Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi – choreographer Dinesh Master’s body of work spans across industries. He has worked with top southern actors Ajith, Vijay and Suriya and more recently, with Bollywood stars Varun Dhawan and Anushka Sharma. Seven years after he won the National Film Award for Best Choreography for the Dhanush-starrer Aadakulam, he turned to acting, playing a conservancy staffer in Oru Kuppai Kadhai. Now, Master is choreographing Sivakarthikeyan in Seema Raja and Chiyaan Vikram in Saamy 2. He is also working on Thadam with Arun Vijay and Jagajaalakilladi with Vishnu Vishal.
He describes the process of choreographing a film as a “collaborative” one. “We work in collaboration with the director and art director. To structure a dance, we must first understand its lyrics and the situation in which it will be performed. I have to know whether the song introduces the hero, if it is sentimental, whether it is a dream sequence or a real-life song or a romantic one. I also need to know if the shoot will take place indoors or on location – a mountain or meadow. The surroundings shape the outcome of a song. It is important to know the terrain to avoid mishaps and to use props like rocks or benches to our advantage. I also discuss prop details with the art director. My team comprises three assistants and 40 dancers, who also assist with crowd control. My work involves following what the director wants and adapting to the star’s body language and intrinsic style to bring to life a product the audiences will enjoy watching.” He spoke to us about choreographing five major southern stars.
He is easily among the best dancers we have. He enjoys dancing and that shows onscreen. He aces whatever steps you give him with the utmost ease, so the challenge lies in devising something novel each time. He improvises on the sets and even betters the moves. His grasping power is immense. When we are canning dance scenes, he doesn’t go to his caravan – he watches what I’m doing, even when I am rehearsing with my assistants or with the other dancers. He will then do the steps without any rehearsals. He is not only an expert dancer but has charming expressions, which fans look forward to.
People think that he is serious, but he isn’t. He is reserved initially, but once he warms up to you, he is the most fun person to work with. I have worked with him in umpteen films like Shahjahan, Tamizhan, Youth, Sivakasi, Kaavalkaaran, Thuppakki and more. Some of my favourites are Pokkiri, (the Maampazham and Vasantha Mullai songs) and Bairavaa. He is a gem of a person. I have known him since I was Raju Sundaram’s assistant. When he heard about my role in Oru Kuppai Kathai, he called and wished me luck for my acting debut. That was a warm gesture from a big star like him.
He is not only a wonderful person, but also a thorough professional. We have worked together in several films and some of my favourites are Ji, Aarambam (the Holi song) and Veeram. As choreographers, we have to adapt the steps to each star’s body language, and Ajith has his own style. He never says ‘no’. He will do the steps no matter how tough the shooting conditions are. I remember shooting the Kannum Kannum song for Veeram with him in Switzerland. He had to dance in the snow, which is tough as your feet keep sinking into it. He has been injured badly and even undergone several surgeries, but he will never let his pain show or reflect in his work. His professionalism is admirable.
I have been watching his films since he debuted with Nerukku Ner, on which I was the assistant choreographer. At the time, he found dancing tough, but look at him now! He has worked hard and transformed himself completely. He now enjoys dancing. The last song I worked with him on was the superhit Sodakku in Thaana Serndhu Kootam.
After I stared working independently, I choreographed his moves in Shree and later in films like Ayan, where I did the hero introduction song. He has improved his dancing by leaps and bounds, through sheer hard work and determination. He immerses himself into any activity he takes up and once he decided to focus on his dancing, there was no stopping him.
He is extremely disciplined. He likes to observe and practice his steps before the shot and even participates in rehearsals. He doesn’t make a fuss on the set and you never know when he arrives and when he leaves. He likes to discuss the steps with me and pushes himself to give his best.
We have worked together in several Telugu movies like Bharat Ane Nenu, Srimanthudu, Dookudu and Businessman. He loves and enjoys dancing. He is a fun person and time flies when he is on set. He is light-hearted and always cracking jokes. There is never a dull moment when he is around. He is friendly even outside of work and invited me to his home twice, both times to celebrate his birthday.
His cute expressions add a unique touch to any song. He adds a different dimension to the little stories we weave into the dances. He doesn’t mind rehearsing before the shot. That was quite touching. Among my favourite films with him is Dookadu.
I have choreographed him in films like Yamadonga, Dum and Ramaiyya Vastavaiya. He is an amazing dancer with a superb grasping power. He can pick up a new step in a jiffy, no matter how tough it is. Many times, the background dancers may miss a step or falter, but Jr NTR will never make a mistake. You can be sure that if we need to retake a shot, it will be because of the background dancers and not him.
He is a stylish dancer who enjoys his performances. He moves with lightning speed and is light on his feet. The Jabili Nuvve folk melody in Ramaiya Vastavaiya was the first time I tried a slower number with him. Slow or fast, he adapts to anything with ease.