Prosenjit Guy Kundu who has been pioneering street dancing in India for years. Born in France, Prosenjit grew up in the US where he discovered his passion for House and Hip Hop dance. Curious also to explore his father's birthplace, Prosenjit (whose mother is French) arrived in India in 2005 with the goal of spreading the art form far and wide. He danced wherever he got an opportunity, he taught whoever showed an interest. He's never left since. Prosenjit still travels to far corners of India hoping to get kids interested in dance.
Hi Prosenjit, really loved your work on the Windows 8 commercial. Let's talk about that. How did you get involved in that?
Prosenjit: There was an audition in Mumbai, which required freestyle dancers in the Street Dance forms. At the time we weren’t told it was for such a big brand, so I really had no expectations going into the audition.
Actually, I almost didn’t go cause I thought that the requirement was for dancers from the age of around 18 to 22 yrs. I went anyways and got a call back saying that I was chosen and that the director loved my dancing. I then was told that it was for the Windows 8 Global Campaign to be shot in Taiwan with a world-renowned director Tong Beng.
What was the experience like?
Prosenjit: First of all I really enjoy visiting new places through my work and this was my first trip to Taiwan, so that in it self was a fun and new experience. Also, working with such a huge brand such as Microsoft Windows was a once in a lifetime experience especially since they have launched a new operating system that will be used by so many people all over the world. It was really professional and well organized and there were clients from all over the world at the shoot as well as other commercials being shot simultaneously for the campaign.
I was also hired as the choreographer and working with Tong Beng was really refreshing cause he gave me the freedom to execute all my ideas. All in all it was really exciting, the entire process, to be part of a global campaign on such a big scale.
Tell me a little bit about how you developed the choreography
Prosenjit: When you speak about choreography with freestyle dancing, a lot of it is ideation and choosing which particular street style will look good for that part of the track. The solo dancing you see of the girl (Payal Balse) and me is on the spot freestyle dance and the partner work was choreographed by me. Payal is also one of my students, so indirectly a lot of the different styles she may use in the video are influenced by some of the stuff I have taught her.
People might think that the dancing is decided step by step beforehand where in reality we just dance for a couple of hours to the music and the director picks and chooses what he likes.
Now that I have seen this commerical: is there anything you can't choreograph? How about dentures? That would have to be real tough, right?
Prosenjit: I guess you would have to smile a lot and dance… ha ha ha!
Prosenjit: I came to India in 2005 on an open ticket and I ended up staying 15 months and then went home and came back, and now 7 years later I am still here. At the time nobody really knew about these forms of dance but a lot of the younger kids were really interested to learn so I started teaching for free and holding practice sessions, performing at clubs, events and TV shows. I became well known among the slowly growing street dance community that I directly helped create at a grass roots level. I taught the first generation of these kids in these styles.
I've heard mention that you often worked without getting paid. Why was that?
Prosenjit: There are different ways I can answer this question.
One, I don’t expect to be paid when I teach kids that are not well off and eager to learn.
Two, I do cultural events and community building programs for free and
Three, when I get asked to do more commercial projects “for the love of dance” and not get paid...but I no longer agree to these requests
My ability to work and get paid well in India sets the standard for other younger dancers in my field. We have a skill and it has a value and so its important that dancers get paid well for their talent and hard work.
You spend a lot of time training people in remote locations. Why do you think your students want to learn dance?
Prosenjit: There is a rapid growth of Dance TV shows, Events, International contests, TV commercials, and Films that now embrace Street Dance styles as a legitimate form of dance. The people in the remote areas have a lot of heart and are eager to learn especially from someone like myself who is from the US, as most foreigners don’t go to the more remote areas to teach.
Do you think shows like Dance India Dance have helped or hurt your cause?
Prosenjit: I don’t like to speak negatively about any form of opportunity or exposure for dancers. Some things may not be relatable for me but have the power to uplift and change the lives of people who didn’t have the same exposure to dance as myself. Although the dancing you may see in commercial shows may not be completely true to the art form but these shows have their place in society and they entertain a lot of people.
At the same time it doesn’t really add fuel to my personal cause either other than the fact there is more demand for training. I was a judge on the first Street Dance reality TV show in India called Footloose and that was a really enjoyable experience and I tried to give as much accurate info to the public as I could on the show so no, I don’t have a problem with dance TV shows.
When you have to choreograph something, how do you pick the people who will dance with you?
Prosenjit: I have a large network of dancers that I have directly or indirectly taught and I usually work with them based on the need.
You don't speak much Hindi, but you must have watched Hindi films. Who do you consider to be the best dancers in Indian films today?
Prosenjit: Honestly I don’t watch Hindi films and Bollywood dance has its own flavor. I am not an expert on this subject to decide who is good or not.
Have you seen any dances in Indian movies that you believe showcased Street Dance really well?
Prosenjit: Not really as yet.
Let's say you had to work with a superstar who blew chunks at dancing. Would you:
(a) Shake your head and refuse the assignment
(b) Choreograph your dance to hide the superstar's lack of skills
(c) Create the best dance moves for the situation and tell your superstar to shape up
Prosenjit: The answer would be (c)!
Singers always get asked to sing whenever they are at a party or gathering. Do you get asked to break out a few moves at parties?
Prosenjit: Yes, almost always!
While I have you here, I need some advice. My son who I call Motorsandal is going to be 14. He'll have to go to a few dances. He refuses to dance in public! What should I do?
Prosenjit: I was a really shy kid and believe it or not I was shy to dance in public too, so my advice is to let him decide what he is comfortable with and he may surprise you one day.
My thanks to the Drift Memsaab for help with the questions
MORE TO EXPLORE:
Prosenjit's web site
A new documentary that Prosenjit is in
The original song Daav Lagaa from Agey Se Right (Vocals: Sona Mohapatra)
The Windows 8 Commercial