Small screen actor and talented dancer, Shantanu Maheshwari started his career from the popular dance-based drama Dil Dosti Dance aired on Channel V. The young actor shot to fame after winning the World of Dance competition. The new heartthrob is going to be seen for the first time on the Indian small screen for a reality dance show. He speaks to Guardian 20 about his love and passion for dance and acting.
Q. Share your experience of triumph -— you won, competing against 40 countries, on the world’s biggest platform of urban dance. How does it feel to represent your country and become India’s first-ever crew to win the World of Dance?
A. At that point, after we won the championship, it was difficult to explain our feelings in words, as we were all on cloud nine. But it definitely was and will forever be a proud moment for not just us, but for the entire country. Bindaas Naach, which showcased our training for the championship last year, started as a dream and we never thought that we would actually go that far. There couldn’t be a better timing to win the WOD as it was just a day prior to the Indian Independence Day. That was our tribute to the country. We hope that our win last year will definitely inspire many young Indians and give them the message that if you can dream, you can achieve that dream too.
Q. Tell us about your experience at America’s Got Talent?
A. The AGT team had approached us directly to come up and perform in the show’s 11th season, so after all the coordination we decided to go there and give it our best shot. The show is now not only limited to citizens of the US but it also allows entertainers in general from every field and country to compete. We had our performance on the show just the day after we landed in Pasadena in California. So trying our best not to give into our jet lag, we practised thoroughly and geared up for our performance the next day. The audience on the show is a live audience, who buy their tickets to come watch the show. We performed on two songs, one English and one Hindi; Tukur Tukur from Dilwale and Turn Down from What by Lil Jon and DJ Snake.
As of what we had heard, pleasing Simon Cowell was the toughest on the show, but fortunately, he really liked our performance. So did the other three judges: Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum and Mel B. We actually got a thumbs up from all the four judges post the performance, which was really the best feeling ever. Simon mentioned that he liked how we had stuck to our roots and incorporated the Indian element in our performance, and that overall our coordination was really good and our performance was quite expressive. It was amazing to get a standing ovation after the routine. There was one in between the performance as well, and when we went out to give a few bites, a lot of the audience actually came out to cheer and congratulate us. Which was so cool. It was overall a one-of-a-kind experience to be performing on an international platform with such great exposure.
Q. After WOD and America’s Got Talent, now it’s time to set the stage on fire at Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa (Season 9). This is your first reality show on the Indian small screen. What are your expectations and what preparations are you doing for the same?
A. Well, I am quite excited for Jhalak this season. It’s definitely going to be different from the other seasons. It also feels great to be representing the youth show genre finally on Jhalak. It’s nice to know that this genre is now being recognised widely. I am nervous too, but I am quite sure this journey will be a really good one, and so waiting to see the response it gets.
Our preparations are actually going quite good as we are gearing up in full form for the show. We are giving it our 100%, and so we hope the viewers enjoy the different acts we will put up each time.
Q. From wanting to be a chartered accountant to a dancer, what was the turning point in your life?
A. I was not interested in dancing initially, as you are raised with the expectation of studying well and getting a job (as in my case). At one point I wanted to be a CA (Chartered Accountant) but as I got involved with dancing, I started to fall in love with it and a point came in my life when I decided that the creative field was what I enjoyed and what I wanted to do. Since I am a shy kind of guy, I had always imagined myself behind the camera rather than in front of it. D3 just happened to me and initially, I was a bit apprehensive, but I thought of giving the audition a shot. It came as a surprise to me when I got the role. After that, I just tried to give it my best and improve with each episode. In the whole process, I got great support from the D3 team. Honestly, I never really imagined myself reaching where I am today, but the journey has been an amazing one. I had my share of ups and downs but it’s all been part of the learning process. I have grown immensely as a person, which is the best part of this journey.
I mean, say ten years ago, I was just a teenager, and fame and recognition were so much a part of my dreams (smiles). But on a serious note no, not at all. Ten years ago, I had no clue about my career. At that point, I was most worried about my studies and homework and finishing all of it and of course getting good marks (laughs).
Q. Did you face any kind of hurdles while making your career in dance? What was your family’s reaction when they learnt about your future plans?
A. My fondness for dancing actually began with various events that used to take place in our colony back home in Kolkata. My family would actively participate in these. From there I started dancing — a talent which was identified by my mother when I was around eight years old. So, all credit goes to my mother for recognising my talent at a very young age and also to my family for fully supporting my dream.
Q: Apart from dancing we have seen your acting skills on small screen in Dil Dosti Dance and MTV Girls on Top. Both are youth-oriented shows. Are we going to see you in regular soap operas or on the big screen by any chance?
A: Well, at the moment I am quite comfortable in the youth show genre as it definitely is more relatable to me. I honestly feel I am too young to do a saas-bahu saga right now, but yes I am always open to reality shows.
Q. Apart from Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, what are your future projects?
A. I am currently playing the role of Sahir, an aspiring musician on MTV’s Girls On Top, and besides that it’s just Jhalak as of now. I am not much of a planner. I prefer going with the flow as far as my career choices are concerned.