Bhubaneswar, June 10 (LocalWire): Harihar Dash has traveled a long way; from taking up a teaching job in colleges so that he can buy a pair of dancing shoes, to being the finalist at India’s got talent in 2012 and bagging the best debutant actor award at ETV Cine Awards, Tarang Cine Awards and Lalchand Entertainment Awards for the movie Mu Premi Mu Pagala.
In an exclusive interview, the electronics and telecommunication engineer turned dancer, director and now an actor, Dash talks with LocalWire correspondent Kamlesh Mohanty about his early life and the roller coaster ride to success.
Q: Tell us something about your early life and the experience of representing a small town in such a huge platform?
HD: I was born in Berhampur and obviously taking it to the world stage gives me a very special feeling.
Back in childhood days, I was quite studious and my love affair with mathematics was well known.
I have cracked both Junior Mathematics Olympiad as well as Regional Olympiad, securing the fourth rank in the state.
I started dancing at the age of 15 after I was introduced to dance videos of the legendary Michael Jackson, but got more serious about only after I joined for electronics and telecommunication engineering course at MITS Rayagada.
At this age, when people usually tend to get attracted to several other activities, I started to practice dance on the roofs of my college hostel.
Q: Do you also have your “bad days” or are you living your dream life?
HD: I won’t call it my bad days but I would rather call it as my learning days.
I would like to divide my journey into pre- and post- India’s Got Talent (IGT) phase.
Pre-IGT days were pretty harsh and challenging.
I had jobs in my hand and yet I choose not taking them because I wanted to pursue my passion and not a profession.
I never had enough money to pursue my dream and I still remember spending several nights with strangers on pavements.
I never got the much-needed support from my parents and had to take up a teaching job in colleges to buy myself my first pair of dancing shoes.
The post-IGT journey, on the other hand, was more of an eye-opener to me.
I started getting shows where the organisers used to ask me to perform on the same tracks and repeat the same performances from IGT because those were famous.
It started getting so monotonous that I started to questions myself whether the profession was so monotonous and dance always this boring.
There was a time when I actually started to ask myself the reason for taking up dance as my career and that is when I started to explore offers of Odia films.
After rejecting five films, I took up the sixth offer as a challenge. My debut movie, Mu Premi Mu Pagala sort of evolved me from a stage choreographer to a camera choreographer.
Q: Tell us about your IGT journey?
HD: It took me nine years to reach IGT. I started dancing in 2001 and reached the podium of India’s Got Talent in 2010.
The whole journey from auditions to the finale was quite challenging since we used to get only five days to think about the costume, track, story and stage management.
In fact, artists on all national reality shows actually get only five days to prepare for the technical stage rehearsals since the shoot has to be done every sixth and the show has to be aired on the seventh day.
The connection between me and Sajid Khan was quite amazing but I was also very scared of him because among all the judges he was the most honest and brutal one. It taught me how to handle pressure and channelise all my talent.
It can be very peculiar but, I was quite relaxed on the finale because I knew, I have made the full use of my opportunity.
I believe that shining is more important than winning.
After IGT, I got an offer from Cirque du Soleil, which is the largest theatrical producer in the world and luckily, I was the first Indian to get an offer from the legendary Canadian Entertainment Company, which runs across 30 countries.
I was also a part of the famous show, “The love Beatles” where we did more than 750 shows in Las Vegas, paying tribute to the legendary band of the ’60s, The Beatles.
Q: Would you like to comment on the prevalent taboos pertaining in either Ollywood Industry or national TV reality shows?
HD: The problem which I feel should be countered in the Industry is that people working here are not educated enough.
By the term “not educated” I mean they are not competent enough to rock their job at hands.
They aren’t spontaneous enough to appreciate changes and there is this lacking openness to creativity, which makes it difficult for an artist to perform outrightly.
According to me, there is no dearth of talent in our industry but the problem is most of these remains unacknowledged.
The TV reality shows just copy contents without evaluating the original ideas because they do not want to risk trying new ideas.
Even if you win a show, you still don’t get exposure which you actually deserve.
Q: What about gender equality? Do female actors get equal opportunities in Odia Industry?
HD: I feel Odisha is still far behind at this front, as far as awareness for equal opportunities and wage is concerned.
Nobody talks about equal rights in the industry at all.
The only change that I see in the industry after all these years of inequality is that all the TV serials are now women-centric with female characters in leading roles.
The female leads also deserve more wage for which, someone has to stand up.
I won’t say that this is the prescribed solution to the issue but yes, standing united will at least start the movement against prevalent inequality.
Q: Where do you see yourself in the coming years and what are your upcoming projects?
HD: All these years have taught me the lesson that life is very short.
I have recently started directing and I have already directed five music videos.
You can also see my scripts and short stories making rounds in a year or two.
But I would consider the inclusion of dance as an academic subject by NIFT, Bhubaneswar as my biggest accomplishment.
It was my dream project to see dance as a part of education and not just a hobby and now, teaching dance as a faculty with NIFT is something I will cherish forever.
I am optimistic that within 10 years, other academic institutions too will consider dance as a subject in their curriculum.
Q: What would you suggest the upcoming dancers or artists, considering the stereotype Odia society which still sees dance as just a medium of re-creation and not a career option?
HD: I first auditioned for Boogie Woogie and as it was the last season it did not get aired.
Then I went for Dance Premier League where I could manage to reach till the zonal finals.
I was holding my calm all this while and I decided to try for Dance India Dance on Zee TV, where I could reach all India top 57.
Only after all these trials, I finally made it through the auditions of India’s Got Talent and reached the finale. One must remember that when you actually step out, there’s a competitive world waving at you.
To fight with this competitive world, you require proper training, knowledge, and patience.
Once you master all of this, the whole world will become your playground and you can reach anywhere.