Yamini Walia speaks to Longinus Fernandes, choreographer of the Oscar-winning film, Slumdog Millionaire, about his experience choreographing a Chinese film and his future projects
How did you decide to become a choreographer?
My family has played a very important role in my success; if I had been doing anything else, I don’t think I would have flourished to this extent. Initially, they weren’t too supportive, but once they saw that there was nothing else that I can do, they supported me through everything.
Out of all your achievements, which one do you cherish most and why?
The Fred Astaire Award that I received in 2009 for Slumdog Millionaire that I received in 2009 will always remain very special to me, as I am the first Indian choreographer from Bollywood to receive this prestigious award.
You are the first choreographer to be part of an Oscar-winning film in India. Can you describe the winning moment for us?
I was more than honoured to hear my name mentioned by the director of the film on stage. Whatever he said was praise-worthy and it made a huge difference in my life, as well as the lives of many others. This is an achievement that will remain with me till my last breath. There was no bigger or better accolade that I could have received at that point. All in all, I was simply ecstatic when I heard what Danny Boyle said. He is actually responsible for everything that I do internationally till date.
What do you think is the difference between film making industries in Bollywood and Hollywood?
To me, there is not much of a difference, but somehow I feel as though they are more professional than us in several aspects. Where filmmaking is concerned, they are far ahead by all means, but where filmmakers are concerned, we aren’t too far behind, as Bollywood has some wonderful filmmakers. The truth is that in Bollywood, you are known for your latest release and in Hollywood, you are known for your greatest release.
You have also choreographed a Chinese film. Tell us about it.
It was the experience of a lifetime. Putting people together and setting up for a shot was a job in itself. They only understood Chinese, so communicating was initially troublesome. It actually took weeks to get things sorted. I’m grateful to Chandan Arora and Bhushan Pednekar, (creative director/ editor and Indian producer from Dancing Elephants), for organising the translators and helping me make ends meet. After a certain point, one feels connected through music and dance, and that’s exactly what happened.
Tell us about your future projects.
Well, there is a film called Roar, directed by Kamal Sadhana, Hawaizada directed by Vibhu Puri, P SE PM TAK directed by Kundan Shah, My Amazing Trip to India directed by Zhang Jianya from China, Zindagi Ek Pal, directed by Suketu Parekh and Second Best Marigold Resort starring Richard Gere, Dev Patel, Tamesne Graige, Judy Dench and Bill Nightly.