Saroj Khan – The best and unmatched choreographer in Bollywood

Photo Credit: Dance With Madhuri Facebook Page

As kids, many in India used to watch the famous television dance show ‘Boogie Woogie’ on Sony Entertainment Television, the first of its kind in India, produced and directed by Naved Jaffrey, brother of Javed Jaffrey. “Mera Piya Ghar Aaya” from ‘Yaarana’ (1995) was one song which was regularly danced by most participants. This track was originally choreographed by the great legend Saroj Khan and picturized on Madhuri Dixit. They made a great combo with some of the best dance numbers of all time in the Hindi film industry. Saroj Khan has left for heavenly abode, due to cardiac arrest on 3 July 2020.

The film industry has always been more biased towards actors, singers, music directors and filmmakers and other departments do not get their due credit that they deserve. Salim Khan and Javed Akthar were the first story and screenplay writers, who changed the industry outlook towards writers. In a similar manner, Saroj Khan brought the same recognition and respect for dance choreographers in the film industry. There were no awards for choreographers before she came but she was a pioneer to bring the well-deserved recognition for dancers in the country. Media took the notice of choreographers also.

Saroj Khan was born as Nirmala Nagapal from parents Kishanchand Sadhu Singh and Noni Singh on 22 November 1948. She started her career as a child artiste with ‘Nazrana’ (1961) as Baby Shyama. She learnt dance under film choreographer B. Sohanlal. His famous work were films like ‘Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam’ (1962), ‘Kaajal’ (1965), ‘Aarzoo (1965)’, ‘Jewel Thief’ (1967), ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ (1971), etc. Saroj Khan got trained under him and later also married him. She got the first opportunity as an independent choreographer in ‘Geetha Mera Naam’ (1974).

Saroj Khan had to struggle for many years to get acclaim. It finally came with ‘Nagina’ (1986). Her dance moves for “Mein Teri Dushman” picturized on Sridevi was a sensational hit. Both made a successful combo and took this success further with films like ‘Mr. India’ (1987), ‘Chaalbaaz’ (1989) and ‘Chandni’ (1989). They created iconic dance numbers with “Kaante Nahi Kat Te Din Yeh Raat (I Love You)” in ‘Mr. India’, “Mere Haathon Mein” in ‘Chandni’ and “Na Jaane Kahan Se Aayi Hai” in ‘Chaalbaaz’. These films helped Saroj Khan to climb the ladder of success to be the top choreographer of her time.

Saroj Khan’s choreography had excellent dance steps but full of expressions. She used the beats very well in her dance steps. There was a certain newness in each of her songs where she had choreographed. In sensual songs also, her dance steps were full of oomph but still had dignity. Her choreography has never looked vulgar even in the controversial song “Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai” in ‘Khal Nayak’ (1993). The lyrics could be vulgar but not the dance steps.

Saroj Khan and Madhuri Dixit gave the audience a lot of memorable songs. They understood each other brilliantly. They played the role of Guru and Shishya very well. Saroj Khan made a huge impact on Madhuri Dixit’s rise to stardom. Fans of Madhuri Dixit were crazy about her dance moves. Some of their iconic numbers were “Ek Do Teen” from ‘Tezaab’ (1988), “Humko Aaj Kal Hai Intezaar” from Sailaab’ (1990), “Tamma Tamma Loge” from ‘Thanedaar’ (1990), “Dhak Dhak Karne Laga” from ‘Beta’ (1992), “Chane Ke Khet Mein from film ‘Anjaam’ (1994), “Mera Piya Ghar Aaya” from ‘Yaarana’ (1995), “Dola Re Dola” from ‘Devdas’ (2002), etc. They last worked on Pritam’s “Tabaah Ho Gaye” for Dharma Productions’ ‘Kalank’ (2019).

Her choreography brought great heights to Aishwariya Rai Bachchan’s career also with successful films like ‘Hum Dil Chuke Hai Sanam’ (1999), ‘Devdas’ (2002), ‘Taal’ (1999), ‘Guru’ (2007), etc. These films had great dance numbers. Critics may not rate Aishwariya Rai Bachchan’s acting performances as par as her peers like Rani Mukerji and Preity Zinta but there was no question mark on her dance moves. Saroj Khan’s dance moves had a hand in her most successful films, which eventually played a big role in her successful stint in the Hindi film industry.

Saroj Khan has a body of work that comprises choreographing more than 3000 songs. She has been the recipient of 3 National Awards (‘Devdas’, ‘Sringaram’ (2006) and ‘Jab We Met’ (2007)) and 8 Filmfare Awards (‘Tezaab’, ‘ChalBaaz’, ‘Sailaab’, ‘Beta’, ‘Khal Nayak’, ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’, ‘Devdas’ and ‘Guru’). For her immense body of work, she deserved a Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan but our government has never conferred on her. Saroj Khan will always be remembered as the best film choreographer in the Hindi film industry.

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