From Mitcham to Mumbai

    This Melbourne hip-hop crew took on Bollywood biggies in ABCD2, which has entered the Rs 100 -crore club. And they are stirring.
    Kat Molnar has been ‘dancing forever’. She is 26 but has been dancing for 20 years. As a two-year old she was greatly inspired by her father who practised martial arts. She would often watch and join him sculpting moves. Slowly that translated into a fascination for dancing. Molnar would spend hours watching videos of Michael Jackson and others and before she realised she was in love with hip hop. “I was learning by myself until I was 11 and then my mother said ‘OK we are going to find you a hip hop school’.” That is when Molnar started travelling back and forth to America learning and eventually teaching others back in Melbourne. In 2012, her dance group Superhoodz made a mark in Australia’s Got Talent. This year they were a part of Bollywood blockbuster ABCD2. Molnar’s dance today exemplifies her long journey into the substance of dancing and hip hop. Of her company, Superhoodz, she says, “We are here to dance, entertain and inspire.”
    Fresh from the super success of ABCD2, a 3D dance film directed by Remo D’Souza and produced by Siddharth Roy Kapur and Walt Disney Pictures. Molnar describes her unfathomable love for India as a result of the whole experience. The movie crossed the Rs 100 crore-mark in worldwide box office collection in its third week and reviews rave about how people loved the film for its 3D effects and amazing dance performances. But how the project fell on Molnar’s lap is surreal.
    Molnar’s Superhoodz team was performing in America when at 3 am one day she received a random email from the producers of ABCD2 saying they saw them on YouTube and wanted them to come to Mumbai and be a part of their movie. “We thought it was joke. We were like what is this movie? So I googled ABCD2 and found there has been a first one; it should be alright. I emailed back and they wanted us to come in two weeks. We thought two weeks – that is a bit crazy. We have to figure out work visa etc., and obviously that takes a little bit longer than two weeks. We ended up going six weeks later.”
    None of them had been to India before and they didn’t know what to expect. The ABCD2 producers wanted all 18 of the crew members but a few could not make it as they were under 18. “So it ended up with 15 of us going,” says Molnar.
    ABCD 2 is the sequel to 2013 film ABCD: Anybody Can dance, which had some small time dancers and Prabhudheva in pivotal roles. This time, D’Souza put his money on the rising star-quotient of Varun Dhawan and Shraddha Kapoor. The film also had dance crews from Germany and the Philippines.
    Molar and her team had a sense of the project but didn’t know how big an industry Bollywood was. “We knew they were very professional when they were emailing us about the movie saying they were going to pay for our flights, accommodation etc. We also knew that the American actor Lauren Gottlieb was in it too. But we didn’t know how big the film industry was,” says Molnar.
    And so this February Superhoodz were in Mumbai for 11 days to film the movie. Their India experience began on a queasy note, literally. “We had half our group in hospital in the first week from eating spicy food,” laughs Molnar, adding, “On set they had buckets for us in case some of us wanted to vomit. What happened was we were on the sets whole day and by the time we got back to the hotel it would be about 10 pm. So we think that maybe the food was sitting there for a while. But it was all good.”
    The team’s experience had all the elements of a Bollywood potboiler. Molnar recalls how a fire broke out on the sets at Film City, Goregaon, when they were shooting for the film. When reminded that the news made headlines across India at that time, Molnar stresses, “Yes we were in there.” Apparently a song sequence was being shot when one of the lights burst into flames. “We were filming a ceremonial waft, the lighting was incredible in the way it was set up, and then it actually caught on fire from the roof. We were in there; hundreds of people trying to run out, at the same time were trying to save the very expensive 3D equipment. Even the actors were running in there and flapping everything. It was so scary but it was incredible to watch everyone work together and get the fire out.”
    Molnar vividly remembers about how director Remo and lead actor Varun Dhawan helped evacuate the set. Though nobody got hurt thankfully, the day’s shooting was disrupted but it did nothing to daunt anyone’s spirit. The shooting resumed the next day. For Molnar and team everyday was full on.
    So what this Mitcham hip-hop dance crew does in ABCD 2 is obvious – hip hop. Molnar choreographed her dance role in the film which traces the journey of an Indian dance troupe, a motley group of boys and girls who come from the backstreets of a Mumbai suburb; their rise to fame, sudden downfall and then their heroic attempt to seek vindication by regaining their lost glory and pride. “The competition in the movie is based on a real competition which is happening in Vegas and they were facing off this real-life competition. We were against the Indians in the movie.”
    Molnar has carried a lot of memories from Mumbai. “Everyone was lovely. Indians are the loveliest people. We absolutely loved our experience. Remo is the nicest person ever. But Shraddha, Varun and everyone else were awesome too. They would always come up to us and say ‘you guys are great’. Obviously we were watching each other filming. They were so supportive and it was so good to see them learn the dance steps and work on their own steps. We were treated like royalty. The movie was incredible. And we can’t believe how professional everything was.”
    They also learnt that everyone in India is exceptionally hardworking. “There are so many workers. We had at least three people looking after us; if we turned around they would have a water bottle ready for us. We told them how incredible they were, that’s why when we came back here we were like ‘wow we are lazy’.”
    Back home, Molnar continues teaching at her Mitcham dance studio, which she and her brother Troy opened soon after they got appeared at popular television show Australia’s Got Talent in 2012. And although they were the semi-final contestants that year, their popularity soared. From dancing on the streets, the exposure this show gave them led them to opening their own dance studio. In many ways, opening the studio for the Molnar siblings embody the connection between the street and the soul on one side, and high art on the other.
    There is another interesting incident attached to the talent show. At that time, the CEO of Melbourne United NBL, Michael Slepoy, apparently someone who never watches television, happened to catch a glimpse of them performing and said “I want those dancers”. They have never looked back since.
    Apart from being NBL dancers for Melbourne United, they have been conducting workshops all around Melbourne as well as traveling interstate and overseas to conduct classes and shows. Superhoodz have been together for more than seven years and have won a range of Hip Hop competitions Australian wide. As director and choreographer of the group, Molnar has worked on numerous dance events including ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ in 2009 as a choreographer. Superhoodz have also made themselves known around the world going on a USA tour and performing at Disneyland, Universal Studios and in Hollywood.
    Like all dancers, Molnar and her team aspire to aspire to be the best at what they do as well as to do what they love, which is to dance, entertain and inspire others. With their high energy performances and their unique style, they have made a mark for themselves.
    Their India experience is, of course, something they continue to cherish. While they found Bollywood dancing amazing, they were equally amazed that India was so big on hip hop too. “We do see a lot of Bollywood dancing but we were so surprised how good they were at hip hop. It was so good to know Shraddha Kapoor and team – they are not dancers but they did so well, you can’t even tell.” Molnar laughs that it was their affable and talkative nature that won them so many friends too. “The producers taught us some traditional Bollywood moves. We made a video of it which was fun.”
    Molnar rues that fact that while there are exceptional dancers in Australia “we just don’t have the opportunity that America does. Even India does probably have more than Australia, we don’t have any movies so we got called to India to do a movie, it’s amazing.”
    Hip hop is a difficult area to traverse in dance but Molnar and her team Superhoodz have just shown that there are also no geographical boundaries to dance, music or the arts.
    By Indira Laisram