Contestants on reality dance contest Dance Singapore Dance have it tougher than those on the original series Dance India Dance, says judge Shakti Mohan.
The winner of the second season of Dance India Dance in 2010, she lets on that the training and shooting schedules here are "more intense" than in India.
The 29-year-old dancer is joined by artistic director of Republic Polytechnic Zaini Mohammad Tahir as judges of Dance Singapore Dance, which premiered late last month on Indian TV channels Zee TV and Zee Tamizh.
During a telephone interview with Life from Mumbai, where she is based, Mohan says: "The dancers in Singapore were working harder than we did. The filming of the show was squeezed into a month here compared to in India, where we would have a week's break in between to practise, so the entire shooting took four to five months.
"They worked back-to-back in between shoots... and I have a lot of respect for them."
Two of the 12 finalists have since been eliminated. Every week, they compete in themed challenges to vie for a cash prize of $10,000. From hip-hop to contemporary to Indian dance, the contestants' skills are mentored by experienced dance choreographers Anil Dandge and Roche Mascarenhas.
There are six episodes to go. The finale will be telecast on Sept 26.
The diversity in the ethnicities and backgrounds of the contestants is what makes Dance Singapore Dance stand apart from the original for Mohan.
She says: "In India, it would be mostly Indians who participate, but in Singapore, we had Japanese and South Africans auditioning. It really is a melting pot there and that makes the show interesting."
All the finalists are Singapore residents aged between 16 and 35.
For Mohan, winning Dance India Dance was a "life changer" as she would have been working for the government's adminstrative ser- vices if she had not entered the contest.
Though she has been dancing since the age of four and has studied various forms of dance since, including contemporary and Bharatnatyam, a form of Indian classical dance, it was never a viable career in her eyes initially.
"I had no hopes of dancing professionally when I was still in school. The way I saw it, dancers would either end up running a dance studio or becoming back-up dancers in Bollywood films," she recalls, with a hint of melancholy in her voice.
With the encouragement of her three sisters, who are in the entertainment industry too, and former judge on Dance India Dance Terence Lewis, she entered the competition.
Now, not only has she crossed over to sit at the judges' table, but she has also danced in many Indian films and TV shows, as well as founded her dance company Nritya Shakti.
Currently, the lithe beauty is busy rehearsing for her next big project: starring in an upcoming Bollywood flick.
Details have not been confirmed as it is still in the production stage but she says that she will play a ballroom dancer.
She affirms that dancing will always remain her true calling.
"My life has always been about dance. I have never seen it as an external entity. It's a part of who I am."
• Catch Dance Singapore Dance on Saturday at 8pm on Zee TV (StarHub Channel 125 or Singtel TV Channel 646), or Sunday at 11.30am on Zee Tamizh (StarHub Channel 138). Zee StarHub Sensasi (StarHub Channel 123) also screens the programme at 7pm on Saturday, but is a week behind the other two channels.