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Living his dream

Living his dream
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Haleem Khan's passion to be a Kuchipudi dancer was so strong that despite his parents' disapproval, he continued to pursue his passion. Today, at 28,...

Haleem Khan's passion to be a Kuchipudi dancer was so strong that despite his parents' disapproval, he continued to pursue his passion. Today, at 28, he is a professional dancer

danceSuhani Dewra

Movies, they say, are reflection of society. The little Vicky who aspires to be a dancer like Katrina Kaif of Sheila Ki Jawaani in the third short film of the recent rage Bombay Talkies seems like the true story of Ongole-born Haleem Khan. Only the movie ended before anyone could know if Vicky really became a dancer and in this real life story we know Haleem is a full-time classical dancer.

A young Haleem, just out of Class X, was so smitten by classical dance form Kuchipudi that no amount of criticism could dissuade him from his passion. "I do not vividly recall any instance prior to that age where I definitely knew that I wanted to dance, Kuchipudi dance, to be precise. Of course, I liked dancing even as a kid. But when I turned 15 and joined a junior college, I was sure of my calling. That was my 'eureka' moment," says the 28-year-old dancer.

An excited Haleem shared his dreams with his parents, but all he got in reply was not a pat on the back for realising what he wanted to be, but a few disappointing comments. "There were various reasons for my parents to disapprove of my dancing. Firstly, Indian parents wish their boy child to pursue professional courses like management, engineering and medicine. Secondly, for a Muslim boy in a small town like Ongole to learn Kuchipudi was an alien idea to them," he shares.

Then started a series of lies. "I joined computer classes and typewriting courses just to escape from home and attend dance classes. I went to my first guru Miss Mohini. It was a class full of young kids and one, me, adult boy." While bunking courses to reach dance institute was becoming difficult, Miss Mohini too withdrew her support to teach the only grown up boy in the institute.

"I convinced her that Kuchipudi was my passion and I was serious about the art." A few months later, Haleem moved to another dance guru, K V Subramanyam. "Submitting fees was a task. I gave the money in installments. Surprisingly, not once did my guru ji pressurise me about fees. Only at times, he wondered if the Muslim boy's parents were okay about his learning Kuchipudi."

The game of lies continued until a TV channel in 2008, after watching Haleem's performance in Ravindra Bharathi, reached his house to interview his parents on their boy's talent. "My parents were perplexed. It was from the journalist they learnt that their son gave stage performances. Now, they have come to terms with reality."

"After graduating from degree college, I moved to Hyderabad to study MBA and joined various dance groups and travelled to various places. Gradually, I teamed up with another classical dancer Vijayalaksmhi to give duet acts for almost six years. We travelled to countries abroad like Singapore and Malaysia to perform. And now along with presenting acts, I also teach students," Haleem informs. "I am soon going to launch a DVD for people to learn Kuchipudi," he adds.

A few of his performances include a fusion act with Kuchipudi and ballet which he performed across South India with Vijayalakshmi and a French dancer, and various acts by clubbing ghazal with Kuchipudi and English poetry with the classical dance.

The days of struggle do not end here. Even now, many a people mock him for dressing like a woman on the stage. And financially, the career is not very stable. At times, he is busy giving back to back performances, at other times there are no acts for a stretch of 30 days. "Despite the difficulties I face, I do not regret being what I am. Not one bit. Money doesn't necessarily bring peace. But there are many wealthy CEOs, doctors, engineers who not unhappy with their lives. At least, I score high on happiness quotient," he reasons as he signs off.

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