

Sonia Jaffer is responsible for turning an underdog into a top dog. The choreographer had a strategy in place. “Unlike other choreographers I never tried to cover Baichung. This is the demand of the format which expects the choreographer to put the celebrity in front. Also I gave him simple but authentic steps. If it was Salsa, I made sure he did at least basic Salsa. Others like Gauhar (Khan) and Hard Kaur relied on complex steps and goofed up at crucial juncture.”

She agrees the format of Dancing With The Stars prefers people who don’t come from the entertainment world. “When I was given Baichung, I knew I had a winner in my hand.”

Darren Gough and Mark Ramprakash have won the British version of the show but in India we have Mona Singh and Prachi Desai, who are basically performers and are expected to have a basic understanding of dance.

Surprisingly Sonia, who has already choreographed in Nishabd and Go doesn’t want to be a full-fledged choreographer. “I don’t want to be a Saroj Khan or Vaibhavi Merchant. Bollywood dances are more of cut-paste jobs.

My foundation is in ballet and I have learnt contemporary and Latin American dance forms. My aim is to do something in the field of performing arts and creating musicals.” Is there any space? “If it’s not, I will try to create. Now I want to be in the front!”

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