Naacho naacho’ is not just a viral dance number in India today. It’s also the prevalent mood of Tollywood dance master Prem Rakshith who has choreographed it. He is literally dancing with joy as the 3.28-minute song has garnered 200 million views across five languages–– Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam. “While I have composed for over 400 songs in over 75 movies, this one’s the cherry on the cake,” he says. The dance is from the movie RRR (Rise Roar Revolt) starring Telugu Superstars Ram Charan, Jr NTR, Bollywood stars Ajay Devgn and Alia Bhatt. The movie is estimated to have collected Rs 1.003 crore since its release on March 25 across all languages.
The dance features legendary stars Ram Charan and Jr NTR, known for their dancing prowess. “My brief from director Rajamouli was to ensure that both outshone each other. It took 97 steps, 53 variations of the now famous hook step and 33 days of background work to create the ‘Naacho Naacho’ magic onscreen. The hook step got okayed after 17 takes in the hot climes of Kyiv, Ukraine. As India was under lockdown in early 2021, the crew shot for several months in the now war-torn country. We super-zoomed each step to ensure everything––from the arch of their wrists to the curvature of the knees––synced organically. All that hard work paid off,” he comments.
The 44-year-old Tamil choreographer from Puducherry spent his formative years in Chennai. In the 1990s, his father was working with the Film Union in Chennai which helped him gain an entry into the Tamil movie industry. “I suffered abject poverty in my teenage years. My dad’s meagre earnings could barely feed us.
After I found out that the Film Union gave a compensation of Rs 50,000 to the family of the deceased, I even contemplated suicide on Marina Beach because I was unable to take care of my family. But a phone call (a few minutes before I was about to walk into the sea) from Hyderabad offering me work as a dancer changed my life. In the summer of 1994, I got work in a Telugu film and never looked back,” he says.
Rakshith says that all he knew was that he could dance like crazy when he heard upbeat music. That’s what made him gravitate towards dance. However, composing for movies wasn’t so fetching in the 90s and he had to do odd jobs, including teaching summer dance classes, for the film families. It was when he was teaching Rajamouli’s son Karthikeya that he was spotted by the director. “He happened to see how I taught and also chanced upon one of the dances I had composed in a Tamil film.
He then asked me to work for Chatrapathi in 2005,” he says. So far Rakshith has worked in eighth Rajamouli hits, including RRR. In all, he has choreographed in 66 Telugu and Tamil movies since 1994. His recent success fetched him big-ticket movies with directors Shankar and Simbu.
What else is on his wishlist? “In 2002, I had invented a new dance style, but I could not work on it due to lack of time. I want to promote it now. It will be a dance style that everyone can learn online. I am contemplating bringing out a book too on this.” Until then, his mantra is to dance like nobody’s watching. Naacho Naacho!
What next: Want to start a visual graphics company to employ the hearing- and speech-impaired
Dance gurus I worship: Prabhu Deva, Raju Master and Shiamak Davar Favourite dance from his discography: ‘Manohari’ from Baahubali - The Beginning (2015) Favourite dance: cMain Aisa Kyun Hoon’ from Lakshya (2004), choreographed by Prabhu Deva