From Meghalaya to Millions

From Meghalaya to Millions

Sohum, aka Debojeet, from Meghalaya becomes an overnight sensation after his dance video goes viral. His unique blend of classical and freestyle dance has captivated millions.

From Meghalaya to Millions From Meghalaya to Millions

He was just a dancer from Meghalaya, putting in the hours and posting his reels online like countless others. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until one video took off in a major way. Suddenly, this artiste had over 100,000 new followers practically overnight. From invisible to internet famous in a viral flash - this is the story of how one reel changed everything for an underrated talent, Sohum alias Debojeet, from Shillong, Meghalaya.

“As soon as I heard the song ‘Chor’ by Justh and saw a fellow dancer using just expressions, I knew I had to create this,” he recalled of the reel’s origin. The meaningful song, whose title means “Thief” in English, resonated deeply. After filming it casually one day, he was disheartened, feeling he hadn’t done justice to his vision. With a busy schedule, he shelved the idea of re-shooting, never imagining “this would change my entire perspective and bring to life years of hard work.”

But that single reel proved transformative, unlocking unprecedented popularity after years of relative obscurity in the dance world. The very clip he once disregarded as subpar mysteriously bewitched the internet.

When the video inexplicably went viral, accolades poured in from every corner. Praise flooded his DMs, celebrities left congratulatory comments, and his friends celebrated more exuberantly than he could. Even his own family was stunned by the overnight success. Yet the dancer remained frozen, unable to truly process what was happening. “It took me a few days to feel the reality of it,” he admitted. As the follower count continued skyrocketing, he found himself rejoicing yet utterly disbelieving, praying this wasn’t just an elusive dream.

Debojeet, who performs under the stage name Sohum, speaking to India Today NE, reminisced about his journey to discovering his love for dance. “I was always drawn to Indian dance forms since childhood,” he began, “but it wasn’t until I watched Devdas at the age of 16 that something truly clicked for me.” He vividly recalled how Madhuri Dixit’s expressions throughout the film captivated him. “I instantly knew that I wanted to pursue this art form for a lifetime,” he reflected. The Abhinaya, with its wide range of expressive possibilities, captured his heart entirely, offering a graceful means to convey emotions.

The misty hills of Meghalaya weave their magic into every artist born amid them. For Sohum, growing up in this quiet corner of Northeast India wasn’t just a circumstance - it was the backdrop upon which his artistic identity took shape. The sights, sounds, and cultures around him coloured his perspective from a tender age, laying the foundations for the expressive dancer he would become.

Reflecting on those formative years, Sohum recalled how his upbringing played a pivotal role in shaping not just his passion, but his very approach to dance. “Shillong has a very limited space for Indian dance forms,” he said, “but my heart was always attached to dance. Any music around would attract me.” He is grateful to his mother for encouraging him to learn Indian classical music from childhood, keeping him tethered to the art form he treasures. “I always wanted to express myself through dance,” Sohum continued. Participating in events like Durga Puja and competitions allowed him to fulfil those dreams. “For a child or artiste performing, the sound of hands clapping is the most motivating - it gives you strength. I remember the first time I heard it, it fuelled my determination to keep pushing myself.”

Watching Sohum dance is like witnessing poetry in motion. His style is distinctly his own - a seamless fusion of classical prowess and freestyle fluidity. But it’s his command over the most subtle movements and expressions that set him apart. A raised eyebrow, a knowing glance, a slight curl of the lips - in Sohum’s skilled hands, these tiny nuances speak volumes.

“When I started, I had no clue what it was called or even knew the word Kathak,” he admitted. However, he vaguely recalled always being a fan of the Kathakali dance form, captivated by “the way they just play with their eyebrows and eyes.” It was a skill he only dreamed of mastering.

Now, as his online presence grows significantly alongside his corporate career in Hyderabad, the dancer faces a new challenge: finding balance. “It has been really difficult juggling both,” he admitted candidly. Yet Sohum finds motivation in his love for the art form itself: “I keep reminding myself to push forward because that’s the only way I can escape the hustle and pressure.”

The newfound adoration of his audiences adds another driving force. “The pressure is a lot balancing everything,” he said, “but now I’m also motivated by the love the audience has showered me with. I feel I owe it to these people to keep justifying that love by pushing myself as much as I can.” Being a male pursuing Indian classical dance was itself a challenge - he even faced judgment from fellow dancers initially. With no avenues to formally train in Kathak, Sohum had to wait until after graduating before he could seriously pursue his passion.

When asked about pivotal experiences, Sohum recounts getting featured in The Times of Hyderabad amongst his co-dancers - a proud moment immediately balanced by his guru’s reminder that “any fame is temporary.”

As for encouraging emotional vulnerability, especially bucking traditional male stereotypes, Sohum is uncompromising and sees it as upholding tradition. “I don’t look at it as breaking stereotypes,” he explained. “Our traditions always had great male dancers, especially in Kathak when women weren’t allowed. The outfits I wear were also historically worn by men. For me, it’s just a joy to express different characters and emotions freely.”
“Unless we’re harming someone, we should keep going. Society dictates perfection for everyone, but no one actually meets that standard.” His advice? “With respect to all, we still need to keep loving ourselves first.”

When developing a new piece, Sohum’s creative process begins by internalising the song’s meaning, often listening repeatedly before bed. “That’s when I understand what the writer intended to convey.” He then crafts a character persona, visualising costume and mannerisms, before finally choreographing the steps while keeping that core emotion intact.

The meteoric rise has also brought new responsibilities. Many followers now look up to Sohum as a role model, leading him to carefully curate content that promotes authenticity and self-expression. “I’m taking thoughtful decisions at every step,” he said of the brand deals and opportunities coming his way. “I’m choosing only limited ones that can leave an impact and relate to my lifestyle or work.”

His online workshops have gained traction too, sparked by viewer requests to learn his expressive techniques. “Learning dance steps is available everywhere, but very few focus solely on conveying emotions convincingly through expressions,” Sohum explained. His aim is to impart the full depth of his hard-earned knowledge.

As for his future plans, Sohum has no intentions of transitioning into full-time dance instruction just yet. “I want to keep performing rather than just teaching at workshops,” he stated. His corporate job provides a sense of independence and confidence that grounds him, so he plans to continue that balance.

Looking ahead, Sohum’s aspirations are to refine his technique across various dance forms. “My goal is to make myself a complete package with versatility - technically perfect in multiple styles.”

More than technique, however, he hopes people take away a deeper appreciation for authenticity and self-expression from his performances and workshops. “Learn to express without being conscious or just showing off talent on social media,” he advised. “Feel the essence of the song and let the emotions pour out through expressions and movements.”

Sohum’s roots play a central role in his artistry. “I always felt that people from smaller places like the Northeast are blessed to not be overly exposed,” he shared. This sheltered upbringing helped him retain a simplicity and groundedness that anchors his dreams.

His Northeast Indian heritage also seeps into his performances and teaching, though perhaps more subtly. The unique cultural fabrics of the region have subconsciously coloured Sohum’s creative sensibilities in a manner that sets his style apart.

Two particular encounters with followers have left an indelible impact. One was a fellow dancer taking great pains to enable his creative process despite a language barrier - a gesture that moved Sohum deeply with its selflessness. Another was a fan who celebrated his birthday at an old-age home, spreading joy through his art’s influence.

Such widespread support, including from prominent Bollywood and dance figures like Meenakshi Sheshadri, Shraddha Aarya, Nicole Concessao and others, feels “unreal and absolutely grateful” in Sohum’s own words. Yet he remains grounded in the face of fame.

With increasing influence, Sohum hopes to advocate for greater acceptance of diverse artistic expression, especially for men in dance. His approach is simple: “Love your art purely, with no other intentions. If we stay true to the path, recognition will continue.” He plans nothing except striving to win hearts through his art form’s authenticity.

This rings true in how he balances upholding Kathak’s classical traditions while infusing modern flair. Yet he is also driven by a relentless desire to innovate, to push boundaries. “That thought of trying something new propels me forward,” he explained.

The road ahead brims with possibilities for the rising star. But wherever his journey leads, Sohum will likely keep returning to explore those infinite creative depths, honouring the ancient ocean from which his art emerges. “Kathak is an ocean - I know but a drop,” as he humbly says.

Edited By: Aparmita
Published On: May 21, 2024