Published: 27th February 2017
Meet the real Mr Delhi Belly!
Eshan Hilal, who is among the few male belly dancers around, talks about the art of movement
The first thing one notices about Eshan Hilal is the hypnotic sway of his hips as he proudly flaunts a belly that one could only dream of. His face and body language radiate the confidence of a dreamer, who has gone against all odds to follow his passion — the unmasculine art of belly dancing.
The video of the 24-year-old Delhiite belly dancing went viral recently. This certainly won the hearts of many, but also caught the disapproving eyes of a fair few who deemed him effeminate. But nothing could turn him off for too long.
On stage: Eshan Hilal during one of his performance
Coming from a conservative Muslim family, it was difficult for someone like Eshan, who began dancing at a very young age. Criticism, especially from his parents, was all that he heard growing up. “I remember as a little kid, people would ask me to dance the iconic steps from the Shah Rukh Khan film Koyla,” he recalls, adding, “I was a very keen dancer and this did not sit well with my parents, who wanted me to stop. Initially, they presumed that I’d outgrow it, but once I started taking part in competitions and dancing at social gatherings, they realised that it was too late. It became a part of who I am.”
When words of disappointment failed, Eshan’s father began to beat his son, calling dance an effeminate art that is considered haram in their culture. But that in turn moulded a rebel, who now aims to eliminate gender bias through his dance and fashion designing skills. “Since childhood, I’ve been restricted and told which jobs a woman should do and which a man should do. But adamantly I still ask — Who makes up these rules?” says Eshan.
The recent video of him explaining belly dance has racked up close to one million views. Eshan believes that he could have done a lot more with his parents’ support, which is moot now
An ardent fan of the French belly dancer Ilan Riviere, Eshan was keen to learn belly dancing as an art. But to his disappointment, he found that no school was willing to admit a male student. After almost a decade of searching for a guru, he finally met Meher Malik and joined the Banjara School of Dance, Delhi. The art form wasn’t as easy as he thought. He couldn’t even stand in the correct posture initially. But over time, he improved and embraced it as a part of his life. “The best part about belly dancing is that you must first love your body and respect yourself the way you are. I’ve been through a lot in my childhood and thought of myself as a spineless individual. Belly dancing changed that perception,” he says proudly.
The pose: Eshan Hilal during a photoshoot
While he remains devoted to belly dancing, Eshan is also working on his own label of unisex clothing. “I love creating designs that are neither too masculine nor feminine. My design sensibilities aren’t confined to one gender or genre,” says the designer.
Though the dancer has been lauded for his audacity to be different, for him, the greatest achievement would be his parents’ appreciation. Eshan doesn’t blame them though. “I love and respect my parents the way they are. They want me to behave the way society dictates. They want me to be perfect. Maybe it’s their upbringing. They were told that dance is haram, but they never thought to ask why it is
that way,” he explains quietly.
Eshan is a huge fan of Madhuri Dixit. But he has never met her though he’s had several chances. He says that he would like to meet her once he becomes an established dancer and perform her dance moves in front of her