Friendly Fridays is back with one of India’s most popular Belly Dancers; Meher Malik.
Choreographer for Rani Mukherjee’s Aiyyaa’s super hit song ‘Aga Bai’, having performed in India’s Got Talent and Hrithik Roshan judged Just Dance, Meher also runs a professional Belly Dancing school in Delhi by the name of Banjara School of Dance. She can be termed as a revolutionary even, trying to change the stigmatic perception of this dance in India and worldwide from ‘mujra’ / ‘vulgar’ to ‘a respected art form’, which is how it originally started. And she’s been quite successful at it.
Her current projects include Banjara’s first professional production, a dance reality show on Star Plus and multi city dance workshops in India and China.
Team ED: Hi Meher, welcome to Friendly Fridays! How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Meher Malik: Hi guys, those would be: Rebellious, Passionate and Optimistic.
Team ED: Interesting! How did belly dance start for you?
Meher Malik: I’ve lived in the Middle East (Oman) for 17 years. Contrary to popular belief, Belly dancing is banned in Middle East and is done only at private parties, New years and other such events. I would watch and learn all that I could from these events. So belly dancing was always a part of my life informally. However formally I wanted to be a fashion designer. I got through NIFT, so I came to India to study fashion designing. Within 5 months I realised that this is not what I want to do and I quit NIFT. In 2006 I went to London to train myself in Belly Dancing and that’s how it all started for me.
TeamED: So on coming here, was there any resistance or stereo typing that you faced given the pseudo culture and society of India?
Meher Malik: I faced limitless societal pressure. From the age of 17 to 21, all I tried doing was to promote myself as an artist in the country. However the response was not in good taste.
I used to be asked “Tumhaare package main kya milta hai?” Initially in our country people saw no difference between prostitution and belly dancing and belly dancing wasn’t even considered an art form ten years back. Back then the kind of work we used to be given was like dancing in bars, finding jobs was thus very difficult.
A lot has changed now, I am treated with a lot of respect, we do various events and even international shows from time to time.
Watch an amazing video by her team: Odissi + Belly dance + Hotel California
Team ED: That must’ve been tough though. We know your love for dancing, but what would you say is your alter ego?
Meher Malik: My natural personality is aggressive so I find my alter ego in being calm, in spending free time with kids on the streets, in working for a larger good. My own project, “Project Life Jacket” is all about collecting old jewellery, cushion covers, clothes and other materials to convert into jackets.
Team ED: That’s an interesting project you’ve started. We would want to know some fun things about you now. If you could perform live with any particular individual, who would it be? Also if you could choreograph for any Bollywood celebrity, who would that be?
Meher Malik: I would love to perform with Mr A.R Rahman and that will be next to a dream come true. Also if I had to choreograph any Bollywood actress it would hands down be Madhuri Dixit and Deepika Padukone.
Team ED: Oh, we too would love to see Madhuri Dixit and Deepika have a belly dance jugalbandi, taught by you! So what is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Meher Malik: Quitting college twice to pursue belly dancing, for me would quality as the craziest thing I’ve ever done. You agree?
Team ED: Haha, absolutely! And if you could choose, what would be the last line of your biography?
Meher Malik: Been there, done that!
Team ED: That would be so apt! What is your mantra for life?
Meher Malik: There’s an amazing quote I would call my life mantra, it goes like
“Be like a rose that yields perfume even to those hands that crush it”
Team ED: That’s truly inspiring! And one dance movie one should not miss?
Meher Malik: If I have to pick, it would be ‘Step Up’.
Team ED: Lastly which is your favourite dance number?
Meher Malik: That would be ‘Choli ke peeche kya hai’. I love dancing to it.
Team ED: What is that one thing you’d want to say to the ED readers?
Meher records a selfie video message for the ED Readers