They’ve been rehearsing for 12 hours a day for the grand finale that goes on air, ‘live’, tonight on Zee TV. Each contestant has individual performances as well as group acts. The pressure is high and, so are the expectations. Here are Puneet, Dharmesh, Binny and Shakti, speaking their hearts and minds out on the verge of becoming dancing stars:
Binny: Not at all. We’re totally relaxed right now.
Puneet: She’s right because haathi to guzar gaya, ab poonch baaki hai (the toughest part is over). We’ve spent four to five months dancing, rehearsing and competing against each other. Today we know we’re four of India’s finest dancers.
Dharmesh: My parents are very excited about me making it to the finals. Last season, they told me that I should participate in this show just to make them happy.
Shakti: I’m extremely chilled out, so are my parents. They’re really looking forward to the show.
You all don’t sound like you’re competing with each other?
Puneet: We won’t pull each other’s hair in public right? (Everyone laughs)
Binny: There is competition, but we’re not trying to kill each other over it. We’re friends and competitors at the same time. So, the spirit of competition is healthy.
Dharmesh: If you notice, it also looks like a battle of sexes. We have two girls and two boys. (Laughs) Jokes apart, it’s fun to compete with your friends.
Shakti: We know we’re good dancers. At the same time, we all know one of us will take the Sunehri Taqdeer Ki Topi (the final award), but that won’t change our equation.
Dharmesh: Whatever may be the result of this competition, the top 18 of us are going for a holiday together. I’m looking forward to that.
Puneet: I get along really well with Dharmesh because he is a Maharashtrian from Gujarat and I’m a Gujarati from Maharashtra.
Shakti: And we girls don’t fight.
Terence Lewis has trained Puneet and Shakti in his academy. Puneet has even taken classes there. Doesn’t that complicate things?
Binny: It doesn’t because the mentors have never let it be that way. They have always given us the same treatment.
Puneet: I’ve graduated in dance from Terrence sir’s academy. But on this show, I was in Remo (D’Souza) sir’s team. No one seemed to have a problem with that.
Shakti: I am in Terrence sir’s team. There is as much pressure on me to perform, as there is on my colleagues. He yells at me the way he would yell at another contestant. He pats my back like he would pat any other good performer’s.
Dharmesh: We’ve never been affected by the fact that Puneet and Shakti came from Terrence sir’s dance academy.
What do you think of the mentors?
Puneet: I’ve had a blast at Remo’s house. I’ve eaten great chicken at his place. We’ve gone for movies. I was given an impression that he’s a scary guy because he has a bad temper but he’s exactly the opposite. He would only scream when assignments were not delivered. I think they call him Gabbar for no reason. He’s a sweetheart.
Binny: Geeta ma is a maa in every sense of the word. I didn’t know how to perform the aerial acts. She was so careful about the steps she would give me. She was more scared than I was during those acts. If I ever hurt myself or if I wasn’t well, she would ensure that I was looked after.
Shakti: Terrence sir is a sweetheart, but he put me in an embarrassing situation once. He put me with another teammate, Kunwar Ajay, for a romantic dance. We didn’t even know each other. He sent us out for dates and even locked us in a room together. We got the act right and eventually; he made me realise that I could pull of acting while I dance.
Dharmesh: Geeta ma has always treated me like her son. She was extremely loving and caring. She would take us out for lunch and dinner. She would always look after our health, which she believes, is of prime importance for any performer.
Dance, till a few years ago, wasn’t considered a viable option as a profession. Has that changed now?
Puneet: My father is a hardcore Gujarati businessman. He couldn’t believe me when I told him that I wanted to be a professional choreographer. It took some time, but he eventually acknowledged my decision.
Binny: I’m an untrained dancer. Last year, I auditioned and didn’t make it to the top 100. My parents, especially my dad, encouraged me to audition for the show once again. He and mamma are my greatest support systems. They call us all the time to find out how are we doing.
Shakti: My parents haven’t seen me at home for a few months, even though I have been in the city all along. My father keeps asking me about what song and style of dance I’m doing each week.
Dharmesh: My parents stay up till 3 am just to talk to me for two minutes after I finish my rehearsals. I have a dance class and that wouldn’t have happened unless my parents were not supportive.
Salman Khan, who won the contest last year, hasn’t been seen around much.
Puneet: That’s okay. That was last year.
Shakti: It need not be the case this year. I’m sure we’ll all be seen and heard doing a lot.
Dharmesh: It doesn’t matter what happened to the winner last year. I’m sure he’s doing fine and will surface soon.
Binny: I’m just looking forward to the finale.
What’s plan B if you don’t win?
Puneet: No plan immediately. But I will become a choreographer and eventually, a filmmaker.
Binny: I’ve been told to take acting lessons seriously, but I don’t really know what will I do.
Shakti: This way or the other, I will be abroad learning contemporary dance forms.
Dharmesh: I’ll continue to teach my classes.
Dharmesh ‘Sir’ says...
Dharmesh, five-six of your students had made it to the top 100 like you. What if they made it and you didn’t?
I would have been happier if they made it. It’s the most exciting moment for a teacher to see his students soar. I prepared them for the audition this year. I will make them audition once again next year. One of them made it to the top 100 with me. I was really happy about that.
Binny is ‘untrained’...
Binny, you’re the only contestant who has had no formal dance training before entering the show. Wasn’t the process harder for you?
I was never worried about that. I was like a clean slate when I entered the show. Today, I know so many different dance forms. My co-contestants helped me to get the finessing right.
Puneet looks like ...
Puneet, you resemble choreographer Terrence Lewis a lot. Is that because you trained with him?
That’s something everyone makes fun of on the sets. Once, I walked into the academy and everyone thought Terrence sir had come in. Everyone stood up and wished me saying, “Good evening.” It’s a strange coincidence.
Shakti’s sisters act...
Shakti, your sisters are also into reality shows. What do your parents have to say about that?
We’re all talking different art forms. Our parents are used to us not being home because we’re always out for our rehearsals and shows. We’re busy and happy girls.