Goal-maal on the dance floor

Dressed in a grey suit, slightly ill at ease about being surrounded by the paparazzi, the 51-year-old Mir Ranjan Negi does not really fit into the glamour world. The former coach of the Indian hockey team, has different goals to achieve here. Negi is rehearsing hard for shaking a leg in Sony TV’s Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, season two.

At a press meet recently, his entry sparked more applause and whistles than any other contestant. Call it the Chak De India effect!

Very down-to-earth Negi decided to be a part of the glamorous show because he has a hidden agenda. The agenda is to garner support and lend sheen to the sport so close to his heart – hockey.

He says with a quiet confidence, “Glamour and glitz should enter hockey, as it will pave way for its revival. I think, Chak De India has done a lot for the game and everyone in the country is talking about it. When I was approached for the show, I was pleasantly surprised. But, my participation in the show will definitely raise the awareness for hockey, since I am related to the game.”

Never having been to a disco, learning to dance has been a very difficult task for Mir. He rehearses every day for three to five hours with his choreographer Marischa Fernandes. But, it’s rough on him. He says, “My choreographer is taking great pains to teach me but she is a hard taskmaster. She started by teaching me hand movements followed by leg movements, but by that time, I’d have forgotten the hand movements. After much practice I managed to learn both. Then, she taught me, facial expressions. While mastering facial expressions, I could not recall the body movements. But, I will not give up.”

Goof-ups are a daily occurrence during rehearsals. “There have been several goof ups, but the most interesting one happened a few days ago. I had to move my leg above her head, but I ended up hitting her head. Imagine! Most of the times, I do the opposite to what I am supposed to do. Actually, western dance forms are very difficult, and for my age it is really a big challenge,” he says.

Another challenge is the age factor. While Mir is 51 and his choreographer Marischa is in her 20s. Is it a father-daughter chemistry? Mir snaps, “Please don’t say that. She may be half my age, but this is not at all father-daughter chemistry. We are here to rock!”

Mir has had to take three weeks off form his work with the Bombay Customs as a superintendent, for the contest. “I am sure I will go into the finale. I am in a mood to take more leave from my company. Thankfully, my company is very co-operative,” he says.

However, celebrity-dom comes with its own set of irritants. Negi is inundated with calls and he’s seemingly irritated by the constant buzz. “In five minutes I get 50 calls. This is really annoying when I am practising,” he says.

Being a sportsperson, Mir definitely has a good stamina giving his young choreographer Marischa, a run for her youth. He explains, “I have been used to long hours of practise, so I never get tired. Funnily, Marischa starts gasping at the end of the session,” he adds.

The long dance hours are definitely taking a toll. But a true sportsman that he is, he is ready with a defence mechanism. “I have never danced, and the practise sessions tire me a bit. But, I have started doing yoga to increase my stamina. I am also swimming every day as it’s the best form of exercise. I have lost a lot of weight too for the show,” Mir says.

Although, being a part of the Gold Medal winning team, he has never been garlanded in his life. “I have never been garlanded, the reason being I have never been manipulative. I am here to prove a point, that we sportspersons have the true sportsman spirit. The game is what matters. I guess, the garland is waiting for me,” he adds.

He thinks Sandhya Mridul will be his toughest competitor. “She has a lot of young energy in her. She would be tough, and Jay Bhanushali is the dark horse. But, I am sure people will vote for me straight from the heart,” he says.

Mir, with his wife Vineeta and her 20-year-old son Nilesh, stays in Wadala. He lost his elder son, Niranjan, two years back in a motorcycle accident. But he still feels his presence. “I know my son is there in my new journey. I am here for my family and friends who are rooting for me,” he adds.

Ranjib Mazumder

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