Enlightened: a Conversation with Sinbad Phgura of The Twilight Players

Life can give us some incredibly magical moments. For me, one such instant — lasting nearly three hours! — occurred when I had the chance to interview Sinbad Phgura a couple of years ago, for a now defunct English website. Phgura is the man at the helm of the talented Twilight Players, that Greek Chorus of sorts which appears as Dev’s conscience and steady reality check in Anurag Kashyap‘s now classic Indian cinema masterpiece Dev.D.

With his dashing good looks, charming British accent, sophisticated clothes and effervescently warm personality, Phgura is a modern Renaissance man. He is a dancer, photographer, artist, writer and all around worldly soul rolled into one spectacular spirit. Along with his two younger brothers — Jimi ‘The Quiff’ and Ammo ‘Too Sweet’ — they form The Twilight Players, a force to be reckoned with. They are at once motivational trendsetters, innovators and limitlessly talented. On a side note, I actually got to meet his brother Jimi in NYC right after this piece, and I can tell this is one amazingly talented, and delightful family!

Equally at home in the grit of Delhi’s seedy bar district, the luxury hotels of Bombay, the alleys of Central Los Angeles, the posh clubs of London or the balmy beaches of Spain, the Phgura brothers have stuck to their own style and have refused to compromise. To all those exotic locations and interesting projects, they bring their own discipline and grace. A warning though: the following interview is guaranteed to leave you wanting for more.

This interview originally appeared on the Chic Today website, in the Spring of 2009.

Your style is positively without borders. You bring anything from Chicano chic, to Detroit smooth, to Zoot Suit hip, to 1940s elegance, all with a bit of Indian flair thrown in. Can you talk a bit about your early upbringing?

SINBAD PHGURA: My father came to England from India and I was born in a small town called Hitchin, about 45 minutes outside of London. Typical story, he first worked in a factory, then bought his own shop, a small house. Those then turned into a bigger house and two more shops. As kids, we were used to going to school and then coming home and helping him at the shop. But I was always into the art scene, a bit of a dreamer from day one. When I was at the shop, I would draw, that was my escape. So, I went to art college. And the moment I could have painted all the time, I discovered the dance instead.

What made you start dancing?

SP: The dance came from watching Jeffrey Daniel of Shalamar on a TV show. He was one of the pioneers of the ‘Locking’ style. I’ve said it before, seeing that type of dancing for me was like going from black to red in life, a complete change. So, I stopped drawing for a minute and went into dance, and ended up leaving art college. I became friends with Jeffrey Daniel and went to Los Angeles with him. He wanted to take me to the heart of the underground West Coast dance movement. Here I was, this sixteen-year-old boy from England with this top guy, it was such a great honor. Being there, getting that first-hand knowledge from a legend, it has given me both an inner confidence and an invaluable lesson in life, which have stayed with me to this day.

And how did The Twilight Players come about?

SP: When I got back to the UK, I formed the Twilight East — a first incarnation of the Twilight Players — with my cousin and a friend from a rival dance troupe. Our big break was being in the supporting act for Madonna‘s ‘Blond Ambition Tour’ in 1990. In 1992, I went to LA and that was the end of Twilight East. You know, LA is a funny place. If are there too long, even though I am a people person, it can be quite isolating. I missed my family more than anything else, so I came back to England again and stopped everything for a hot minute… But dance is one of those things that really stays in your blood, so when my brothers Ammo and Jimi got older, they started dancing and pulled me back in. Fast forward a few years, and we are now the Twilight Players, with 35 music videos, various editorials and a rockin’ film under our belts.

What do each of you — Sinbad, Jimi and Ammo — bring to the table, with your different personalities?

SP: Ammo’s and Jimi’s upbringing was very different from mine, because they had a brother who was out there already doing stuff. Their childhood was a world away, because in their heads everything seemed possible. There is a considerable age gap between Ammo and I. Their thinking was “Our brother is in LA, the world is ours”. Ultimately their confidence and aspirations were limitless. They’ve got no fear. And I really respect them for that. They give me confidence. I’m still that insecure kid from Hitchin in the art-room, always on the edge. It’s part of my mannerisms, my intensity which ultimately may be my appeal. But these guys are cool! Ammo is so cool, you wouldn’t believe it?! I’m the most animated, while Jimi doesn’t say much, he’s a quiet cat by nature. He doesn’t say much but conveys it all by his silence, which is something I am quite envious of, I wish I could be like that! They work hard, they’ve got their own vibe and each of us brings something different to the table.


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