Know the secret recipe behind Kathakar Kumar’s wondrous Dance performances- The Story of Kumar Sharma
28th October 1991
Proudly says ‘imd1’ for
Dance - Kathak
“Art is neither injected nor bought from the bazaar, it's just a coincidental collision between you and the soulful craft to find a medium to convey what an artist feels.” These words might not hit you, but Kumar's scintillating performance surely defines those lines. Hailing from Ludhiana, this Punjabi boy never fails to amaze everyone and not only in Dancing, but he also has a Voice pleasing everyone. His art is the outcome of what barriers he has surpassed. Truly a Shinning Star!
Our team had a wonderful time interviewing this hunk, and after watching him perform, don't you dare say that Kathak is only meant for girls!
We are keen to know; how did your journey begin?
My mom was a member of ladies Kirtan Mandal. She used to take me to the temple every week, I was about 1 year old and that's where I used to see mom's hands playing dholak which I learned it by just watching it hence my mom was my first teacher, also I used to sing bhajans along with them. the synchronization of the instruments fascinated me a lot
Know me beyond Dance
Aditi Mangaldas and Vidha Lal
I draw inspirations from
Food I Love
Punjabi and Italian food
Food I Hate
Not really as such, I like everything
If not for Dancing, I would be doing
I would be a Singer
Like Vacations at
Niagara Falls, Canada
Favorite Pass time
Watch videos on YouTube
“Kya Baat Hai Maharaj”
Favorite Movies / Series
Devdas, Tumbbad, Mission Impossible Series
Favorite Actor / Actress
Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Madhuri Dixit, Priyanka Chopra
When I was 3, I performed singing for the first-time in school and I got 1st prize, all were like who is this prodigy? This was the time when I met my first music teacher, Miss Shakuntala. That's how I started learning music and since then I participated in various inter school competitions, won many of them. I was named as 'Best singer' in school
I was in 5th standard when I was introduced to dance, I met my first Guru, Shri Sitaram ji, he was a proficient in dancing singing and playing instruments as well, he asked for my father's contact to meet him, he came to our place as I remember I was playing outside when suddenly my sister said your teacher has come, he told my parents that I want to train him but my parents wanted me to get trained in singing so he said I'll teach him classical music and that's how I got started in Indian classical music.
The sessions happened twice a week for one and a half or 2 years, he really wanted me to be a good singer. After training me he wanted me to accompany him as a background singer in his dance choreographies at the university and my parents allowed me to join him.
Every day after school I went with him in colleges and saw him how he performs and teaches the art, I was introduced to dance for the first time so broadly. I started observing the dancers, the way they performed the Rajasthani folk dance, since then I don't know when I fell in love in dancing, my job was just to sing for them and used to see how guruji is teaching and how the dancers are performing, everything fascinated me a lot. I pleased the tabla instructor to teach me 'Kathak Bol' and one day my guruji saw me reciting the 'Kathak Bol', he asked for the explanation of whatever I was doing and when I showed him he got impressed. He told my parents that I've got a lot of capabilities, he said that I am very good at singing and also in instruments, I should put forward my foot in Kathak and parents agreed as I was his Shishya and that's how my dance training started, I was a bit skeptical in the beginning as I never saw a boy performing Kathak. I used to think that Kathak is only performed by girls but my guruji corrected me by saying that his sons also practice Kathak in Delhi, and you shouldn't need to be ashamed for anything. I fell in love with this within months as I started and after 4 years of learning my guruji passed away which was very saddening, and everything suddenly stopped.
Some months later, my mom found some books while cleaning the mess and those books turned out to be guruji's books of theories on Kathak and my memories refreshed as I began reading them, my excitement arose. Every day after getting done with homework I used to quickly take out those books and discover the world of Kathak and that's how my theory got strong, I got aware of all the technicalities. One day through guruji's reference someone approached me on call and asked me to choreograph a dance sequence in college. I was in 10th std at that time, I agreed to choregraph and that troupe went on winning the competition which was recognized by the whole university and everyone applauded me as I was very young at that time. Then I became more confident and I started teaching. After graduating from the university I started my own dance school , few students enrolled and I made my team named 'Kathak Rockers' and took them to Chak Dhoom Dhoom, a reality show, there I realised that I want to live in Mumbai and make a career in dancing. I told my parents that I'm shifting to Mumbai, they took it as a joke but I became serious, so they agreed but they wanted me complete my graduation from Punjab university and I did that and shifted to Mumbai. While graduating I learnt live singing from Shree Sanjeev Sharma ji and kept doing many workshops, learnt a lot from internet and YouTube is also my teacher as it has a vast variety of content related to dance. I also followed the works of Aditi Mangaldas and Vidha Lal ji.
What's your success mantra?
If you really want something in life, then you shouldn't bother about what others are thinking about you. Because I had to face many things in the beginning. Even in my family, my relatives used to tell me that “dancing and such activities are ok but what else?” We shouldn't think of such people and if your parents are with you then I don't think anything can stop you, just make them feel that you're truly in love with this craft.
What were the hardships / hurdles your encountered and the way you overcame in your journey?
As I shifted to Mumbai, the initial year was very difficult as I didn't know anyone. I wanted to do masters in dance but when I went to a dance college in Juhu they said you cannot perform in outside shows for 2 years , however I filled its form and even paid some fees but I did not attend the college as I wanted to perform in outside shows, then someone told me that there's a course on classical music where you can enroll and as I had knowledge of it I appeared for it and got admission in the university and a stay in its hostel, which was affordable and feasible as Mumbai is very expensive in terms of living.
I was really confused when I wanted to shift in Mumbai. I was skeptical to choose between joining Kathak Kendra in Delhi or shifting to Mumbai at that time I said to my inner self, “Kumar, trust yourself, there is no one in Mumbai who does Kathak and there are many in Delhi so, you can make your name in Mumbai, you should go for it”
I was just 20 years old graduated young boy, it was a very very big thing for me to make this decision. There were many aristocrats in Kathak and I did not have any background, but in Mumbai there were few names.
For one year I was indulged in enjoying the nightlife of the city but I realized that this is not what I am here for, there are many distractions here, I remember it was Diwali and I didn't have any money to go home because I spent all my money in miscellaneous things, I could ask for money from my father but I hesitated and felt shy , I made an excuse at home saying that I have a project in college so I can't come in Diwali, I didn't even have money to board a train , everyone from the hostel went back home and I was left all alone, and at that very moment I realized my mistake. The next day I looked for event companies in Mumbai on the internet for work as I wasn't known at that time, few people called me, attended meetings and I did my first show at a hotel where I made 1100 Rs. for the first time in Mumbai.
I wanted to audition for India's Dancing Superstar, but my university exams were also ongoing, so I had to rehearse in my college's mess after attending the lectures, I took permission from the watchman to rehearse whole night in the mess and that's how I auditioned for that show. My performance in the audition got noticed by many known dancers and choreographers in the industry and that's how I got a call from Jay Kumar Nair a choreographer in DID Super Moms to choregraph an act in the show and it was like a dream come true for me and my act got a lot of accolades and cheers. Since then I started getting many calls to choreograph Kathak. I got very busy. Once I got an opportunity to choregraph for Mukti Mohan in Jhalak Dikhlaja and that's when I met Shakti Mohan and also Neeti Mohan, who motivated me to sing as she inspired me a lot. Shakti was very sweet and famous of course. It was my dream to meet her. She saw my dance and said that I want to work with you once and after a month she called me to perform with her in AR Rahman's live shows. it was me and Shakti performing duet in Rahman sir's show. The whole Mohan family is very charming,
Success is incomplete without its share of setbacks. What advice do you give to others about handling failures?
Since childhood I faced many failures, as I wanted to be a singer, my father took me to every audition of reality shows like Little champs, Indian Idol Juniors, etc. whatever show used to happen, I used to clear 3-4 rounds but when it came to the final TV round of Mumbai, I used to get eliminated somehow, it has happened many times. My father always made me understand that its ok, next time it will happen. He made it very casual, after few years I never felt bad if I got rejected because he always mentioned that its ok, rejections are a part of your journey. My father has helped me a lot in handling failures. Even today I did not get selected for a singing show, but my father still said its ok as you've come so far from what you were. You should keep doing it, you know you're the best. If we fail, we should not take it in our heart, just handle it with happiness. We know the importance of winning when we have failed several times.
Which was “that” moment when you considered yourself as “I Am The 1”?
When I did my first show with A. R. Rahman, I performed with Shakti in it. That was the moment I felt like I have achieved so much, and I felt like “Yes, I Am The 1”.
What are the pre-coaching essentials e.g. Right age, mindset or anything else?
Age doesn't matter for any art from, especially for Kathak as I know many things about it. Even in 30 you can start dancing but as you grow older, your grasping level decreases with your age, so if a child is taking 2 years to learn Kathak then a person above 30 would take 4 years approx. However, whenever you feel like dancing, you should dance.
Technology has been changing the way people get trained in Dance. What's your take?
I have learned so much from YouTube, the level of dance has increased a lot, just because of technology. Today, even a boy from a very poor background can learn everything in dance with the help of internet, he/she doesn't need to join expensive dance schools to learn or stay away from home to learn, everything has become hassle free.
What qualities must one look for in a 'Guru' for training in Dance?
I couldn't answer this if someone would have asked me 20 years back but today coaching has become so professional, I feel you can see enough of style in anyone's videos, if his/her dance appeals you then you can learn from them. And what I feel is its not wrong if someone is charging you money to teach you as when I had my own dance school, even I charged as I had to run the dance school and pay the place's rent. But today I'm earning enough from shows that I don't need to charge anything.
If you were to bring one big change in the way people get trained in Dance, what would that be?
I would create a level and up to that mark only people can upload their videos on social media, that's what I want. Before training till such level, you cannot be a performer who can show your craft to the world because you should be well read and well trained in whatever dance form you're doing. There should be a certain level.
How can one identify this talent in the family and encourage it?
Children should be provided with different opportunities. Let them undertake different activities. The one in which they excel and ignite their interest, continue developing it further. Every child is born with unique sets of skills.
What do you suggest for better accessibility of Dance training in remote parts of India?
I think in such areas where even electricity isn't available and where internet is also not available, there are few NGO's which conduct shows and workshops in such places where some known celebrities also perform for a very small sum. Such initiatives can make this art form much popular because this is the only way I feel to promote and make aware to such people.
Your piece of advice to parents and new generation especially when some people are skeptical about career in extra curriculum.
I think I have seen very big change in the mentality of parents towards Dance, as all are taking Dance & Music very seriously, it's very good indeed but one should be careful while choosing their dance Guru.
How can one identify & encourage talent in the family?
For every parent, their child is the best, we see so many shows or videos, its inside the heart of every parent who knows what capabilities their child has and how long he/she can sustain in the craft. And if you see that spark in our child then you should definitely make you him/her learn the art, encourage and keep pushing forward.
Any other thoughts you want to share?
I have shared enough of things I guess, Thank you so much for this interview!