Guwahati, 21 February-2014, Luit Chaliha: Bibhul Sinha from Maniur performing Manipuri dance on 6th Pragjyoti International…
He’s written some of the biggest dance flicks of our times — Save The Last Dance series,the Step Up franchise and Make Your Move. Recently, he was in India, directing Heartbeats, a Hollywood-meet-Bollywood dance musical. Duane Adler was in Mumbai, a city he finds “overwhelming, intoxicating and inspiring at the same time”, to work on the sets of the film, which is to hit screens early next year. “I wanted to take the American audience on a journey to a place we don’t often see,” says Adler.
After the release of Slumdog Millionaire, Adler wondered why India was raising concerns about the film which he thought was beautiful. Thus, he started his research. Two years ago, he came here first, with no script and only a fledgling idea. He realised then that the country would lend itself to a very cinematic experience. “As westerners, we have a complex view of India. There’s the incredibly romanticised version of it being a spiritual mecca, and yet there are also conflicting stories of gruelling poverty and extreme riches. It’s only when you get here that you realise that the country is compelling and beautiful.”
Ninety per cent of the story is set in India. And, even though the film is to open with a scene in Los Angeles, it has been staged and shot here. Was the process of working here different? “The process is similar. I took it up with a lot of curiosity. I didn’t know the place, or the working atmosphere and ethics here. But it is the warmth I have received that I have reflected, and that has gone a long way.” While he says an actor is an actor, even though the styles of acting vary from culture to culture, he finds the dancers decidedly different.
“In this story, the relationship I have with my surroundings is reflective of the one the American girl (Krystal Ellsworth) has with the Indian boy (Amitash Pradhan, known for his role in Velaiyilla Pattathari), because we are both learning a different language and culture.” This, however, is not Adler’s first dance movie where he has looked past cultural and racial boundaries. While Save The Last Dance explored the love story between a white ballet dancer and an African-American, Make Your Move featured Korean artiste BoA and American ballroom dancer Derek Hough. “Human stories interest me; as the world shrinks and we all become aware of each other, it makes sense to make movies which are multi-racial and international,” says Adler.
Even though he’s making a Hollywood film, he says he’s paying homage with elements borrowed from Bollywood. “In a Bollywood film, the narrative pauses for the music; that’s not what we are doing though. The characters are saying something through song and dance, because they’ve reached a point where that’s the only way they can express themselves.”
From a Hollywood perspective, Adler says he’s become a victim of his own success, because even though he’s done other projects he’s passionate about, it is for his screenwriting and direction of dance flicks that he is famous for. So does he dance himself? “Very badly,” he laughs, “I grew up watching music videos. I just didn’t know then the impact it would have on me later.”