He's best friends with Sting, and pals with Will Smith and Richard Gere. He's been the opening act (twice) for Bryan Adams in Mumbai and Bangalore, India. And he's received a resounding shout-out of support from former U.S. president Bill Clinton, who declared: "The world must see you."
Meet Shiamak Davar - known to his legion of fans simply as Shiamak - who is to the Bollywood film industry what Michael Flatley is to Irish dance. The 49-year-old singer, actor and dancer is the official choreographer of the International Indian Film Academy Awards, coming to Toronto for the first time next week.
"It's the Indian equivalent of the Oscars," says Davar of the event, which wraps up with a spectacular awards show honouring the best in Indian film on June 25. The awards night (which sold out in minutes) will include Bollywood's mega-celebrities, such as Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra and Slumdog Millionaire's Anil Kapoor.
Of course, Davar himself is equally high wattage. If most North Americans haven't heard of him, in India he's a household name for bringing dance to the common man through a string of popular companies in every major Indian city - as well as in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, where Davar, who became a Canadian resident six years ago, lives when he's not at his other home in Mumbai.
"My spiritual mother, Khorshed Bhavnagri, the author of the book The Laws of the Spirit World, moved to Vancouver and so I did too. I was smitten with the city because of its beauty," Davar says.
He has "done the IIFA Awards all over the world, including Macau, Amsterdam, Dubai and London," he says. (About 22,000 will attend the Toronto show, which is set to broadcast to an international audience of nearly 700 million.) "But I would say Macau was the most challenging, and that was because we had to transport everything - the sets, the costumes, the talent - on boats down a river. But Toronto is very, very special to me because it will include teachers and students from my dance schools in Canada. I'm proud all of my Canadian students can perform in this event. It's a good feeling to have that extra kind of support."
Davar's dance schools - a blend of Indian and Western influences - have been dubbed the Shiamak Movement. The ebullient choreographer was inspired to start his own dance company after both Sting and Gere told him he had something unique that both Hollywood and Bollywood would embrace.
So, 10 years ago, Davar spearheaded his Institute for the Performing Arts (or SDIPA) with the motto: "Have Feet. Will Dance." Today, Shiamak is one of the largest dance schools in the world, reaching more than 50,000 enthusiasts annually in India, Canada, Australia and the United Arab Emirates.
As for the Toronto gala, with a multimillion-dollar budget, it's expected to draw Bollywood royalty on and off the stage - including the Punjabi-based Deol family and its most famous son, Dharmendra Singh Deol (better know as Dharmendra), an award-winning actor who's appeared in hundreds of Hindi-language films.
"This guy is a legend," says Davar (who tends to pepper his speech with endearments such as darling). "He's like your Robert De Niro, and his family is coming to perform at the event."
In addition to directing and choreographing the seven to eight acts that will perform at the awards ceremony in Toronto, Davar designs sets and the colourful costumes.
"It's larger than life, these shows," he says. "And Shiamak is unique. It's a style I've developed over 25 years. It's not Bollywood or Hollywood. It's not Indian at all, but it's a dance movement that is infused with our culture. It's something everyone can appreciate."
Indeed, apparently even Prime Minister Steven Harper is a fan. "I hope this doesn't come off sounding boastful, but Shah Rukh Khan, who is also a Canadian resident, and myself were invited to meet Mr. Harper for dinner during [last year's G20]Summit. Only two [Indian stars]were invited, Shah Rukh and me."
At least 100 of Davar's Canadian dancers will perform at the Rogers Centre. Like the Oscars, the ceremony pays tribute to the best of Indian film right now, as well as deceased legends. The show will include majestic props and sets - and ear-piercing musical numbers that Davar promises will have the audience dancing in their seats.
"The awards are a celebration that showcases India's heritage, in its full glory, to people around the world," he says. "And the event in Toronto is especially important to me because I get to welcome the Indian film fraternity to a country that I consider my second home."