Actor and theatrical figure on how his character in Pa Ranjit’s latest film was inspired by British boxer Naseem Hamid.
That’s 16+ minutes in Sarpatta Parambarai that we first see the Dancing Rose. A man with an unusual gait and a lonely curl on his forehead, he must not be missed. Minutes later, he catapults into a boxing ring with lots of flips and wheels to face Kabilan (played by Arya) and we know right away that we’re in for a treat. Dancing Rose, exuding confidence, moves through the ring, teases her opponent, throws herself into the wave and steals the show. What follows has been hailed as the best fight scene in the recently released Amazon Prime sports drama directed by Pa Ranjit, as trending in the #DancingRose hashtag on Twitter.
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Some even wanted to make a separate film about The Dancing Rose.
But who is this character? Chennai-based actor and theatrical figure Shabir Kallarakkal giggles during interviews; he still perceives it all. It was amazing, he adds. Shabir made his big screen debut starring with Nerungi Waa Mutamidathe (2014) and has since played supporting roles in films such as Adanga Maru, Petta and Teddy… He has also been active in theater since 2009 and is an avid fitness enthusiast with martial arts and parkour activities under his belt.
In December 2019, he auditioned for the role at the suggestion of casting director Nitya. The scene he auditioned for was a bit later (* spoiler alert *) Dancing Rose was unexpectedly defeated in the ring. Viewers will not see this scene on screen.
Shabir never sat during the filming of the much-discussed boxing scene between the Dancing Rose and Kabilan. He recalls: “Everything you see in the ring happened that day during filming … it was not rehearsed. Of course, I learned boxing skills, but the style was not rehearsed. I knew I was supposed to be the Dancing Rose and it worked! Maybe if I do it again, it might be a different version. “
He adds that this is a character that, in fact, was reflected in his physical appearance. “This character is full of confidence. He has never lost a fight, he is retired … he is in this space. And when he comes back, it’s just to relax, ”he laughs.
Shabir studied kaaladi kuthu varasai, mixture silambam, kickboxing and Muay Thai, but he did not train in boxing as a separate sport. “I was assigned to Master Tyr, who trained all the actors, and I was the last person on board,” he recalls. But his fitness level helped him enjoy the process.
In the film, Pa Ranjit was attentive to the boxing styles of each of the actors, giving each actor a reference point. For example, the style of Arya’s character, Kabilan, was modeled after Muhammad Ali and Vembuli (played by John Kokken) were an ode to Mike Tyson. Likewise, Dancing Rose was inspired by British boxer Naseem Hamid, known for his fluid movements that almost imitate dance form. “I just took it as a guide, watched a few videos and got the gist and also formulated my own style,” says Shabir, who also followed the advice of old boxers from North Madras who were part of the large ensemble.
The film was filmed during the pandemic and in between locks, which meant Shabir had to be in shape throughout the film. An avid fitness enthusiast and personal trainer, he trained at home and added boxing to his parkour and other martial arts. These fitness skills helped him improve his character. “I would take elements from these skills and use them to make the character the way I perceived Dancing Rose,” he says. But not without problems. He recalls the first day of the shooting after isolation. “I really fought. Luckily for me, the next day was Sunday, I went home, took the metronome, turned up the beat and let it play in my room. One of the pointers for this character was the fast rhythm in his mind, ”he says.
Shabir’s experience in theater, especially while working with the Little Theater, Chennai as an actor and hospital clown helped him keep the audience moving during the fight. He tried to evoke a response from those present as spectators. “The director and fight directors, AnbAriv (duo), were very open to ideas in terms of adding my own quirks,” he says. “It was also very beautiful to visit North Madras in the 70s. Subconsciously, it also helped me get into the role. “
Working with Pa Ranjit was an easy experience for Shabir. “He was friendly and cheerful and easy to approach.” As for Arya, with whom he worked in Teddy In addition, he says: “We filmed in ‘Teddy’ in Azerbaijan, and it was a fun and relaxed atmosphere. Here the experience was completely different. We worked 14-15 hours a day and were very hard. “
Now the actor has a couple of films in development.