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Jhalak Dikhla Jaa's odd one out

Monday, October 01, 2007

Hockey player Mir Ranjan Negi is an unlikely candidate for 'Jhalak Dikhla Jaa', but he is a sportsman, and his duty to respond to a challenge. He is the only non-glamorous quotient in the show, but he promises not to disappoint viewers.

Q. First things first – did you watch the first season of 'Jhalak Dikhla Jaa'?
A. I watched two episodes. And I never thought, even in my wildest dreams that I would be on the same stage one day. Had I known earlier, I would have attempted to learn a few steps from Shiamak Davar's troupe, when we were shooting 'Chak De India' in Australia. Or I would have visited a few discos at least.

Q. Is there any specific reason why you wanted to be a part of this show?
A. Actually, there are quite a few reasons. I believe that hockey will never be given its due recognition, till there is some glamour and money associated with it. Otherwise, it has no future. 'Chak De India' has, no doubt, added some curiosity for the game, and I am not undermining its contribution. Bollywood and Hockey – the combination has proved to be of advantage to the sport. We are trying our best to generate interest in Hockey, not only in India, but worldwide.

Q. Are you a celebrity because of 'Chak De India', or is the movie a success because of you?
A. Both are successful because of the other. The movie not only reminded people that Hockey exists, but also made me famous. The unfortunate state that the sport is in has been brought to light, and I can take some credit for that.

Q. What is the first thing that comes to mind, when you hear the word "dance'?
A. Dance is an expression of joy. We dance when we are happy. We have so many sorrows in life. My son passed away in a motorcycle accident on October 21, 2005. Words cannot describe what I went through. It has not even been two years, and I never expected to be so happy, so soon. I am going through a phase where I need to dance, and it is just a co-incidence that I got a call from 'Jhalak Dikhla Jaa'.

Q. Would you call this an extraordinary co-incidence, or the good wishes of your late son?
A. It is my son, watching over me. He is still with me. I will do everything within my power to make Hockey a popular sport, and I will do it so that his soul rests in peace. I am building a foundation, in my son Abhiranjan's name, the members of which will inspire school students to attain interest in Hockey. In fact, there will be teachers, too, who will teach students the basics of the game. We will begin with Mumbai, but we hope to spread out to the rest of the country as well.

Q. How have you dealt with the loss of your late son?
A. I can never regain what I have lost, and I can never forget him. It is easier for other people to tell me to get over it, but I cannot. However, I will still fight for others. I want to be an example to people around me. I have a few friends, who have been through bad times, and have hit the bottle. They have lost all hope in life. I do not want to become like that. I am still optimistic; life still has many surprises in store. I do not know about winning, but I will fight. I have "miles to go before I sleep".

Q. Voters decide the fate of the contestants in 'Jhalak Dikhla Jaa' – what are your expectations?
A. I have a lot of expectation from the viewers. People who believe in God believe in themselves, and they see a little of themselves in me. These are the people, who believe in a challenge, and are courageous enough to accept the results. These are the people who will vote for me, I am certain of that.

Q. Any memorable experiences while you were learning to dance?
A. As I have already mentioned, I have never danced in my life. Salsa, Samba, Jazz – these dance forms require perfection in execution. The expressions on the dancer's face changes from moment to moment. There is one experience I want to share. The hall where we practice has a very slippery floor, and I have already tripped my partner twice. She never said a word to me, but I know she must have been hurt pretty badly – she fell hard on the floor every time. I realized this, and that is why I have taken to practicing barefoot.

Q. How did your wife and younger son react to your decision to be a part of the show?
A. My wife, Vinita, kept asking me why I wanted to be a part of the show. My son, Nilesh, was happy for me, and excited, too. I am a sportsman, and I believe in a challenge. One should not be afraid to lose, or wonder what others will say. I may not be from the glamour industry, nor do I know how to dance, but this is a challenge I am willing to accept. Vinita is worried about my appearance, because I am old. I reminded her that even Anupam Kher dances, when he has to. I promise not only the viewers, but also my partner, who wasted 50 hours on me, that I will not let them down.

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