Gargi’s experience with Chroreographer (Slumdog Millionaire) Longinus Fernandez Captured by Rasshmi Kansupada
I caught up with our Toppick team member Gargi Duggal, and talked to her about her journey into winning the Texas Runner-up Indian Icon trophy for International Indian Icon (3iii) Season II and especially her interaction with Longinus Fernandez, choreographer for the Oscar winning film Slumdog Millionaire renowned judge for the Semi final and Finals dance category.
RASSHMI: How was it attending the workshop with Longinus Fernandez, did you find a difference between the other workshop you have attended in the past?
GARGI: Mentorship and workshop with such a legendary choreographer who received his fame through Oscar winning movie Slumdog Millionaire was a privilege by itself. He has deep knowledge in modern hip hop dance, locking and popping and Indian classical dance styles as well. The dance he choreographed during the workshop is the one he has on his website www.longinusworld.com. Within a 2 hour workshop he completed the whole choreography. The biggest difference with his mentorship versus others I have attended in the past is that he literally worked with all of us 1:1 to furnish out steps and poses.
RASSHMI: What are the tips that Longinus Fernandez gave you that you will always cherish?
GARGI: The best tip ever I received was that a dancer can best present themselves if they dance like no one is watching them, full heartedly and with full expressions.
RASSHMI: Was Longinus Fernandez very forthcoming as a choreographer, a teacher or was he restricted?
GARGI: He was not restricted at all but more of a perfectionist. He wanted us to learn each step in the right manner and in the right way. If the step demanded having hands above the waistline and if we were not doing it right after showing us 3-4 times, he would get that out of us with no further directions. All dancers who had made it to the semi-finals did not need more guidance. Quick learning was expected from him, which was quite valid coming from a legend.
RASSHMI: How was your overall experience in interacting with a choreographer of international fame, did you have informal chat with him and got to know the real person he is?
GARGI: All the participants, judges and the 3iii team were in the same resort spending formal-informal time together for 5 days production sponsored by Zee TV. Hence I not only got a chance to interact with him formally during the competition when I performed but also interacted informally where I got to know his career journey and his personal side of life. Legends are not born, they are selfmade, the dedication, diligence and perseverance lead them to the path of success. The legendary choreographer made his fame with Oscar winning film Slumdog Millionaire and has never looked back, currently working on his childhood dream project and other films. The US audience relate a movie with silver screen stars but there are people like Longi Sir who make the song hit with signature dance steps and behind the scene preparations. These names do not fade but are written in history of film industry… be it Bollywood or Hollywood
Following is the excerpt from the tete a tete that Gargi had with Longinus Fernandez
GARGI: How did you decide to become a choreographer? was it something you always wanted to do or is it something that happened suddenly?
LONGI SIR: It all happened accidentally, I wanted to pursue engineering since I had done my draughtsmanship but was unable to do so as my father could not afford the fees. The least I could do was complete my graduation to ensure that my parents be happy.To my good luck I got noticed in a talent contest in college & was chosen for a dance show. I managed to entertain the audience with my showmanship. From there on the journey began. I just followed my heart & did whatever i could to the best of my ability. I began as a dancer ended up as a dance champion winner in India for three consecutive years in 1989 , 1990, 1991...After that I got the opportunity to work alongside with Javed Jafri & mind you I did that only for the joy of dancing & travelling all around the world. It was he who recommended me to various profound personalities to choreograph their esteemed shows & music videos like Adnan Sami, Jassi, Mikka Singh, Daler Mehendi, Gurdas Maan, Baba Saigal, Shweta Shetty etc. From stage & music videos I managed to move one notch higher by being associated with Farah Khan who has been very instrumental in shaping my career in the world of films (bollywood).She gave me my first break in the film industry...From there on I decided this is what I want to do for the rest of my life...
GARGI: Was there any person that had a great impact on your decision to become a choreographer?
LONGI SIR: I personally feel that I am blessed to be surrounded with good people who are always encouraging. To start off with, my parents for sure have been very supportive. Farah Khan has played the role of a mentor to me. She has influenced me without coercion or force. She has also driven me to achieve my goal for which I will always be thankful to her. Now when I look back I feel glad that I took the right decision at the right time to forge ahead as a choreographer .
GARGI: How hard is to find a way to express yourself according to what you have on your mind?
LONGI SIR: It is never ever difficult to express yourself. What in your mind should come through your heart , thats when the message is sent loud & clear. One has to remember that actions speak louder than words. If you can manage to emote through your actions & connect with the audience then you are certainly expressive by all means. All you need to do basically is shed your inhibitions & let it all out ...
GARGI: What kind of body is able to dance? Do you believe that the type of body can be one obstacle for someone who wants to dance?
LONGI SIR: On the personal front... Anybody & Everybody Can Dance ...which means Any Body & Every Body. You should never dance to impress, In fact you should dance to express and to do that you dont need a great body. Everyone needs to remember the good old saying " Dance Like Nobodys Watching " If this is followed to the tee, then there Is No Stopping Any Body From Dancing...
GARGI: Which is your work which you are extremely proud of?
LONGI SIR: I am always proud of whatever work i do because no work is small. What is extremely close to my heart are the songs from the movie "Dil Vil Pyaar Vyaar" It had 14 songs & I choreographed all of them. What made it all the more special was that it had all R D Burman Songs which I grew up listening to. It was a dream come true conceptualizing & picturing those iconic songs which I cherish.
GARGI: Your experience with Slum Dog Millionaire movie as a whole, how did you get this break?
LONGI SIR: The turning point of my life not only as a choreographer but also as a human being was when one evening I got a call from the producers office saying that Danny Boyle wants to meet me. I met him while he was having breakfast, and all he said was that Longinus you seem to be a punctual person therefore I will not waste our time. Those words swept me off my feet coming from a man of that stature. He just saw a glimpse of my work & said very good. I was enthralled from within when he said, we are working together. We kept meeting for weeks & in the bargain he took me through the full film & told me to be prepared to do all the songs.He kept guiding me & at the same time gave me the liberty to do whatever i wanted keeping the characters in mind. At the wrap up party he said, that I had not only done a good job but also did justice with all the songs be it Ringa Ringa , O Saya & of course Jai Ho ... The film released to an astounding response all over the world . It premiered in India for which I was invited. My heart sank when my name was not mentioned in the credits. At the after party, I congratulated Danny Boyle who greeted me with a warm hug. I did not feel like being around so I left.The next day I got a call saying Danny Boyle was inquiring about me & thats when I voiced my concern about being left out from the credits...The next day I was told that my message has been passed on to Danny Boyle & he would make up for it ....In a couple of weeks, it was raining awards, be it the Golden Globe or the Oscars ... That was a night to remember 22nd Feb 2009 ... Danny Boyle made up in abundance ... Suddenly out of nowhere I was everywhere,I messaged him & he replied back promptly...He is not only an illustrious film maker but also an illustrious human being as well ... All I can say is that Danny Boyle is Class Personified for having made an ordinary person like me extra ordinary...months later I received the prestigious Fred Astaire Award for best film choreography in 2009 & mind you it gives me immense pleasure & pride to say that I am the first Indian to receive this honor ... His office had put me on to an agent in America (Xcel Talent Agency) & through them I managed to do various international projects such as So You Think You Can Dance Canada for 3 years in succession , Orange Bowl Games (Twice), Eat Pray Love , Will To Live & 2nd Best Marigold Exotic Resort...Will Always Be Grateful To Danny Boyle...
GARGI: What are your future projects?
LONGI SIR: As of now I am working on my childhood dream A Bollywood Musical "Chota Bheem "(Theatrical) & a couple of bollywood films such "Kolahpur Diary", "Ishq Fittur" & "Bombariya".
Our take home message, in the words of Longi Sir, as he is fondly called by his students the world over “One needs to shed Sweat, Blood & Sacrifice to make it big. You got to work extremely hard to be where you want to be. For that all you need to do is believe in yourself with a lot of Courage, Conviction & Confidence!!”
Congratulations Gargi from Toppick Team for your achievement in 3iii 2018 (Season 1) as 1st Runner up Dancing of International Indian Icon
A page dedicated to ordinary people of our community… yes ordinary, but with that Xtra ordinary talent, achievement and that inspiring Xfactor!!
As a woman, do you wear a lot of hats? Sometimes these hats are stacked so high that trying to balance them all on our competent-but-anxious-and-exhausted heads sends us toppling over completely!
Let’s meet Kanan Shah, from Coppell TX, who dons many hats and yet maintains such an amiable disposition. She is a teacher and runs her own customized tutoring academy called Ottimmo, is a true Mumbaikar at heart who loves to host great parties, make new friends, always ready to help others. ….and if that is not all she is a passionate cook and also runs a catering business!!
She spent her formative years in a joint family in Mumbai which inculcated the habit of sharing and caring right from childhood. It made her understand that living with aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents did not restrict her education to academics and school only but it had a much wider horizon. She considers these years as her best as they were full of growing up fun with friends, most of whom she has still maintained contacts with, inspite of the distances.
She had her stint with Corporate America and worked with Deutsche Bank and Chase in New Jersey and then moved to Dallas in 2003, due to her job at Lockheed Martin. When her son, Kavi Shah started high school in Coppell, he expressed his desire to join KD classes for SAT preparation. Since Kanan had earlier worked in Kumon and had evaluated the different coaching classes, she decided to hire private tutors under her own company and have her son tutored at home. Thus was born Ottimmo, meaning “Excellence” in Italian, reinstating the proverb that Necessity is the Mother of Invention!!
Kavi Shah scored a perfect 2400 on his SAT, completed his graduation with 3 majors and 2 degrees from UT Austin and is currently working with McKinsey, the #1 consulting company in the world with global acceptance rate of 1%-lower than admission rate of Harvard!!
Kanan did not want Ottimmo to be a run-of-the mill academy. She focuses on strategy based learning, has been an advocate for her students, and customizes tutoring as per their needs. She not only teaches the child but also educates the parent and has also taken some to task for imposing their dreams on their child. She firmly believes that each child is different and their uniqueness is what sets them apart. Children learn in different ways depending on their developmental stages. They love to learn new things by exploring and discovering.
Her observation of kids brings a sad truth to light. Some parents are unaware of the needs of their child. Some knowingly ignore their child’s needs, due to social stigma, perceptions, culture etc. Some are unaware of the amazing education system of this country. This is the tragedy of a mega proportion. It is really unfortunate that, with the unhealthy life style and diet, unlimited social media exposure, stress etc. there are more children with special/extra needs than ever before.
On several occasions, Kanan has accompanied parents to school and talked to the authorities about the child’s needs, either special needs or the extra care and attention that is required in certain areas. She does the same when tutoring her children. She also understands the importance of self-initiative, down time and developing skills inherently rather than just memorizing. This has worked wonders for so many of her students. They have gone from failing students to star students, skipping grades and being admitted in the Gifted and Talented programs.
Where others see impenetrable barriers, Kanan sees challenges to embrace and obstacles to overcome. She has always taken the hurdles along her journey as opportunities to grow. Teaching the kids for long hours not only brings her joy but she also derives her energy from them. She has a child-like inquisitiveness and is ever willing to learning new skills and avail new opportunities. She plans to take her passion to cook to another level and diversify into health food catering. Her mantra is “Don’t depend on others to write your destiny. We have to create our own destiny”. The pen that writes your life story must be held in your own hand. She has a very inspiring message to share with us and that is not to underestimate the power of our own strength and to focus on what we can do to help others. Gaining success for yourself, celebrating the achievement in others and feeling and giving empowerment through every little action is going to make you happier, others happier. Everyone is thus more likely to push a little bit harder, or have that little bit more confidence in themselves, the next time!!
A page dedicated to ordinary people of our community… yes ordinary, but with that Xtra ordinary talent, achievement and that inspiring Xfactor!!
Throughout the history of modern music, the world has seen a plethora of child stars – but some really stick out for their brilliance in either vocal talent, or stage talent.
I had the privilege of talking to this treasure house of talent Jahnvi Sangha, who merely at 19 years of age is making her own way to prove the world that she can cast a spell through her voice. She recently moved to the US and is currently residing in Irving, TX. It is said that music runs in the veins of certain lucky individuals. That seems to be the case with Jhanvi as well. She made her singing debut when she was 2.5 years of age by rendering a song from the musical movie “Teesri Manzil” alongside with her father, Shashi Sangha a fine singer himself. An age at which toddlers are only babbling, she sowed the seeds of a budding career.
According to her mother Nisha Sangha, Jhanvi is a quick learner. At 5 years of age she sang the extremely difficult and captivating Kailash Kher’s “Teri Deewani” and represented her school at a competition. She is a genetically blessed singer with both her maternal grandparents being great musicians. Her Nani (maternal gradmother) Smt. Ranjana Bhatti was a renowned Punjabi singer and her Nana (maternal grandfather) Shri. Mevi Bhatti was an extremely talented accordion and keyboard player of his times.
Her parents always thought that she had taken to singing as a hobby. It was only her Nana who sensed her potential and insisted that if her talent is honed correctly and guided in the right direction, then she had the capability to soar to unimaginable heights. He believed that she should receive training in classical music as he strongly felt that the importance of learning classical music is to understand the language of music. Each note or “sur” has its own emotion. Once you understand that language of emotion then you can present any emotion to its fullest form. Without learning classical music, you will be able to sing the song but without the deep understanding of that language. This will not help you to be a confident musician.
Jhanvi began her training in classical music under the reputed Shri Dharmendra Kathakji from the Jaipur Gharana from the time she was 9 years of age. Her Guruji encouraged her to participate in the Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan whilst she was pursuing her training. This Sammelan is the oldest festival of Indian Classical Music in the world. All prominent artists of Hindustani Classical Music from India and Pakistan have come and performed at the Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan at one time or the other during the last 130 years. This was Jhanvi’s first time participating in a Classical Music competition and she not only excelled in it but it also was a great learning and enriching experience for her.
This was the official start of her singing career. She then bagged the first prize in the Nation Classical Music Kurukshetra India and made not only her folks proud but also became known in her hometown. In 2011, for the first time she participated in Zee Tv’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L’il Champs show and fulfilled her Nana’s dream of exposing her talent on an International platform.
It was as if there was no looking back. She was chosen for Sony TV’s popular reality show “Indian Idol Junior” in 2013 and made it to the top 24 list. Her performances at PTC Punjabi’s “Voice of Punjab Chotta Champ garnered her a lot of appreciation. She was the winner of Big FM 9.27’s show Benadryl BIG Golden Voice. Her most recent achievement was participation in the program Voice of India in 2016 and had the good fortune of being mentored by the wonderfui singer Neeti Mohan.
She loves to listen to different genres of music right from Punjabi folk to Western melodies. She has received immense support from stalwarts of music like Ustad Puran Shah Koti, Late Shri Saber Kotiji, Master Saleem, Lakhwinder Wadaliji and Hans Raj Hans. She would be releasing her album very soon and we would be able to hear her voice in a Punjabi animated film based on the life of Shri Banda Bahadurji.
Jhanvi Sangha, truly represents that fortune doesn’t matter when you are filled with talent because you don’t need to wait for an opportunity to showcase your skills. She is definitely here to stay!!
SHAMA RAJANI, the hidden face behind the brand India Bazaar.
A page dedicated to ordinary people of
our community… yes ordinary, but with that
Xtra ordinary talent, achievement and that
My first interview in these series is with a
woman who true to her Company's tag line
gives us India here in the US, like nobody
does. A woman who started at the grass
root level as a cashier and in less than a
decade has risen to become the Franchise
and Marketing Director of her Company.
SHAMA RAJANI, the hidden face behind the
brand India Bazaar. Ms. Rajani is originally
from Hyderabad in Southern India and
moved to the United States nearly eight
years ago. She currently resides in Plano, TX
with her loving husband who according to
her is no less than a child .
She holds 2 Bachelor degrees from India,
one in Commerce and the other in
Education. Her thirst for knowledge led her
to obtain her Masters in Education from
SMU, Dallas TX whilst pursuing her full time
job. Her family also consists of her father
whom she considers her guiding force and
her two siblings. Quite contrary to the
saying that behind every successful man
there is a woman, she proudly proclaims
that her father is her support pillar.
According to her, it doesn't matter what jobyou're doing, having someone believe in
you can make all the difference between
success and failure. Her hobbies include
reading and travelling along with
exploring new avenues.
Because she has been with the Company
from the time they were two stores old, and
served from the front desk all the way to the
executive table, she is able to relate with
her employees, no matter what their
position. Getting to where she is today
wasn't an easy feat, but Shama, proved
with hard work and dedication that no goal
is out of reach as long as you're willing to
work towards it consistently. As she has
grown with the organization, or better still in
her words, as the organization grown with
her, she has transitioned from building a
performance brand to building a
performance culture. She inspires and
motivates others to be the best they can
be. One of the biggest traits that has gotten
her to where she is today is having the kind
of passion and drive that is contagious with
other employees and helps them see the
business as their own. She is proud of her
journey that started off more than six years
ago and has now grown into displaying
multi-folds of her leadership capabilities
including but not limited to opening
different locations of India Bazaar and
marketing for overall brand existence of
Rajula's Kitchen, Grain Market etc.
Together with the owners, Shama, has the
experience from opening a location, all
the way to managing all aspects of it. She
was awarded the Employee of the Year in
2014 and Executive of the Year award in
She thinks of herself as a Go-Getter, a
person who doesn't believe in giving up.
She believes in making impossible possible
for its worth. She tries to achieve excellence
in everything she does, as life is a survival of
fittest and she means to be fit for a long
time! To quote her, "In a male dominated
society, women have a really stronger role
to play and I leverage on my strength that
no one can be ‘ME’. Shama Rajani is a true
example that there's opportunity
everywhere-even at the bottom of the totem pole & recognizing those opportunities and not being afraid to work
hard and take on unfamiliar duties can
lead to amazing things!!