Perth entertainer Sarah Anjuli Hopkins has been humbled by the enormous response she’s had to her Bollywood debut with more than two million people watching her first Hindi music video within days of its release.
“It’s so crazy, especially coming from Perth where there are around that many people,” she said, speaking to WAtoday from Mumbai.
“My mum is Indian so would play Indian music growing up, and I’ve always danced and performed both western and eastern dances since I was a child.
“So I’ve always been surrounded by the two cultures but only seriously thought about coming over to Bollywood about two years ago.”
Dancing since the age of three at Perth’s Jody Marshall Dance Company, Sarah has pursued a career as a dancer and actor with vigour in Australia, Hollywood and now Bollywood with her breakthrough role in a music video called Piya Aa.
The chance came after a director spotted her in a dance video she’d posted online and after a series of auditions and tests, Sarah was chosen to join the production.
The finished product is a swirling dance track with Sarah leading a troupe through fast-paced moves set to a driving Hindi beat.
“I’m actually lip-syncing in the clip haha. I can sing but in Bollywood you just mime the lyrics that’s being sung by the singer. In this case the singer was Sunidhi Chauhan,” she said.
“But I’ve been learning Hindi and had to put in a lot of effort to make sure I knew the words and the meaning of the song. After I got the lyrics I played the song over and over and made sure I understood what I was saying so I could express it properly.”
The music clip was released to support an upcoming Bollywood movie Haseena Parkar, a gangland drama.
Sarah said the highlight was learning the fast, complex dance routine, which called on her to improvise as well.
“After I found out I got it we started rehearsing the next day. I did about three days of rehearsals that week and then we rehearsed the night before we shot it.
“They actually changed a lot of the choreography on the day so the chorus and things were the same but a lot of things we had to improvise once we got to the set.”
Sarah said this more open and creative process is an exciting aspect of Bollywood, which allows work to thrive with a mix of planning and spontaneity.
“They may plan to shoot something one day but then something happens and they have to postpone it for some reason, but it’s normal here, whereas in Hollywood I think a lot more people would find the sudden changes really stressful,” she said.
“I definitely did in the beginning but you learn that this is the way it works here and that your plans have to be flexible. You always have to be ready because you never know what’s going to come up so I like that too as it’s always exciting.”
Sarah’s mum is visiting her in Mumbai, but she’s got no plans to return home to Perth just yet while she knuckles down and auditions for more roles.
“My next goal is to get a lead or major acting role in a film. I’d also love to do another huge Bollywood dance number that shows off some of my other dance skills as well!
“It’s been such a crazy journey for me so I’m lucky I’ve had supportive parents throughout this crazy ride.
“But basically I’d advise anyone who wants to follow in my footsteps to never stop believing in yourself and to go after what you want without thinking too much about how you’ll get there.
“Just do what feels right for you and enjoy the experiences along the way.”
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