With torn jeans and slippers, Suresh Mukund's group entered their first dance reality show a decade ago. Last week, The Kings scripted history: winning "World of Dance" and walking away with USD 1 million.
The Kings, also known as 'Kings United', shot to global fame after they won the third season of the US reality show recently. The story of its founder and choreographer, Mukund, remarkably follows every beat of a Bollywood film: an impossible dream, a doting father, an underdog team, a group split, starting from the scratch and winning the biggest championship.
"The journey has been full of struggles, pain, sacrifices, and yes, it is a bit filmy," Mukund told PTI. Belonging to a middle class family in Maharashtra's Vasai, Mukund started 'Fictitious' dance group between 2008-2009 along with his partner Vernon Monterio, which mostly consisted of young and aspirational dancers from Nalasopara-Vasai belt. "Back then, there was only one reality show, 'Boogie Woogie', and no social media. Our dancers didn't even have a smartphone. But last week they were trending on Twitter. Can you imagine how... dreamy that is?"
For Mukund and team, the struggle was immense a decade ago. They battled not only scepticism regarding their ambitions but also financial constraints. "Initially we had few dancers who didn't have money at all. They came from poor families and didn't even have shoes. When we went to 'Boogie Woogie', some were wearing torn jeans and were on stage in slippers.
"That day I told one of my crew members, that someday these people will be stars. This time when the prize money was announced, I was recollecting those memories. They became stars after all." Much before "World of Dance", Mukund and Monterio's group was already on a roll. They had won the reality show "India's Got Talent" and they were noticed by filmmaker-choreographer Remo D'Souza. In 2015, Remo made "ABCD 2", inspired by their life. But before the release of the film, the group split.
"As I was always known as a part of the 'Fictitious' group, once we split, I was suddenly out of work. I gathered some people with me - some old, some new and started Kings United." Mukund said he knew he had to come back stronger and the only way to do that was by winning the next competition in sight: World Hip Hop Dance Championship 2015.
"But because it was a new group, I had no one backing me. We had no place to rehearse and we just had 20 days to practice for the championship." It was then Mukund found a huge support in his father. "My dad is into construction. He used to help me financially. But after we won 'India's Got Talent', I stopped asking him for anything. But now I had no one to go.
"So I asked my father to provide me with a place as I needed to start from scratch. He built us a concrete place with tin sheds from all four corners. Whatever we did, we did it from that tiny place." 'Kings United' eventually went on to win the bronze medal in the championship. "I think what my father built for us, it was extremely lucky. When we came back, we constructed the place properly.
Today, it is India's biggest dance studio. It's the same place where we practised for 'World of Dance' too." Mukund is aware how far The Kings can go from here. A global platform has opened up for them and has also given him the opportunity to pursue his other ambitions. "I want to establish myself as a Bollywood choreographer first and then want to go into direction. That will take time, but I'm prepared for it. That's on my bucket list."
But till that dream is achieved, Mukund wants to give it all to dancing and to his crew. "The level of struggle they have gone through and the faith they had in me, I'm thankful. It's incredible to have something like that. That someday, a group of dancers from a local gully would become global stars."