Sharing stage with AR Rahman was a surreal experience: Bharat Verma

bharat verma

It is often said that no matter what the odds, passion finds a way. Justifying this statement is Bharat Verma who braved all hardships to pursue his calling. A growing name in body percussion, the talented guy aspires to perform for the biggest movies and to leave a mark. Interestingly, Bharat grabbed much attention with his recent performance at AR Rahman’s show The Voice India where he was joined by his cousin Jai. The popular jodi known as Jai-Bharat.

Here’s a recent conversation the youngster on his journey of & what he’s looking forward to:

How did you get into choreography?

Well, growing up in a lower middle-class family in Udaipur, I naturally faced immense adversities during my early life. My father being a domestic staff member for an IAS officer expected me to become a civil servant myself, so under such hopes (for me) they never admired my artistic pursuit. However, I was aware of my passion since early adolescence and began my career at the age of 13. I began choreographing for weddings and other events.

In my quest for greener pastures, I travelled to the United States each year to teach Bollywood and Rajasthani folk. It was there that I was introduced to the music form of body percussion seven years ago at the Big Apple.

Tell us something about body percussion?

Body percussion in its original form is a South African native form of musical communication used by slaves to pass messages to each other through a combination of bodily vibrations including stomps and slaps. For instance, three stomps meant that the officer was coming, whereas two claps meant stop working. Interestingly, two claps and one stop meant to work silently and keep an eye on the officer.

Later, this diverged into an art form and started being performed on stage. Body percussion is no piece of cake because the dancer must beat different parts of his/her body to create rhythms in a perfect tempo. I am grateful to have learnt the art form during my travels and decided to put my own twist to body percussion and became India’s first body percussionist.

Where do you intend to go as a playback percussionist?

I intend to grab hold of opportunities with open arms to popularize body percussion. It is a phenomenal dance form which has the power to leave audiences awestruck. Hence, I have plans to perform for the biggest movies in the industry, giving audiences and producers something to think about. It only makes sense to have high ambitions in life, but accomplishing such challenges is what life is all about.

You have excelled in both percussion and choreography. How challenging was maintaining a balance between both the jobs?

It was extremely challenging to find and maintain the right balance. Truth be told, the scales have often tilted towards choreography because of its demand in royal and elite weddings. Hence, I used to choreograph wedding dances in Udaipur and across India. Having said that, I practiced body percussion as much as I can despite its novelty and lack of opportunity.

Which of the two is your first love?  

Even if I wrack my brains or consult my heart, I wouldn’t be able to give you a definite answer to this. It is impossible to answer because choreography is my first love as it presented many opportunities to me when I need it the most, and even open doors to the United States. However, it was body percussion that helped me put my own mark in Bollywood through Farhan Akhtar’s Movie Lucknow Central. It was body percussion that eventually led me to national recognition as well having performed with legends like AR Rahman sir, Harshdeep Kaur, and Adnan Sami Sir. Both choreography and body percussion hold their own soft spot in my heart.

You also worked with Farhan Akhtar, how was the experience?

In the beginning I was starstruck when I met Farhan Akhtar, but it was a combination of his humility and my confidence that enabled me to form a strong relationship with him. He had no whims and fancies being a celebrity, and his professionalism shone through which made my job as a choreographer easier. For instance, Farhan learnt some complex steps in merely two or three classes which took others several weeks to catch onto. The latter were good, but Farhan Sir’s natural talent was simply beyond measure. I admired his discipline which fed my motivation to teach as well. A teacher is only as good as his student.

He humility shone through as he eagerly heard my story of body percussion as well. His keenness to the concept was admirable considering a man of his stature doesn’t typically indulge in such conversations. Overall I would say that he is a phenomenal human being on the reel and real life as well.

How was your experience sharing the stage with AR Rahman?

It was surreal, to say the least. Let me portray a mental picture to be as accurate as I can be. For me, a believer in God, it was like He had suddenly descended from the heavens to stand in front of me. On top of that, I was able to perform with the living legend; it doesn’t get any better than that.

The most important part was that he appreciated body percussion and took real interest in it, which has influenced the rest of the nation to recognize body percussion as well.  

When can you next expect collaborating with him?

I wish as soon as possible because I am eager to learn and gain something from his mastery. You may have seen that he appreciated body percussion immensely to the extent that along with Adnan Sami Sir he performed with me. Hence, I have my fingers crossed on expecting a call from his Studio some day and take the opportunity to showcase my body percussion to the world.

What’s next in the map?

My aims are to perform body percussion for both national and international events as much as possible showcasing my own twists of the dance form. In addition, I wish to expand Heartbeats Dance Studio to other Indian cities, imparting my knowledge to people belonging to all age groups and backgrounds.

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