Britain's Got Talent: dancing to the same beat

Mirza and Singh: 'Our routine is about overcoming conflict'

A Michael Jackson tribute act featuring a Muslim and a Sikh has proved a massive hit on the TV show Britain's Got Talent. Here, Signature give their first interview with Celia Walden

On 29 May 08: Britain's got talent favourites Signature gave the Telegraph's Celia Walden a dance lesson and a quick interview backstage at the final rehearsals.

When a Muslim who performs a Michael Jackson tribute act and a chunky Sikh, carrying a broom, first stepped out in front of the cameras six weeks ago, the viewers were as bemused as the judges on Britain's Got Talent.

Mirza and Singh: 'Our routine is about overcoming conflict'

What followed could have been an excruciating mix of tastelessness and embarrassment. Instead, what we got was brilliant and hilarious, one of the most un-PC performances ever to feature on British television and a perfect riposte to those who agonise and pontificate over multiculturalism.

Since that day, Signature - the dance duo comprising Suleman Mirza, a 29- year-old trainee lawyer from Essex and 34-year-old Madhu Singh, from Hayes in Middlesex, who works at PC World in Heathrow's Terminal 5 - have become a phenomenon.

Their blend of energetic pop and banghra has prompted standing ovations. On a single day their BGT audition rerun on YouTube exceeded five million viewers. This week, they became the first act to be voted through by the public to Saturday's final, and yesterday Signature gave this paper their first ever interview.

"Our routine is about togetherness and overcoming conflict," said the rather handsome Mirza, who has been a Jackson fan since he was six years old. "I start the act with a Western dance, and then Madhu comes on stage. I look down on him because I don't understand his culture. But he surprises me, and he works really hard, symbolising immigration, and then we work together, and show that everyone can get on."

Singh has an energy which belies his corpulent frame; he is the famously silent partner on stage but not in person. He says the pair are consciously using the contest to promote diversity - and entertain at the same time.

"Right now, you put the news on and it seems like it's just stabbings everywhere in Britain. I hope that we and all the kids and other acts on the show demonstrate that Britain does have potential, and should be great.

"Sikhs," he explains, "are not just taxi drivers, and I want people to understand that. Neither of us has ever dreamed of playing down our religions."

"People see headlines when they hear the words 'Muslim'," sighs Mirza, "and probably rightly so. I understand that some of the minority groups in the Muslim community haven't made things easy for people like myself, who are moderate Muslims.

 But back in April, at the audition, I was proud to go out in front of the audience in my Muslim headwear."

We are back stage at Fountain Studios in Wembley where the BGT semi-finals have been taking place every night this week. The corridors seem to be filled with performing dogs, chanting girl-bands, numerous over-excited children and nervous relatives.

Singh and Mirza, however, are an oasis of calm, complementing each other with their very different temperaments.

"I'm the quiet one," says Singh, "and Suleman is the one who rings excitedly to talk about new dance moves at midnight, when I'm trying to sleep. Most of the time I just hold the phone to my ear and close my eyes."

They met eight years ago at an audition for a talent show at Westminster University and have become best friends. But while Singh said he learnt to dance before he could walk, and is intent on making performing his livelihood, Mirza is adamant that he will return to work on Monday - even if Signature win the final.

"I have to go back to work next week, and I'm looking forward to it, because I want to get a bit of normality back in my life. I'm under no illusions - so you want to make sure you have a back up. My Mum's kept me grounded," he laughs. "On Wednesday she gave me a list of groceries and sent me out to the 24-hour Tesco around the corner."

"I've been back to work," says Singh, "because I had some things to finish up. But the papers ended up having a go at my boss saying he wasn't giving me time to rehearse, which wasn't true. They've all been amazing at work."

Singh's father, a priest, is coming around to the idea of his son as a dancer. "He was always a bit iffy about my dancing, because he didn't want me to get sidetracked, but this week, for the first time in my life, he sat me down and said: 'So, you're in the semi-finals, and there's one thing I want to say to you.'

Yes? I said. 'Lose some weight'." He and Mirza fall about laughing and Singh makes a pantomime lunge towards a box of chocolates. "But then he said: 'Just go out there and give it your all, and I got tears in my eyes'."

The female attention is a welcome perk. "I've never had a girlfriend," says Singh, "so I'm hoping this might change all that." Mirza, on the other hand, is openly revelling in his new-found fame. "I was on the Jubilee line on my way here tonight and this really good looking woman came up and asked to have her picture taken with me. Afterwards, the whole carriage followed suit - it was great.

"We've been dreaming about this chance for more than 20 years," he adds. "I've been pretending to be Michael Jackson since I was two, while Madhu used to creep downstairs at night, put on the Bollywood films and learn to dance to them, so I think we do deserve this."

Singh adds quietly: "Even if this doesn't work out, we will stay together, and we will never give up."

Their first act has received over 15 million hits on you tube.

Video of the first round :

Video of the semi final (which was live):


UPDATE: More than 20 million viewers tuned in for the Saturday night battle of the talent shows as ITV celebrated a ratings triumph with the help of a breakdancing teenager.

George Sampson's victory in Britain's Got Talent was watched by 14.4million viewers, turning the live programme into the most watched entertainment show of the year.  Signature came in second place.

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