“Our lives turned upside down when the municipality demolished Papa’s shop. So he opened up a tea stall–he’d make 50-60 Rs a day; feeding a family of 4 was tough. But Papa always said, ‘Padhai kabhi nahi chodni chahiye’; he saved every penny for our school fees.
But I wanted to become a dancer–I’d sit in front of the TV & imitate Govinda. Our house was too small, so I’d go to the street & dance my heart out.
In the 6th grade, when I came first in a dance competition, Papa enrolled me in dance classes, in spite of our finances.
But my grades dropped. I was 19 when I quit college. I started working as a peon & taught dance to kids–I’d make 1600 Rs a month. After, I’d rush to dance practice.
But as I advanced to the senior batch, I quit my job & took up dance full-time. Around then, I worked as a backup dancer in a film–on set, I knew that’s where I was meant to be.
Soon after, I moved to Bombay & started looking for opportunities in Bollywood. Ma would say, ‘Dance se paise nahi ayenge,’ but to me, dance was like breathing.
So when I found out that 2 contestants from Boogie Woogie had backed out, I agreed to fill in. I bagged first place, won 5 lakhs & paid back Papa’s leftover debts.
Opportunities poured in, but even after trying for 2 years, I failed to bag a lead role. By then I’d exhausted my finances; I moved back home.
A few months later, I auditioned for Dance India Dance & got selected! I didn’t win, but I became popular. After that, I got paid in lakhs for guest appearances on dance shows; I even choreographed stars like Katrina Kaif.
That’s when Remo sir asked me, ‘Meri movie me lead role karega?’ I was on cloud nine!
With my earnings, I bought a house for my family but still, Papa runs the same tea stall. I told him, ‘You don’t have to work anymore.’ But he refuses.
I think I’ve gotten this never-give-up attitude from him. Because even though there were hurdles, I just followed my heart. Deep down, I’m still that boy dancing to the tunes of Govinda, without a care in the world. So was the hustle worth it? Hell, yeah!”