EXCLUSIVE: Never Have I Ever dancer Joya Kazi reveals the biggest challenge of choreographing Nagada Sang Dhol

In an exclusive chat with Pinkvilla, the gorgeous dancer spills the bean on bagging Never Have I Ever, choreographing Nagade Sang Dhol and the challenge that came with it.
EXCLUSIVE: Never Have I Ever dancer Joya Kazi reveals the biggest challenge of choreographing Nagada Sang Dhol EXCLUSIVE: Never Have I Ever dancer Joya Kazi reveals the biggest challenge of choreographing Nagada Sang Dhol
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Anyone who has watched Never Have I Ever would have experienced their heart pacing when Nagade Sang Dhol began playing in the fourth episode "...Felt Super Indian". The Netflix series, revolving around a teenager with Indian origins in the US, incorporated Deepika Padukone's famous dance number from Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela for a dance bit during a Ganesh Puja. While we felt like Anjali (Kajol) from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham - the scene where her son sings the national anthem - and wanted to give Mindy Kaling a hug, we also wanted to shower our love on Joya Kazi - the choreographer and dancer in the scene. 

While she looks absolutely flawless, almost urging you to get on your feet and dance with her, Joya told Pinkvilla that there was one challenge she faced during filming the scene. She revealed she couldn't lipsync the song for when the scene was being shot, there was no assurance that the makers would get the rights to the song before the final cut of the series. "I sent a number of various song choices as well as choreography samples in Kathak, Bharatnatyam, semi-classical, urban commercial and of course the classic Bollywood styles. Within a couple of days, I got the final list back from Mindy and the producers and Nagade Sang Dhol was at the very top. And that's what we began rehearsals with," she recalled. 

"Even on the day of the shoot, we didn't know if we would still get rights of that song so we had to make sure that we didn't lipsync - which is honestly the hardest thing ever, especially when the song is all vibes. But that's actually the process of being able to go from no song to maybe a choreography that can fit with any song to 'okay, now we have the rights to Nagada Sang Dhol Baje'. A lot of people think we first select the song but it's kinda this backward process of just really making sure that the choreography you select make sense with the actual scene and can be paired with any song in the long run," she explained. 

We wouldn't have wanted any other song in that scene, Joya! 

Apart from the uncertainty of the song, Joya was also under the dark about the plotline surrounding the dance sequence. "I wanted to make sure we were able to find a choreography and a piece that fit well and made sense in the scene. At the initial point of time, I did not know exactly what was happening that it is Ganesh Puja or that it's a pivotal moment for Devi to now be in front of a group of girls who are very proud of their Indian culture," she added. 

Joya not only shared the tale of the scene but also opened up about how she landed the gig. She reveals she woke up one morning with a text from the production team reaching out to her with the opportunity. While the production team couldn't reveal the details of the project, they informed her that Mindy was a part of the series and Joya did not think twice before she said yes. Her initial contribution was going to be limited to choreography and wardrobe but as the project developed, the creators wanted her in the shot and play the lead dancer. "I was completely shocked," she confessed. "On one hand, I am thrilled, on the other hand, I am super scared because I know how overwhelming it is going to be," she admitted. 

Joya compared the portrayal of Indian dance culture in American shows versus the portrayal in Never Have I Ever and said, "I feel like in American television, anytime you see Bollywood dancing, it is this huge spectacle. It's really outlandish, a million colours, but (Never Have I Ever) was something where you can show authentic Indian dancing, realistic costuming, and just the idea that Bollywood dancing or Indian dancing does not have to be this huge event. It can be something very normal and beautiful and aesthetically pleasing without having to just fit this mold that the west has created for us." 

We are glad you broke the mold, Joya! 

For the unversed, the Indian-origin choreographer has worked and featured on several international and Indian projects. This includes working Dance Plus Season 3, DJ Snake ft. Lauv's A Different Way and Madhuri Dixit's show Dance Deewane. 

ALSO READ: Never Have I Ever: Maitreyi Ramakrishnan hints at season 2 of Mindy Kaling's Netflix series