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
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