Vol 8-No. 5




Vidya Balan (center) judge Atlanta talent along with Abhijeet Sawant and Rahul Vaidya

Bollywood Stars In SRJ Productions’
"Show me Your Jalwa"


It was the brain child of Sahiba of SRJ Productions, backed by ace dancer and choreographer the well known Prem Rehman. On 16th August, at Center Stage, in Atlanta, “Show me Your Jalwa”, showcased local talent before Bollywood stars and a screaming crowd.

The challenge began just a few weeks ago where contestants had to audition and then if selected agree to be paired with another name picked out in a lottery and work together on three songs. 

In a short span of 3-4 weeks they had to pick out their costumes and get creative, innovative and compete in front of Bollywood stars who have seen and done it all.

Some partners got lucky because they found common grounds and synchronicity-others struggled to blend, two lost their partners 10 days before the show but found each other to start all over again with a handicap. But in all the trials and triumphs, the never say die spirit kept these pairs working hard, and committed to giving the stars and the audience their money’s worth.

Actress Vidya Balan of Parineeta and Lage Raho Munna Bhai fame, Mona Singh the lead actress of Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin, and Noureen Premji from Atlanta formed the trio that judged the competition. Singers par excellence, and teeny bopper heart throbs Rahul Vaidya and Abhijeet Sawant accompanied by Sonia Dara, a super achieving teen model and Sonia Seernani, a former Miss India-Georgia, joined hands to co-emcee the show and keep it rocking. Abu Malik master minded the arrangements from India.

The first round focused on Bollywood, and it was given a foot stomping start by Prem’s Studio of Performing Arts, as dancers from the studio performed to a fast paced medley of Bollywood songs choreographed by Prem Rehman himself. Rehman has choreographed performances by the crème de la crème of Bollywood including Asha Bhosle, Shaan, Adnan Sami, Saif Ali Khan to name a few.

The was followed by the arrival of singer Rahul Vaidya on the stage crooning Bachna Ai Haseeno, in his melodious voice which had won him the title of best singer in the show Jo Jeeta Wohi Superstar competing with the winners of many reality music shows.

He welcomed the Atlanta audience to a panorama of music and dance and was soon joined by the other talented singer, the winner of Indian Idol, Abhijeet Sawant crooning his hit-Junoon. Abhijeet was welcomed by loud screams and said he was performing in Atlanta for the second time and loved the audience. Both Abhijeet and Rahul are warm and down to earth and a lot of fun both on and off the stage.

The duo then introduced the judges to the audience and the two actresses acknowledged the warm welcome accorded to them not just by the audience but the SRJ team. Vidya Balan mentioned that she went sight seeing and enjoyed visiting the Aquarium and the Coca Cola exhibit, and mischievously added that now she knows there are many more fish in the sea; to which Rahul Vaidya responded tongue in cheek, that this was a family show so he wasn’t going fishing!

Mona Singh was excited to be a part of a show where she was a judge and not a contestant and promised to be lenient with the contestants because having participated in Jhalak Dikla ja she knew all about the hard work and the nerves that accompany participation in reality shows. All the judges said they were expecting a fantastic show going by the enthusiasm of the crowd and from what they had heard about the contestants who were an interesting mix.

The show began with Nirvi Shah and Noureen Husain. Noreen and Nirvi were in a beauty pageant together 4 years ago and had disliked each other immediately. When they heard they were going to be paired their first reaction was of dismay. “When we finally got together we hit it off so well that I just adore her now,” says Nirvi of her partner. “This is such a special thing that I got out of this competition. Had I not tried out for it I would not have met her again and become such good friends with her. Yes I’m the sane one-if I may say so, but its great fun collaborating with her!” The duo did a cool east west fusion with one wearing a beautiful classical dance costume and the other a western outfit. As they did different steps they blended some collaborative movements. The judges found Nirvi beautiful and very elegant in her mudras and movements and while they enjoyed Noureen’s western accompaniment, they felt there was a lack of energy and enthusiasm and some more complex steps to make it more exciting to watch. Vidya said that being a classical dancer herself she understands the nuances of dance and on top of that the eastern western jugalbandi has become an intrinsic part of dance these days. So there has to be something extra to make it more alluring.

Next to perform were Vishwanath Rajshekhar and Neha Chugh. Neha has danced when she was young at family events and parties. When she went to college she took some dance classes. While she has been in a beauty pageant where she danced as part of the talent round, she has never competed in a show like this.

Vishwanath Rajshekhar choreographs Bollywood songs for shows for the Telugu and Kannada associations in Atlanta. This competition however is a different ball game for him because it goes beyond reproducing dances by south Indian film actors. “ Now 70 percent of our dance moves are original and the challenge is also to understand the strengths and capabilities of my partner and create something based on that.” The duo came out with excellent props, matching outfits that smacked of the kind of attire the colorful and consummate actor Govinda would wear with his heroine, and they performed to a medley of Govinda songs Chalo Ishq Ladaye and Tujhe mirchi lagi to.  Both Mona Singh and Vidya Balan loved the fact the duo chose Govinda songs for this segment; they appreciated their colorful costumes, and loved the choreography, but all the judges felt that the duo was not able to bring the sizzling style of Govinda to really rock the stage, and also needed to work on their expressions.

Then came the brother and sister team of Nisha and Vijay Pavlia, who lucked out when they got selected to dance together. Both are trained dancers and choreographers and say that the best part of dancing together is they know each other’s strength and weaknesses and work very well together. The challenge of course is when as siblings they clash over whose choreography should be in the dance. Eventually they compromise by going with the best idea.

The two came and sizzled on stage in what seemed to finally be the kind of performance the judges were looking for. Dressed in complementary turquoise and dark outfits, they danced to a medley of blockbusters, from Muqabala, Tan tana tan tan tan tara and Tu cheez badi hai mast mast combining fluid western and eastern dance moves with pulsating energy and light elegant footwork. Nisha was especially complimented for her expressiveness and the two set the bar pretty high for the following competitors, with a combined score of 26 out of a 30.

The contestants to follow were the interesting duo of Deepesh Kara and Sumera Jiva. In fact during the rehearsals for the show when asked who their worst contestant was, the choreographers had chorused-Deepesh! Deepesh!!” When 24 year old Deepesh Kara and his partner Sumera Jiva 16, heard that comment they laughed. “ Yeah but I won a competition at the mall,” said Deepesh laughing” Okay so I was 9 then!” Since then it has been the occasional garba at the Gujarati samaj, for Deepesh, until 16 year old Sumera Jiva came into the picture and transformed Kara into a charismatic act! “Yes when Deepesh showed me his audition dance I said Oh my God we have a quite a mountain to climb, but he has worked so hard for long hours with such commitment, that it is amazing to see how far he has come,” says Sumera.

Mona Singh (center) judge Atlanta talent along with Abhijeet Sawant and Rahul Vaidya

Deepesh was equally complimentary about his partner saying she has a maturity as a choreographer that goes far beyond her 16 years, and has really blown him away with her talent and patience. And along with the stars, his startled parents were to be in the audience. “When I told them about the show they said-You ARE doing WHAT?” laughs Deepesh but says he is confident they and Atlanta will be blown away by their act.

And not just mom and dad, the entire audience and the judges were in for a surprise of their life when Deepesh and Sumera hit the stage- he in black and white and she in a cutesier white outfit with black Polka dots to the strains of Ye Dil... their clean cut moves, the panache and charm with which the two danced, brought the house down. The judges were delighted and loved the extra zing Deepesh brought into his moves, and they loved the lifts as well. They thought Sumera rocked with her charm.. Noureen disagreed with the other two, calling the performance dull, with nothing new in it and that while she saw the talent, she also saw a lack of energy. Rahul promptly christened her the Simon Cowell of the show laughingly.

The duo of two young wives then came on stage in lovely lehnga cholis. Akansha Agarwal and Mital Shah, both 25, both married with family responsibilities-one from Meerut India the other from New Zealand, were excited to be together because of the commonalities they share and the understanding when it comes to handling other commitments and responsibilities along with this one. Mital danced for fun in school and college. Akansha won a small competition at a club in India recently but neither has danced on such a starry platform. “We have become such good friends, and it has been really challenging to realize that once the auditions were done we had to organize everything from the dances, the choreography, the clothes and that too in a very short time,’ said the duo and added that they felt very confident that the competing teams will make it a night to remember for all because everyone had been working so hard.

The duo danced to Aja Nachle and their performance was cheered by the audience. Vidya said their expressions were fantastic. Each gesture was “mast” and graceful and the way the ghagras swayed and swirled enchanted them. Overall it was nice but they too needed a little more energy and polish in steps. Akansha was complimented on her very cute expressions and her very graceful movements. The judges felt the choreography could have been better.

Mona Singh said she felt like Aishwarya and Madhuri were dancing, and asked for a special round of applause for the married ladies.

The next contestants Akshaya Murlidhar and Divya Ramawamy 16, learn Bharatnatyam at Akshaya’s mom’s school. They have however only gotten to know each other after being paired together and found out they are kindred spirits. Both were happy to have made it to the finalists’ team. Divya said the challenging part was how good everyone was and the exciting thing for her has been the fact that she has bonded very well with Akshaya. “ We are like sisters now!”

The duo wore gorgeous outfits and brought a lot of creativity in to their version of Darde Disco, the hit song from Om Shanti Om, but while the judges appreciated their performance they got a thumbs down for dancing to a male oriented song filmed on Shahrukh Khan. The judges felt that girls doing a male number some how didn’t jell. Vidya Balan however commended the two on their attitude and the fact that they completed every movement, and displayed great energy on stage and she enjoyed it. Noureen too found the performance very entertaining and the choreography outstanding.

Raheem Budhani, 20, does not have training in dance and is mostly self taught but Eti Nahar 19, says he has been an amazing partner. “Other than my constant fear that he may drop me during one of the stunts I have loved working with him.” “Yes a couple of the stunts haven’t worked out,” laughs Raheem but he still intended to muscle his way to success at the show.

Raheem went on to wow the crowd. He is a big guy and Eti is slender and petite but his moves, the joy with which he danced to Ai Chori Zara nach ke dikha, as Eti in a bubble gum, candy colored costume, danced to his tune, and had the judges cheering along with the audience. All of them were unanimous about their appreciation of Raheem. Vidya said she could not believe that he could dance so well-she loved his attitude. Eti was however told that she needed to work on being more uninhibited and not look down and dance but look at the audience. The judges felt she could have been a little bit naughtier and that the dance started with great energy but lost its verve in the middle and end.

The next performers were Shivani Gandhi 19, the newly crowned Miss India Georgia and Nikhat Nazar Ali 20. The two had been merrily going along rehearsing with their partners when barely 10 days before the show hit the stage, their partners dropped out. They ended up being paired together and had to start all over from scratch-not only in creating new items, but also coordinating their moves. “I was bummed out initially because we had worked hard,” says Shivani, “ but then I met Nikhat and we quickly got everything ready. We had to again plan our costumes as well.” Shivani is a trained dancer with her Bharatnatyam arangetram behind her and won Boogie woogie from Atlanta. Nikhat has danced mostly for fun but taken 2 years of Kathak training. Both said they were in the competition to have fun more than the competing and winning, and also to show not just the stars but the people of Atlanta that there is a lot of untapped, unknown talent ready to explode in town.

The two probably had the best costumes as well as props through out the competition. They did a medley of Choli ke Peechey Kya hai, Ek do teen and Channey ke khet mein. Their movements were very graceful as they sashayed in multi colored ghagra cholis. The judges found their stage presence fantastic, and loved the energy but felt the two could not bring Madhuri’s amazing verve into their performance. They also felt the two did not elaborate on the block buster Choli ke peechey Kya hai and ended up doing unwanted classical steps on ek do teen which didn’t quite jell. However the girls were very sporting and said they just loved being there and that was their biggest reward. They still walked away with the score of a 25 out of a 30.

The duo of Jessica Sooknanan, 16, and Gelice Pace 31, were paired together and it was the sixteen year old who was the choreographer and calling the shots. And guess what? Neither of them is of Indian origin though the bug caught Jessica when her family moved to Atlanta 6 years ago and she started taking Indian dance lessons. “What was interesting was that the two, who do not understand Hindi, performed to Hindi songs.

Jessica auditioned originally as a participant but her moves were so original and unique that the judges decided to let her choreograph. The teenager said she loved working with her partner who is almost close to double her age but Jessica never felt the age difference. “We collaborated a lot and we got along so well.” Galice Pace said the only film with any Indian connections that she has watched is Bend it like Beckham! She auditioned for the fun of it, in spite of the challenge of performing to songs from an alien culture. Both expected people to enjoy their original moves, different from the traditional Indian dance as they brought their own background into it.

The two walked on stage in beautiful outfits and combined movements from Bharatnatyam and ballet as they performed the Madhuri Dixit-Aishwarya Rai hit Dola Re from Devdas with original choreography, lip syncing the song to perfection. Pace even hummed a couple of lines from the song at Rahul’s request  quite sportingly.

* Kavita Chhibber is an accomplished freelance writer and media personality. She  writes for Dr Deepak Chopra's website She is well-known for her interviews of celebrities, authors and public officials. But she also writes hard-hitting news articles and cover stories for publications.


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