Rohit’s date with destiny: Dancing sensation Rohit Jethwani shares his journey
Dancer Rohit Jethwani talks about his experiences on the sets of 'Rocky aur Rani kii Prem Kahaani', working with Karan Johar, his starstruck moment, and his eternal love for dance
They say that stars are within our reach, and for dancer-choreographer Rohit Jethwani, this couldn’t be more apparent. Rohit recently collaborated with Bollywood biggie Karan Johar, for his film Rocky aur Rani kii Prem Kahaani (RARKPK), as an assistant director in the film. We learn of Rohit aka Junior Jethu’s journey on the film sets of the Alia Bhatt-Ranveer Singh starrer in an extensive and detailed conversation. Rohit also shares with us what a Karan Johar-set environment feels like, in addition to revealing details of his initial interactions with the master. We further learn about his experiences as a dancer and choreographer, what his experience of forming a dance troupe during his academic years at the University of Southern California (USC) revealed to him about himself and the art form; how he perceives body types and body image, having dealt with issues around the same himself.
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The KJo break
“One is extremely lucky to be on a film set that’s directed by Karan Johar, simply because it’s such a fun environment he creates,” begins Rohit, as he shares his experiences on the sets of RARKPK. He further amplifies a notion that was put forward by Karan — “The energy that you see on set is the same energy you will see in the performance.”
“He would always come to wish ‘good morning’ to everyone and give a big hug to people around him,” continues Rohit. He shares that he found Karan’s notion about the energy on set relatable as he followed a similar approach towards creating dance videos on Instagram and YouTube, which has garnered him immense following and recognition on these platforms.
ion on these platforms. After moving back from the US to India, Rohit tried to set up a dance studio of his own in order to create a foundation for his career. Covid, for the youngster, was also a big factor in nudging him to shape his path in the field of dance going ahead. “Something about teaching online that I did not connect with, did not sit well with me,” shares Rohit, adding, “But I still needed to be active with dance. So I started creating Instagram videos just for the sake of entertainment.” These videos came in a similar format to Bollywood song videos or general music videos. “Fast forward to November 2020, I think I was just creating so much content that I could not even check my notifications — one of them being Karan following me on Instagram!” reveals Rohit. He says that he had no clue of this happening and it was only after a few days that this instance was revealed to him by a contemporary. This then resulted in him reaching out to Karan and a subsequent text-based conversation. Rohit tells us that Karan expressed admiration for his videos and as one thing led to the other, his fate brought him to Mumbai and to Karan’s office. “Next thing I know, we are sitting in his office, chatting.” It was ultimately Rohit voicing his dreams to act and choreograph in films that moved Karan to give him an opportunity and experience working in a Bollywood movie as an AD. ”So I garnered the experience on the set of handling what an AD does, while also learning and observing how actors act and their processes before they go on set,” continues Rohit.
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Although the videos he created for the Junior Jethu handle on Instagram almost came to a stop due to this opportunity, he believed that what he was doing in the film was allowing him to learn and grow in a capacity that he didn’t think he would be able to otherwise. He also recollects being in awe of this opportunity as he sat down with Pritamda (musician) and KJo ‘jamming on music for the songs’ of the movie. “These are the people who determine how Bollywood is shaped in so many ways, and I think being in that space was very humbling,” he adds
Although Rohit expressed that he wouldn’t get starstruck much, he does recollect experiencing that feeling meeting one person on the sets of the film. “I was starstruck by Ganesh Acharya,” Rohit says, adding, “Watching Masterji (Ganesh) perform the hook step (for the song What Juhmka?) live was a different experience, and I think that was my starstruck moment.”
Although he has been involved in a Bollywood project in the capacity of an AD, there is no question that Rohit’s passion for dance goes unnoticed. Having collaborated to do some videos on Instagram with dance maestros Remo D’souza and Ganesh Acharya, Rohit’s love for dance dates back to his formative years. This love for the art form remained a constant for him regardless of his academic aspirations in the US. It ultimately resulted in him forming a large dance Bollywood troupe USC Zeher, which garnered an immense following and recognition in the national collegiate circuits. This experience, which he remains thankful for, helped him pick up many skills including leadership. His experiences here also helped him combat many issues including that of body-shaming. “I found a sense of acceptance,” says Rohit as he compares his experiences here to that of being in a popular Indian dance company. Rohit recollects not being able to move forward in the company simply because he was not able to fit into their costumes. He further shares his strong opinion on the notion of body positivity, highlighting that regardless of how big a body positivity movement is, people still find a “no-salt-nowater-kind-of-body” aesthetically more attractive. “You can become an actor or a dancer as a plus-size person, but you cannot become the hero. Only a very specific story or role would allow you to become the protagonist,” he says, citing the example of Aamir Khan in Dangal.
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As we learn of Rohit’s aspirations to star and choreograph in similar movies, we ask him about his definition of dance and what the art form means to him. “Maybe it left in me a sense of empowerment and released hormones within me that made me happy,” he says.
Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani is in theatres.