Dancer, choreographer, actor, and entrepreneur – why Shakti Mohan is always in the spotlight

From winning a dance reality show to completing 10 years in the entertainment industry, Shakti Mohan now dons a variety of hats. She is a reality show mentor, web series creator and also an entrepreneur with her own make-up line.
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Shakti Mohan who recently completed 10 years in the entertainment industry, first came into the spotlight when she won the dance reality show Dance India Dance. Following the win, she acted in a number of TV shows, movies, and also appeared as a mentor on several dance shows. 

In 2016, the Mumbai-based dancer opened her own dance studio Nritya Shakti. She has her own dance-meets-comedy web series called Break-a-Leg on her YouTube channel Nritya Shakti and also recently, launched her own make-up line, NY Bae X Shakti, in collaboration with purplle.com.

(Image source: Shakti Mohan)

In a freewheeling chat with HerStory, Shakti Mohan tells us about her journey, her ventures and her future plans.

HerStory: Did you take up dancing as a child?

Shakti Mohan: I started dancing when I was very young. My earliest memory is of daning to all the songs my sister Neeti didi played. My younger sister Mukti and I used to just follow her lead. I wanted to perform on stage and I always enjoyed that. At first, it was very exciting and also very nerve-racking but now it's become something amazing and beautiful. I started to enjoy dance at a whole new level and that's how it all began.

HS: Growing up in a house with four girls, what did that teach you?  

SM: Growing up in a house of four girls, with my mum and dad, it felt like our parents were wardens and we stayed in a hostel. We were always doing crazy things: planning choreographies, dancing and acting, fashion shows and something or the other was always happening. I think being with sisters is the best thing and when you have like-minded siblings that's even better because all of us loved singing, dancing, acting and we grew up as friends. We also used to fight a lot, especially Mukti and I. We still do but that was like the best time. 

(Her sister Neeti Mohan is a renowned playback singer and Mukti Mohan is a dancer and actor.)

HS: I remember you talking about the societal pressure that your parents faced when raising four girls on a reality TV show. Can you elaborate on that?  

SM: I think when we were growing up we really did not understand the concept of girls and boys in society. It was only during college that I understood that people considered girls as a liability and they felt ‘ki aapka vansh aage nai badhega’ (how will your dynasty grow?) nonsense.

There was a lot of pressure my parents went through and I think they are angels because they never let it affect us. They never put any kinds of conditions on us because we were girls. I think they just absorbed all the pressure from the society and let us fly.

HS: You recently launched a makeup line - NY Bae X Shakti. Why did you choose to enter the cosmetics market?   

SM: I never thought that I would have my own brand of make-up because it is something that grew on me over the years. Being on stage and on camera, you cannot avoid make-up and I really believed I needed something, which would represent me and what I believe. I also found the perfect partners who wanted to work with me, to create this range for people who have a very active lifestyle, are are doing several jobs in a day. This is dedicated to all those people who are running around like me all day and love doing it.

(Image source: Shakti Mohan)

HS: Tell us a little about Nritya Shakti and your efforts to promote dance?  

SM: Nritya Shakti is a name my father came up with and it started in 2011 when I started off with my dance calendars. Then I did the Nritya Shakti world tour where I went around the world, teaching dance. In 2016, I opened my dance studio, to celebrate the power of dance and give a platform to dancers to and explore and share their knowledge. It is a platform to learn and experience what's new in the industry. This is my way of giving back to all the people who have shown me love and support. The studio will turn four years old in June and I want it to grow bigger than me.

HS: Apart from dance, you seem to have a knack for comedy. Tell us how you infused the two in your show?  

SM: Break-a-Leg is a product of who I am. I love comedy and of course dance lives within me and coming the two came very naturally to me. The first season happened last year and now I'm in my second season. The audience has really shown so much love for the show. We threw the challenge to everybody and we have people from all over the world participating in the Break-a-leg challenge. 

HS: You have completed 10 years in the industry. How have you faced the challenges that came along the way?

SM: My family has always been there for me that makes me feel happy for myself all the time. I always think in a city like Mumbai where there's so much work going on,with so many people, so much competition, you need a family that embraces you and gives you love. Also, friends in this industry have offered a lot of support. They are the reasons why I'm able to overcome criticisms and challenges.

HS: What message would you like to give to other aspiring dancers and entrepreneurs?

SM: I believe in two things strongly and I keep reminding myself that: I have to really work hard and there cannot be a single day where you can be like, okay relax; and you have to be patient with whatever you're creating. It doesn't happen overnight when you're making something beautiful. I want to tell all the dancers that if you want to pursue dancing you need to understand that it's a dance form. It will take you forever to learn and if you truly love it, then only do it. Do not do it for fame and money because nothing in life can  ever guarantee you fame and money. 

Just love it so much that you can do it for the rest of your life without complaining and having conditions in your head.

HS: What are your future plans and goals?  

SM: I want to create a lot of projects and platforms for dancers where they can feel extremely proud. I also want to dance more and do a lot more collaborations and take Nritya Shakti to a global platform. 

(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)