Interview: Nakul Dev Mahajan

Serena Vora , 01 Jun 2011
Nakul Dev Mahajan
Nakul Dev Mahajan

Everywhere you turn, individuals of Indian origin are making their mark across industries worldwide. Nakul Dev Mahajan is one of them. Known as Hollywood’s favorite Bollywood Choreographer, Nakul has made celebrities such as Natalie Portman, David Schwimmer, Chris Kattan, Steve Carrel, Kal Penn and more dance to his Bollywood tunes. Nakul’s choreography credits include: America’s Best Dance Crew, The Office, Superstars of Dance and of course So You Think You Can Dance. He has Bollywood dance schools across Los Angeles and has plans to open more in the near future. As Nakul gears up for the latest season of So You Think You Can Dance he graciously took some time out to talk to us.

How did you decide you wanted to pursue dancing as a profession?
ND: I grew up watching Bollywood films in Los Angeles, it was a way for me to connect to my roots and culture. Watching the song and dance sequences made me feel alive and want to stomp my feet. I started off dancing secretly in my room and one day out of the blue ended up performing on the spur of a moment at a family friend’s function. I was 18 at the time and from that day onwards I would get asked to perform at events and teach others how to dance. I established the first Bollywood dance troupe in the United States in 1990 and haven’t looked back since.

How did So You Think You Can Dance happen?
ND: I had just finished reading The Secret and started following the Law of Attraction. I was never a regular viewer of So You Think You Can Dance and happened to catch it one night; all of a sudden I thought about how amazing it would be if they did a Bollywood round. Seven days later I got a call from the producers to come in for a meeting! After a 30 minute discussion with the producers I walked out with a confirmation to choreograph that season.

Who are your all-time favorite Bollywood dancers & choreographers?
ND: My ultimate favorite choreographer and role model is Saroj Khan. I find her to be extremely inspirational and recently received a message from her saying she loves my work. In terms of dancers, Madhuri Dixit and Sridevi top the list.

What do you think is the best choreographed Bollywood dance of all-time?
ND: I have 2 favorites; both are choreographed by Saroj Khan and feature Madhuri, Choli Ke Peeche from Khal Nayak & Dola Re Dola from Devdas.

Have you ever choreographed a dance for anyone from Bollywood?
ND: No, not yet.

Who would you want to choreograph for?
ND: Madhuri tops my list but I would also love to choreograph for Aishwarya Rai and Rani Mukherji since they have a classical dance background.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
ND: I get my inspiration from other choreographers and dancers who are doing really creative and edgy stuff. Sometimes, my inspiration comes solely from music and my favorite composer AR Rahman.

Have you considered choreographing for Bollywood Movies?
ND: I have, but I’m waiting for the right project to come along. If I have to leave my 350 students in Los Angeles to come to India it has to be for a very good reason.

What are your future plans?
ND: I want to continue opening more dance schools, I currently have 5 and will be opening 2 more in California this year. I’m also choreographing for the latest season of So You Think You Can Dance.

What advice do you have for aspiring dancers?
ND: Be true to yourself, don’t lose respect and don’t think you’re unworthy.

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