Back in 2015, when Gurdeep Singh Babbar, an alumnus of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur (SGTB) Khalsa College, Delhi University, got a chance to choreograph for director Imtiaz Ali’s movie Tamasha, little did he know that he’d later choreograph for Bollywood’s King Khan. Gurdeep has choreographed the dance steps for the song Phurrr, which is in Shah Rukh Khan’s most recent release Jab Harry Met Sejal, also directed by Imtiaz Ali.
“The first opportunity I got was choreographing for the song Heer Toh Badi Sad Hai in the movie Tamasha. Abhishek, the assistant director of the film, had approached me. It was a pleasure working with Imtiaz sir, but I had no idea that we’d be working [together] again,” says Gurdeep, who landed his first Bollywood project thanks to his bhangra choreography for his college.
“Then I got busy with theatre practices. In September 2016, I got a call from the line producer of Jab Harry Met Sejal, who told me that I had to choreograph SRK’s steps, for Imtiaz sir’s movie yet again. I couldn’t have asked for more. I was told that the shooting was to be held in Europe — the very idea of choreographing a song abroad was exciting,” says Gurdeep.
Catch the song here:
Recalling his experience of choreographing for the Baadshah of Bollywood — that is one of the several nicknames of Shah Rukh Khan — he says, “The day I reached the location, I met Imtiaz sir after two long years. But to my surprise, he introduced me to Shah Rukh sir as his own choreographer. [Then] I heard the track that had to be shot and knew it would be a challenge, since it had no lyrics, initially. The track created by [DJ] Diplo was solely instrumental and was a challenge [for me] to choreograph, since it had Western beats and music. But having a team of such talented people around made the process interesting,” says Gurdeep.
He got to work and drew upon his own experience. “I showed a bit of the bhangra, set to the original music, to Imtiaz sir and he liked it very much. We started practising with SRK at 2am, and the sequence was shot a few days later. That is the song that went on to be titled Phurrr, once the lyrics were added.”
But that’s not the experience that Gurdeep says that he really cherishes from this project. His best memories are from the time spent Shah Rukh and Imtiaz after pack-up. “I had a really good time with both Shah Rukh sir and Imtiaz sir. I went out partying with them after shooting, when both of them shared their college experiences with me,” says Gurdeep, adding, “Shah Rukh Khan is a very genuine and gentle person, despite being such a massive star. He always treated me like one of his own; he used to call me ‘beta’. It felt very nice to know that he was so humble even with a fresher like me. One thing he said that really touched my heart was, ‘You’re untouched by the real world. Don’t let anyone kill your innocence ever.’”
About his previous work in choreography, Gurdeep says, “Bhangra was my passion and being part of the bhangra team in college fuelled that passion. I used to get appreciation and encouragement from our coaches, and that really helped that love for dance and bhangra grow. I became the president of the [college] society in the year 2013-2014, and managed to bag a couple of individual prizes in the final year. It was the overall development of my talent and personality that helped me [take] my first step into Bollywood,” says Gurdeep. “I’m currently focussing on my YouTube channel, Bhangra Honours, which aims to make bhangra reach everyone who loves or has an interest in the dance form. I direct and choreograph bhangra videos, along with a few other guys, and we work hard to make bhangra reach a lot of people.”
See Gurdeep practise with actor Shah Rukh Khan here: