Like his colleague Remo D’ Souza who directed a dance film recently, noted Bollywood choreographer Ashley Lobo is all set to make a feature film based on his first love.
Ashley, who has choreographed all songs in film-maker Imtiaz Ali’s films, says he has penned the script for this upcoming venture. “My film will have quite a few dance numbers. It is about the journey of a man, but I want to put at rest all speculation that it is based on my life. Though it is not autobiographical, I have incorporated some of my personal experiences. I have come across some interesting personalities in my profession and would be sharing my interaction with them.”
About a decade ago Ashley was reluctant to sign films as he wanted to concentrate on performing arts. However, he changed his mind after meeting the then aspiring film-maker Imtiaz Ali. In their first meeting itself, Ashley and Imtiaz discovered that they shared the same cinematic sensibilities and decided to make their debut in the same film. While Imtiaz took the mantle of director of Socha Na Tha , Ashley supervised the dancing part of the film which had Abhay Deol and Ayesha Takia in the lead. “I was in Delhi doing performing arts. Imtiaz was looking for a choreographer with a theatre background. Theatre runs in my genes; my mother Ceila Lobo was an opera singer and theatre director. I grew up with English theatre in Bombay. So my name was recommended by a common friend. After the meeting, there has been no looking back. Our friendship has stood the test of time.”
Undoubtedly the much appreciated romantic movie Jab We Met was the high point in Ashley’s career. He picturised a song on Kareena Kapoor, dressed in traditional attire, which was shot in scenic locations of Himachal Pradesh. He knew it would be lapped up by film enthusiasts but it ended up becoming a chartbuster. “It was slowly on the lips of every filmgoer in the country.”
Ashley is evasive on whether a sequel to Jab We Met is being planned. “I do not know. You have to ask Imtiaz.”
After Jab We Met , Ashley was again signed for Ranbir Kapoor’s Rockstar . “In fact, I have done all his films,” he says.
Ashley likes to work with artistes with whom he shares a certain comfort level. This probably explains the reason why he decided to choreograph another film of super star Akshay Kumar. “After Namaste London I am doing Boss with Akshay. I have already choreographed one song with Akshay. He is acting opposite Aditi Rao Hydari. It is always enjoyable to work with Akshay. He is quite chilled out.”
Admitting that choreography has improved drastically in Bollywood, Ashley says everyone is evolving. “When I look back at my earlier films I feel I could have improved at certain places. The film industry is like a child who is evolving. Also, we have the new generation which is as passionate about hip hop in the U.S. as about the visarjan dance.”
Once American choreographer Paul Taylor told Ashley that one should not only be a good choreographer but also be a clever one. “So I try to draw the best work out of every actor, even if he or she has not been trained in a dance academy.”
Like with films, Ashley was also turning down offers to judge dance shows on TV. But he has now decided to judge a show which will be an amalgam of hip-hop, belly dance and classical dance forms like Kathak and Bharatanatyam. More than the flair for dance, what Ashley will try to find out is how well groomed they are and what other qualities they possess. “I will not go on their educational background but if they have studied then obviously their interaction with their colleagues would show a certain standard.”