The ‘Masterji’ of Bollywood, Saroj Khan breathed her last in Mumbai on Friday due to cardiac arrest. Saroj Khan, who has choreographed nearly 2,000 songs in her career spanning 40 years, entered Bollywood industry as a child artiste at the age of three with the film Nazarana as child Shyama.
“As a child, one day I was looking at my shadow and was dancing. My mother saw me and thought there was something wrong with me. She took me to the doctor who then told my mother that I loved dancing and suggested I enter the industry,” recalled Saroj Khan in one of her interviews.
Later, Saroj was seen as a background dancer dressed as a boy in actor Madhubhala’s hit song ‘Aaiye Meherbaan’ from ‘Howrah Bridge’ (1958). Soon, she got her first break as an independent choreographer with Geeta Mera Naam in 1974.
Saroj Khan then began her journey of bringing many hit numbers to life with her magnificent choreography. However, Madhuri’s ‘Ek Do Teen’ from ‘Tezaab’ gave her a needed leap in the industry. The song needed a very wild choreography where the audience were shouting and removing their shirts in excitement and Saroj’s choreography captured the right nerve and thus the dance number is still alive in people’s minds. After this song, Filmfare introduced an award for Best Choreography and Khan was also the first recipient of the award.
Saroj Khan’s long choreography journey with actor Madhuri Dikshit continued with her song ‘Dhak Dhak’ from ‘Beta’. Still known as an erotic song for the movements, the song turned out to be one of the reasons for the film’s success.
The ace choreographer then won Filmfare Awards for Best Choreography in Aishwarya Rai’s ‘Nimbooda Nimbooda’ in 1999 and ‘Radha Kaise Na Jale’ from ‘Lagaan’ in 2001.
Within a year, Khan won her first National award for ‘Dola Re Dola’ from ‘Devdas’ in 2002. The choreography of the song is still a surprise to many.
Apart from making the Bollywood industry move to her choreography, Saroj has also contributed to Tamil cinema. The veteran proved with ‘Sringaram’ (2005) that there is no dance style that she cannot choreograph. Displaying classical dance very gracefully while understanding the lyrics in Tamil, Saroj won her second National Award in Choreography for her work in the film.
Saroj grew old dancing and teaching top actors in the industry. While actors like Madhuri and Aishwarya credit the veteran choreographer for their dancing abilities, Saroj’s last choreography in mainstream Bollywood was with Madhuri in the 2019 film ‘Kalank’. The song ‘Tabah Ho Gaye’ from the film saw her dance on the sets for one final time. Her Thumka, Nazakat and Nakhre in the umpteen songs she choreographed cannot be forgotten to this day.
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