Self-taught B-Boy went from dancing on farms to doubling Salman Khan’s body
Spie watching the 2010 video of Saajan Singh from Dance India Dance (DID) and there is no guarantee that you won’t miss a step if you blink. Dressed in a red hoodie and white pants, Saajan glides across the stage on his head, freezes, does a handstand, a headpin, and seamlessly switches from one power move to another as he goes. that the lively music resumes.
All three judges on the reality show said no one can be good at b-boying, one of hip-hop’s staples, like Saajan. This YouTube video has 3.98 lakh views and for the right reasons.
Saajan’s story resonates with millions of small town boys and girls who want to break away from the conventional way of life to express their individuality on their terms. What sets Saajan apart are his impressive dance moves, his unbridled passion for victory and his dedication to his craft.
Her father is a retired Indian Army sub-hedar and her mother is a housewife. Growing up in Jalandhar, a town in Punjab famous for its sports facilities and temples, Saajan never imagined being a dance magician, let alone mastering an American style. He also never saw himself as Salman Khan’s double in films like Race 3 (2018) and Tiger Zinda Hai (2017).
Predestined to join the Indian army like his father, Saajan recounts his trip to Mumbai. “I used to play basketball, the second most popular sport in the United States, at school. It piqued my interest in their culture and that’s how I discovered b-boying. It started out as an alternative to violence to settle scores between gang members. Soon the underground dance form, without any rules, became a form of expression for me and for millions of people around the world, ”explains the 28-year-old.
“Nobody understood my dance”
Saajan was around 15 when he started to learn dance on the Internet. It was the pre-2010 era, when computers were a luxury, the internet was a rare phenomenon and downloading a video was a test of patience. Nonetheless, Saajan would stay awake all night with his friend to download a video tutorial on b-boying and copy it to a CD.
When he got home, he would oscillate between the rewind and pause buttons to learn each move. Dance studios had not yet entered the city, so Saajan built a makeshift stage out of cardboard papers on the farms to practice.
“No one really understood what I was doing. It was neither a classic, folkloric form, nor a Bollywood act. It was something different characterized by energy, complex footwork, and acrobatic or athletic movements. People called it “the waterfall wala dance”, but I found it heartwarming because it was a good mix of freedom and strength. It was accessible, inclusive and I won local competitions. My parents were surprised but supportive, says Saajan.
He adds: “Being disciplinary, my father gave me two years to find a professional grip on b-boying, otherwise I would have joined the army.
Although he missed DID’s Season 1 auditions by a day, he secured a place in the top 100 in season two. He credits his father’s strict regimen of getting up at 4:30 a.m. to exercise and build up his stamina, which has helped him perform this energetic dance without panting.
However, the odds weren’t in his favor in the next round of auditions, or so he thought. An incorrect step in a group dance, which he confessed on national television, cost him his place on the show.
“My parents couldn’t afford to give me formal dance training, but their life lessons on honesty, sincerity in the craft is something I will always be grateful for. I was knocked out because of the mistake, but the audience liked my honesty so much that I was brought back to the show with a “generic entry”. Then I worked really hard and reached the top six. If this episode hadn’t been broadcast, I would have joined the army when my two-year deadline that I had promised my father was drawing to a close, ”adds Saajan.
Needless to say, he continued to impress the judges and the audience, and although it was a turning point, he struggled to take advantage of the situation.
Explore the world of theater
After dancing on the DID stage, Saajan is back in Jalandhar for a year. He was performing regularly now, but he missed Mumbai and the lucrative opportunities he was used to. He called his mentor, Remo D’Souza, who invited him in 2012-13 to stay at his home for a while until he determined his goals.
“Remo monsieur was my guide, my friend and my support. He also started out of nowhere and rose through the ranks to become a renowned choreographer and director. I wanted to follow in his footsteps and was fortunate to have someone to count on. I started assisting him on shoots, commercials, promotional events, etc. I even had the chance to star in both ABCD films, ”Saajan says.
Acting in movies was another world Saajan wanted to explore. He played a cameo role in Dabang 2 (2012), but one of his biggest opportunities came in 2017 when he was asked to teach Salman Khan b-boying for a movie.
“I slept in Remo Monsieur’s car on my way to someone’s house. I was half asleep when Salman sir walked in where we were waiting. I was scared and speechless after I was told to teach him, he says and adds, “It’s funny how things go. My mom is a huge fan of Salman and I was named after her movie Saajan (1991).
Saajan adds how surprised he was to see an actor like Salman so down to earth, curious and observant. “He was my best student and quickly became my teacher. When I expressed my interest in cinema, he gladly took me under his wing and explained various aspects to me. I have done parts of the choreography for movies like Dabang 2 (2012), Race 3 (2018) and Radhe (2021). It was a great opportunity to popularize b-boying in India.
From a body double, dancer, choreographer, teacher, actor to filming videos as a director of photography for Salman’s social media pages, Saajan is a jack of all trades.
B-boying is not only a form of dance for him, but the reason for his success. Even today, people are texting him to recreate his 108 one-handed jumps, a b-boy skill where the dancer does a handstand and lifts his legs.
It’s the same movement that made it very popular a decade ago.
Edited by Yoshita Rao