Passion drives people like nothing else, and Haleem Khan is probably one of the best illustrators of this adage. The proficient Kuchipudi dancer and actor has defied all odds and broken stereotypes, to continue what he loves doing the most — dancing. He will now be featured in a 30-minute documentary, titled Dressed to Dance. Directed by Sravan Jadala and produced by Srini Reddy, the documentary which will allow a peek into his life, will be released over the weekend.
Haleem grew up in Ongole, where, as a child, he would always be glued to the television every time a Kuchipudi programme aired on the TV. It was not until he was 16 that he decided to act on his calling. “It is seen as something out of the ordinary, when men opt for classical dance and moreover, I am a Muslim. So, I decided to learn without my parents’ knowledge, but it was not easy for me to find a guru. I was pursuading one teacher for several months, after which her mother got convinced and told her to teach me.”
Once he stepped into the world of dance, he knew this was it. “I managed to learn dance in secret for eight years, while I was living with my parents. But I couldn’t give stage performances since it was a small town. Once I moved to Hyderabad for my education, I started performing. My parents got to know about it through a news clipping,” says Haleem. Luckily, along with the shock, his parents also received many congratulatory calls.
“I did a lot of research and I realised that the most traditional form of Kuchipudi was performed by men dressed as women, for female roles. So, I decided to start female impersonation and what I learnt through impersonating a woman would be explained in the documentary,” he says, as he reminisces, “The first time that my father came to my performance, he realised that the woman on the poster was in fact me!”
The way Haleem copes with the stigma around dancing is commendable. “People only judge because they are ignorant of the art and its history. When people question me, I try to educate them,” he says....