|The Dancing Diva
by AMEER HAMZA AHMAD
Joshinder Chaggar started her career as a dancer in Pakistan from a local television's award show. There she was spotted by Director Saqib Malik who cast her for Zeb and Haniya's music video. Since then she has not looked back and has appeared in Jal's Morey Piya, choreographed the 2007 Pakistan Style Awards and Geo's Meri Adhoori Mohabbat's grand finale. She has also choreographed commercials for many major Pakistani brands. MAG recently got a chance to have a chat with Joshinder. Excerpts:
AH: Please tell us in detail about yourself.
JC: I belong to a typical middle class family. My childhood was spent in Lagos, Nigeria. My brother and I went to a private Indian school there. We migrated to Australia in 1990 and I went to high school there.
I started learning dance when I was only 5. But I knew that my parents would never allow me to take it up as a profession. Also we didn't have any artists in our family with the passion for arts, whether its music, dance, writing.
I was 15 when I got my first part-time job at a pizza shop. Then I went to Melbourne for further studies. I studied Business Marketing at first, and hated every moment of it. But it was a defining time for me. The only thing I loved to do was dance so I started my Bachelors in Contemporary Dance at Deakin University in Melbourne. I don't think my parents ever understood what I was doing. But I was very lucky to have a few friends who really believed in my talent and never let me give up.
What actually was the reason of your foray into dance? Did you always want to be a dancer?
I do remember, when I was 14, I told a friend of mine that I would love to be a professional dancer but at that time it was merely a fantasy as I knew my family would not want me to be a professional dancer. We were a pretty traditional, conservative Sikh family but at one stage I realised that there is nothing else that I love more.
How did you get into the industry?
When I arrived in Karachi, I was hired to choreograph the Indus Style Awards. I also performed at the show. It was exciting, a real eye opener and a huge cultural shock. Saqib Malik saw me perform there and cast me for Zeb & Haniya's video. I'll always cherish that experience.
What difficulties have you faced in your career?
The biggest difficulty was the lack of family support. But I believed in myself, and I was lucky to have friends who believed in me.
How did you meet your husband, Khalid?
We were both acting in a short film in Melbourne, titled Love & Iced Tea. I was the leading lady and he was the villain.
Why did you move to Pakistan?
Actually Khalid wanted to explore Pakistani media. So, I came with him and am really glad that we made the move.
Do you like living here?
Yes, I do. It's been a huge learning experience. I've had the opportunity to delve into so many different things here, and I think I've discovered a lot about myself. At times, I also feel that Karachi forces me to strive to be at my best because it is so easy to be negative and down, and that is just not me. I'm a very positive and optimistic person. But it gets challenging to maintain that optimism alive while living here. So, to be positive and upbeat despite everything, I think that's quite an achievement.
What motivates you to dance? Who is your inspiration or ideal personality in the industry?
I don't think I need any motivation to dance. It's who I am. It just comes from inside. I'm a big fan of Akram Khan, a UK based contemporary dancer/choreographer and also a master in Kathak. I saw him perform at the Opera House in Sydney.
What's your favourite form of dance?
I love Bharatnatyam. I love the strength and complete body awareness it requires. As a medium of expression I love modern contemporary dance. It encourages you to use your feelings and explore your emotions.
You've done some theatre also. Please tell us about it?
I have truly fallen in love with theatre. I taught at NAPA for 18 months, I ended up watching every single play. In March 2010 I acted in the play Mohabbat Bhi Qayamat Bhi, directed by Shahid Shafaat, and alongside big names like Sania Saeed and Rehan Sheikh. That was an amazing experience. We also took it to Lahore and Faisalabad. Then in May 2010 I had my own show Conversations which was a contemporary dance drama. It was an original piece and I am very proud of it and my team; some of them were my students from NAPA and some local dancers who I trained.
Do you plan to act in a television series or film?
I am currently acting in a couple of dramas. And I also acted in Sabiha Sumar's new film, Rafina. It was a minor role but it was an honour to be part of her film.
Tell us about your dream role?
Well I am also an actor, and with my dance background, I would love to do a period film. Something that involves classical dancers like Chandramukhi or Anarkali or Umrao Jaan.
What is one thing that people don't know about you?
I am also a writer.
Please tell us something about your current projects?
I'm writing a column for a local magazine. Currently I'm acting in a couple of dramas on TV. I recently choreographed the Flashmob dance organised by Indus Valley. Over 270 people participated in it. We are now planning a second one in March – this time we are aiming for 1000 people. Such activities create a tremendous amount of unity and radiate so much positive energy, I really hope everyone comes and takes part.
Do you consider yourself an inspiration for women?
I've never thought about it. But I am also a teacher so I find myself mentoring and nurturing women a lot. I try my best to encourage them to be sincere to themselves. It takes courage to follow your heart.