Pakistani weddings without the Mehndi lack flavour. Over the years, Mehndis have become full on productions with a majestic art decor and specialised dance performances. No Mehndi is whole without vigorous competitions between the brides’ and grooms’ families. To take the festivity up a notch, a new trend has emerged in recent years — hiring a professional choreographer.
Today, choreographers seem to be as essential as the bridesmaids. Not only do they administer all the rowdy friends and equip them with dance moves but in essence provide an extra outlet for the couple taking the vows. The Express Tribune talks to renowned choreographer Pappu Samrat, who despite being a veteran of the dance industry of Lollywood, has over the course of time cashed into the market of Mehndi choreography.
“When it comes to Mehndis, I sort of started the trend of hiring a choreographer for the event,” says Pappu. “People criticise big weddings but I think they are necessary because it is amazing how much employment they generate. People assume they’re a waste of money and we look at them as a way of earning a livelihood. It is great to revel in people’s glory and happiness because at the end of the day, their happiness is providing food for thousands of families involved in putting the wedding together.”
With so many choreographers in the market today, there is surely a lot of competition but Pappu Samrat has a different point of view. “My competition is not these children; I compete with the Americans and the British. Those will be my competition and no choreographer in Pakistan will ever pose a threat to me.”
His grandfather, Aashiq Husain Samrat, won the title of Samrat which means King Of Dance in India. After migrating to Pakistan, he worked in films, both as an actor and choreographer. “My grandfather was Noor Jahan’s teacher,” he says. “She learnt her mannerisms from him.” His uncle, Sadiq Samrat, trained Pappu. “He was such a stylish man,” he continues. “You saw him and you wanted to be him. From his clothes to his mannerisms, the man had style but then after all, he was a man of showbiz.”
Pappu has choreographed about 565 films. “I introduced the trend of backup dancers to Pakistan. Before that, there was no concept of having backup dancers in shows,” he shares.
“We hail from a different breed of artists,” says Samrat. “Back in the olden days, directors and choreographers were on the same page but now we are not able to satisfy modern audiences. The kind of films being produced has changed since the elite class became involved. People investing in productions have to make movies that generate enough revenue to maintain the cinemas.”
He points out that the time when films were booming in Pakistan, the budgets were fairly low and with the new generation of directors, the budgets have mounted. “There is a slump in the Pakistani film industry because the directors who would make old school films and employed us, do not have the courage to invest in high budget films.”
He had to raise his prices in order to create awareness about his skill and make ends meet. “I believe in living life in style. Life without style is bakwaas [nothing]. In order to maintain my style and my family I’ve had to raise my prices and not do any favours for people.”
Moreover, he argues that cinema owners give Indian films priority over Pakistani films, “Indian films have audiences spread out in over 72 countries while Pakistani films hardly cover two provinces. The fact that we do not have an overseas market is what is killing our industry.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2015.