Crafting love with fingers: The story behind an iconic title song
Imthiyas Abubacker

Crafting love with fingers: The story behind an iconic title song

Imthiyas Abubacker is the mastermind behind these dancing fingers; he is the dance director who first introduced finger dance to India twelve years ago. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Imthiyas...

VK Sanju

A song sequence from the film 'Once Upon a Time in Kochi', directed by Nadir Shah, has already captured attention. The song, starting with "Pande Pande Ennotalinje Nee...", is the movie's title track. This sequence features a unique art form where only fingers dance, with the lead characters' faces printed on. Imthiyas Abubacker is the mastermind behind these dancing fingers; he is the dance director who first introduced finger dance to India twelve years ago. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Imthiyas Abubacker:

Q

How did you come up with the idea of using finger dance for the title song?

Director Nadir Shah (left) overseeing the shoot for title song using finger dance.
Director Nadir Shah (left) overseeing the shoot for title song using finger dance.
A

I first spoke to Nadir Shah about finger dance twelve years ago. Last January, he called me. He wanted to know if I could choreograph the title song of his new film using finger dance. He sent me the song, and after listening to it, I agreed. The directive was to make love the theme of the scenes. My task was to depict the romantic past of the characters in a way that tied into the film's plot.

Q

What was involved in bringing the director's idea to life?

Imthiyas Abubacker performing finger dance for the title song sequence.
Imthiyas Abubacker performing finger dance for the title song sequence.
A

The finger movements may seem simple to viewers, but they require much more practice than regular dancing. The fingers need to be positioned precisely, often while hanging upside down, which can cause nosebleeds. I was bedridden for a week during the process, but my family supported me all the way.

Another challenge was organizing the necessary properties. We used the services of five costumers to prepare the outfits. Getting the right shoes was even harder; many were ordered from the US, delivered to Dubai, and then brought here. Only two or three pairs were made locally.

It took two weeks just to complete the artwork. We even enlisted a fight master, as some filming required hanging upside down. It took a month to complete the shooting and finalize the product. Still, I give great credit to Nadir Shah for coming up with such an idea. If he had not shared this vision, none of this would have come true. I sincerely thank him for that.

Miniature shoes used for the shooting.
Miniature shoes used for the shooting.
Q

Were the resources of the movie itself was used for the title song?

A

Special credit was given to our entire team in the film because this segment was directed by me and completely prepared by my team. My two hands play the roles of both hero and heroine. We rented the studio floor, shot the sequence ourselves, and handled even the coloring. Cinematographer Prakash Velayudhan managed the camera, using a macro lens for miniature shots and a probe lens for close-up shots.

One of the miniature sets used for title song shoot
One of the miniature sets used for title song shoot
Q

You have already worked in the film industry. How was the experience of using finger dance in this context?

Another miniature sets used for title song shoot
Another miniature sets used for title song shoot
A

I primarily work as a Director of Choreography (DoC) and Associate Director in films. However, this is not the first time I’ve used finger dance in a film. The first instance was in 2012, for the movie 'Aaru Sundarimarude Katha', which set a national record that time. Finger dance was rarely used back then. There were lots of technological limitations. Now, it has been extensively used in the title song of 'Once Upon a Time in Kochi'. This is the first time globally that a film's title song has been presented completely through finger dance.

Q

What are the other possibilities of finger dance?

Imthiyas Abubacker
Imthiyas Abubacker
A

I am involved in a project called Mind Moves for autistic children. They are 'super heroes' for me. Finger exercises can bring many positive changes in the brains of these super heroes, so we decided to incorporate them. The Mind Moves training program is being conducted in various special schools within Kochi city limits. I hope to expand this initiative further.

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