Born in Dehradun, Raghav Juyal is the new face of talent on Indian Television. Raghav entered the TV industry through his dance crew D-maniax, which garnered fame due to their unique hip-hop interpretations and funky hairdos. His penchant for dancing pushed him to become the amazing dancer and choreographer he is today and he has not stopped since. Raghav made his Bollywood debut with Sonali Cable in 2014. He appeared again in Remo D Souza’s ABCD 2 in 2015 and is currently hosting ‘Dance Plus’ season 2.
What inspired you to take your first step as a dancer?
I’ve been dancing ever since I learnt to move my hands and legs as a toddler. So that was how it started for me.
When did you know that you wanted to pursue dance as a career?
Actually, I never really thought about it like that. I really enjoyed dancing as a kid, so whenever somebody would ask me what I wanted to become when I grew up, I’d always say that I wanted to be a dancer. As a kid, I just wanted to keep dancing and that has not changed even as I’ve grown up to become what I am now. Fortunately for me, things fell into place.
If you weren’t a dancer, what would you be then?
I’d be an actor; I would be doing something in the creative field. Who knows, maybe I’d even enroll myself in the Army or be a sports person! Basically anything, that doesn’t involve studying. (Laughs)
Tell us about your hobbies other than dancing.
I like writing and reading at times. No mystery novels, though!
What book did you last read?
I read the Shiva trilogy. The book was given to me by my grandfather, who was reading it in Hindi. Now I’ll start reading Shantaram.
You’re called the ‘King of Slow Motion’? How ‘DID’ you develop your style of dance?
I was a slow learner in school so I turned my weakness into strength through dance, I guess. I used to tell my friends to punch me so that I could practice falling from its impact in slow motion. I got kicked out of my class quite a number of times because of that. Besides, life in Mumbai is too fast, so I keep it slow with my dance. Keep it unique.
How did life change for you after ‘Dance India Dance 3’?
I’ve settled down in a way, you could say. I’ve not changed as a person. I have the same five friends that I had in school. I still go for camping, trekking and hiking. People’s perception of me has altered drastically, though. They’ve begun to recognize me. Other than that, after ‘DID’, my parents started believing in me and the fact that I can take care of myself.
You were professionally untrained before entering ‘DID’. How hard was it for you to pick up routines in the competitions as compared to others who were trained?
I’ll tell you something… When the apple fell on Newton while he was sitting under a tree, he just knew that it fell because of gravity. He didn’t have to go to the IITs to formulate his theory. Sometimes in life, one just has to follow his intuition.
Everything doesn’t need to be technical all the time. Even Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge. If a mudra is in a certain way, I can use my imagination and interpret it in my own manner. That’s how styles are developed. So, every time I would watch an e-video, I would observe other dancers but at the same time, work on developing my own style. Style cannot be taught, because it is something that goes through your body to your brain.
When you train, the technicalities are fed into your brain which are then, translated into movements by your body. There’s a difference between the two. When you’re training professionally, they teach you the technicalities first. But some things are from the heart, to the body. That for me, is dance.
Besides, I didn’t get the opportunity to train professionally in Dehradun. I would watch the leaves drifting in the wind and make a step out of it, draw inspiration out of a chameleon’s movements. I’ve danced more out in the nature, amongst the trees and on the hills than I have inside studios.
You were a freestyle dancer when you entered ‘DID’. What all dance styles have you learnt since?
Not even one. I still follow my heart. I can’t follow choreography or counts. I respond only to music. Before ‘DID’, I was reminded of this repeatedly, that if I didn’t learn to dance on counts, I would not make it in the industry. But I prove a lot of people wrong. I think.
You’ve captained a kid’s team in ‘DID: Dance ke superkids’. How is the experience of working with kids different from that of working with your peers?
Working with kids is fun! My team in ‘DID’ comprised of a bunch of super energetic children, so sometimes it got a little hard to manage them. If they wanted to play with sand for an hour, I couldn’t say no to them because that is their age to explore.
But hard as it was to train them, I learnt a lot from them. Adults have many invaluable lessons to learn from kids. I feel that as we begin to grow older, we forget about the important things in life like trusting our intuition, letting our hair down once in a while and enjoying ourselves. That is what I keep in mind every time I dance. I spent a lot of time with my student Rohan when I was teaching him my style and I feel that he is one of the best dancers I’ve ever trained.
How was the experience of training moms in ‘DID super moms’?
Teaching moms was strenuous. They were more concerned about pleats of their sarees than the dance routines. I had a good deal of trouble while teaching them.
Tell us about your upcoming movie/ dance ventures?
You’ll see me next in ABCD 3.
Are you playing a different character in the movie or is it an extension of the character you’ve played in ABCD 2?
No, it is not an extension. My character and the story, both are different.
How did you get picked for Sonali Cable?
That’s an interesting story. I got a call from Ramesh Sippy’s office one day asking me to come and audition for a role in the movie. I was completely taken aback because the call was so unexpected! In fact, I remember telling the person on the phone, “I’m Raghav. I dance. You’ve got the wrong person.” But I went for the audition regardless, and got selected. That was when I saw a movie script for the first time in my life. Working under Ramesh Sippy, I’ve learnt many things which I’ve carry forward with me till date. He and his team trained me in the nuances of acting.
What kind of movie would you like to work in (except the ones that have dance as a genre)?
I have a movie coming up which is a romantic comedy. No dance in it at all, so the audiences will get to see me in a new avatar!
According to you, what dance style is most popular in the industry now?
Bollywood, always. Ganesh Acharya is my favourite. I absolutely love his style, his way of dancing. He can take a chai wala’s step and make it a Bollywood hit. He has that creativity.
What is your relationship with Shakti Mohan?
We are very good friends who tease and irritate each other continuously.
What are your favourite food dishes?
Rajma Chawal and Gobhi ka parantha, made by my mum, of course.
What is your take on fitness?
I am from Uttarkhand where people have a lifestyle that reinforces fitness. People buy cycles to exercise and go for rallies and tours.
For me, cycling was part of my daily routine back at home. In fact, I go for meetings on a bicycle. Whenever I get time, I still go for treks and hiking with my friends. One cannot do it in the city, hence the need for gyms. One should always engage in some form of physical activity.
What is your message to all the dancers out there?
Just keep dancing. Don’t give up. Don’t do it for fame. Always remember, Fame is a devil, Art is an angel. Fame will come and go, but your art, your form of expression stays with you forever. Nobody can strip you of your talent. Work hard and keep trying even if you don’t succeed in the first few opportunities. Stay happy. Staying happy is crucial for dancing well.