It’s safe to say that when ABCD — Any Body Can Dance released earlier this month, not many expected it to do business worth Rs 41 crore in all of two weeks. In fact, it made roughly Rs 20 crore on the opening weekend itself.
The young film stars, who until a few weeks ago were only known for their dancing skills, are now looking forward to promising acting careers. Basking in the success of their debut film, Salman Yusuff Khan, Dharmesh Yelande, Punit Pathak and Lauren Gottlieb reveal what lies ahead.
Did you expect your film to do this well?
Salman: I always knew it would work. The youth wants something new and the film gives them that.
Lauren: For me, coming to India with no knowledge of the culture, language or lifestyle was a big risk. But I have watched the Step Up films and I knew that ABCD was a notch above them. I am still soaking in the moment of my first film. I have done some acting in the US, but this is my first big role and it is a high. During the premiere, I cried a lot.
Dharmesh: I was a bit scared. It’s a movie about dance and people were comparing it to the Step Up movies. But the audience’s response has been heartening. I have been watching it in theatres every night since it came out. Salman, Punit, Lauren and my fans have thronged to the theatres too. Not to forget Remo sir and Prabhudheva sir’s followers too.
Punit: When people forget the actor and connect with the character, you know you have succeeded. When I went to watch the film in the theatres, one old lady shook my hand and said, ‘I cried a lot when your character died (in the film). I am happy to see you alive.’ This film is a baby tep ahead for all of us.
ABCD is a small-budget film, with choreographers in the lead roles. It’s an underdog film about underdogs. Were you nervous?
Punit: We were all very nervous. But in the last few days, we have had to charge our phones multiple times every day because we have been flooded with calls and messages from well-wishers. When Dharmesh and I met, we just hugged each other. It was an emotional reaction to this overwhelming response, which most newcomers don’t get. We all have come from humble backgrounds with dreams of becoming dancing stars and actors. And the film too reflects our personal struggles and lives in a way.
Lauren: I think the best actors are essentially dancers.
Salman: I am a mechanical engineer and come from a conservative Muslim background. When I participated in the dance reality show, my relatives were afraid that I would disgrace our family. But I have got here by God’s grace. I was always sure that ABCD would click. It is my life’s story. Every youngster who doesn’t have a godfather will relate to it.
What kind of reactions have you got from the film industry?
Salman: R Madhavan messaged that he loved the film. I have danced to so many songs from his films, especially Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein ( 2001). It was really sweet of him to tweet about the movie.
Dharmesh: I don’t have such contacts, neither do I use Facebook or Twitter (laughs). For me, the audience is everything and the way it has been received is great. The last film I saw getting this kind of reaction was Vicky Donor (2012). Meiyang Chang, Vivek Agnihotri and Pallavi Joshi saw the film and said it was wonderful.
What does the future hold? Are talks for ABCD 2 on?
Dharmesh: I can’t think of the future, I never thought this was possible in the first place. I never imagined that UTV would produce a film with non-actors like us, and give us a chance to prove ourselves. I am proud to be part of this film. ABCD will be remembered as the first dance movie in India. I do hope I get more films. We have been hearing talks about ABCD 2 as well.
Punit: We will audition for ABCD 2 (laughs). These last few days have been the longest for us. I have got lots of offers to choreograph for TV and films. Earlier we used to struggle for work. Now we are buried with offers. I will be judging a dance show on a Punjabi channel. I also choreographed a song with Remo sir for the film Two States yesterday.
Dharmesh: All of us have been offered a song featured in a Tamil film. I have many dance shows lined up in Dubai, South Africa, Germany, USA and Israel.
Do you see an acting career ahead?
Salman: Right now, I am working on my second film, Freedom, with director Vivek Agnihotri. I am playing the second lead, and will also choreograph. Though I have been a choreographer for two years since Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, Freedom will be my debut as a choreographer in movies.
Lauren: I was in the running for Step Up 3D (2010), which I didn’t get, and later Step Up Revolution (2012) went to a good friend. I am a performer, and felt like doing a dance film so when I didn’t get these, I was dejected. But that night I got a call for ABCD. I knew it was fate, so I didn’t call my manager or anyone else. I just said yes and told my parents the next day that I was going to India.
You guys are dancers first but if you are offered roles that don’t focus on dance, would you accept them?
Punit: We earn a living because of our love for dance, so we will stay true to it. As it is, dancing is an essential part of Bollywood so we’re not too worried. Before ABCD I was going to be a choreographer and later move towards direction. That’s my ultimate dream. Whether I become an actor, choreographer or dancer, I will pursue my dream of becoming a director.
Lauren: I came to be known through So You Think You Can Dance. If dance is incorporated in any of the roles I get, it would be superb. But I would also like to be part of other kinds of cinema, say an action flick.