June issue 2002
Great Leap Forward
It’s not every day that a 26-year-old Asian male establishes himself as a modern dancer in the western world, particularly in New York not to mention lands a part in a Hollywood extravaganza. Even more unusual is the fact that he hails from the Land of the Pure. But Pakistani-American Omar Rahim is no ordinary desi. He has been affiliated with an experimental modern dance ensemble in New York, Susan Marshall & Company since ’97. And considering that Susan Marshall & Company has been awarded the Prestigious Macarthur “Genius” grant award in 2001 — Rahim seems to be in excellent company! The group works on the basis of a collaborative process in which the performers share the choreography credit. Rahim is now also an independent dance director and choreographer. And his interest has taken him around the world — he has trained in Paris and India — and performed in the US, Europe and Pakistan. But it doesn’t end there.
Recently Rahim’s career took an unexpected and welcome turn when he was offered a cameo role in a Hollywood movie. The film titled The Guru, is being made under the renowned Universal Studios and Working Titles Pictures banner, and Omar plays an old-style Bollywood prince with his dance and song sequence featuring as the opening. The same dance routine also later recurs in the film, as a leitmotif.
If that in itself was not enough, Omar has also contributed extensively to the choreography of the film — slaving to teach dance moves to Jimi Mistry of East Is East fame and current American icon, Heather Graham, the sweet-faced, innocent beauty who created waves with her performance in Austin Powers. The movie was initially being choreographed solely by Maryann Kellogg, a renowned modern dancer. However, she had no knowledge of South Asian dance moves. Therefore, when Omar Rahim spoke of his extensive experience in this field, he became, without a doubt, the co-choreographer of the film.
The movie, due for release sometime at the end of this year, is a light hearted romantic comedy focusing on the life of a Mumbai-based choreographer who tries to make it big as a Hollywood star. Adding to its credentials, it also stars Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei, who happens to be playing a role of a New York debutante who is obsessed with South Asian religion and customs and happens to lose her heart to Jimi Mistri.
The film seems set for success — and Rahim? It seems a star is born!