Two-step Dance

Étoile extraordinaire

Anitha Lama, fondly known as Anee by her colleagues, speaks fluent Telugu. She was born and brought up in Hyderabad. Her parents are from Darjeeling, and her father is from the Army and shifted here eventually. When Anitha was six years old, he passed away. Anitha pursued dance since she was a child and remembers dancing at the Ganesh Pandal.

Breaking it down

Anitha recollects, “I don’t remember having any formal training and there were never so many dance teachers at that time. When I was 13, I went to Gemini TV’s Dance Baby Dance programme and I was the winner at the mega-final. Lawrence and Disco Shanti gave me the prize. I wanted to do stage shows and picked up all the moves by watching Madhuri Dixit and Madhubala on television and would practice five hours every day. My mother couldn’t afford to send me to dance classes, she was the sole earner but despite that, I went to Mangala Bhatt, the only Kathak teacher in Hyderabad and learnt from her for two years. She didn’t take a penny from me although she charged all the other students as she was aware of my background.”

Anitha began doing stage shows almost everyday, then worked as a dance teacher in few schools. When she was 21 and composing for films as an assistant, she was asked to be an assistant-choreographer in a Chiranjeevi film. To be an assistant one needs to have four or five years experience. She talks about the Chennai-Hyderabad divide, “Those days, girls entering movie industry was rare and parents were worried to send girls to work in films. Shankardada MBBS was the first film I worked for Harish Pai (Na Peru Kanchanamala) and I assisted for ten to twelve years — by then I was married and had had a child. 2002 to 2004, there was less work for us, as all masters came from Chennai. I wanted to be a master but had no clue how to begin and where to start from. They never gave work to Telugu choreographers then and it was always the Chennai people who were preferred like Brinda Master, Prabhudeva and so on. Girls here in the industry get married due to the pressure from parents or there is love marriage and they would quit cinema which is why you don’t find many female choreographers.”

Making another move

Missing her work after having a child, Anitha decided to get back to the industry. Using her already large number of contacts in the choreography industry, she began reconnecting. She adds, “In that brief gap I took, all the people who were my juniors had become choreographers and I decided to work at any cost. When I returned to work everyone were curious about me and as to what I would do. Johnny master was looking for an assistant for Racha around that time and I got into the team. Johnny master’s steps are heavy and it is not easy to perform without practice. After five years gap, I worked on the ‘Dillaka Dillaka’ number for Charan’s film. I began and continued as an assistant. An assistant choreographer has to show all the movements to the dancers while the choreographer sits at the monitor and checks the dance, lighting, costume and background. It is not possible for him to hang around with the artistes.” After this project, she began getting offers and worked for 16 choreographers so far.

Two years ago, after working on 350 films, Anitha became an independent choreographer. First was, Jyothi Lakshmi directed by Puri Jagannadh and then a song each in Rogue and Loafer and completed 30 songs in these two years. The Sardar Gabbar Singh project was a memorable feat for Anitha; getting an appointment with Pawan Kalyan is not easy — big stars have a comfort level with certain choreographers and seldom meet assistants. She avers, “I met Pawan Kalyan after two hours and, he is usually surrounded by bodyguards. Unless he calls you, you cannot go, so I made my master get me an appointment. After meeting him, he said he will let me know. Exactly after a month he asked me to work on O Pilla Subhan Alla, which was last year’s chartbuster.” Anitha had recently worked for Nakshatram.

Finally her intention is to remove the misconception that women can compose only romantic songs and montages. Anitha explains how she rears in work, “We have PR managers who get us work. We go to shooting spots and also ask for work. There is so much competition. I want to work and do good work.” Her family is very encouraging, her son is very happy that she works in the industry— he once told his friend, “Neeku telusa ma amma Sruthi Hassan tho work chestundhi.”

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Printable version | Sep 6, 2021 5:21:00 PM |

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