The death of veteran choreographer, Saroj Khan last week, had stunned Bollywood. One of the most moving tributes for the legend has come from none other than her best student, Madhuri Dixit. In one of the interviews, Saroj Khan had reportedly said that she was possessive about Madhuri. The famous Bollywood actress has now written a long tribute with ‘most eyes’ saying that ‘Saroj Ji taught me how to romance the camera.’
Saroj Khan choreographed famous dance sequences in more than 200 films in a career lasting more than 40 years. Recipient of three National Awards, Saroj Khan’s famous dance numbers included Dola Re Dola from Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas starring Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit, Madhuri Dixit-starrer Tezaab, Tamma Tamma in Sanjay Dutt’s Thanedaar, Dhak Dhak Karne Laga in Beta starring Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit, Hawa Hawai in Mr India featuring Anil Kapoor and Sridevi and Ye Ishq Hai from Jab We Met starring Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor Khan.
It’s still hard to believe that Master ji is no more. Losing a friend, philosopher, and guide like her is devastating. It was difficult for me to put down my grief in words. I have spent some of the best moments of my career with her. The Guru-shishya bond that we shared, the assurance that she would be my mother on the sets, I will miss everything! Today on the occasion of Guru Purnima, I pay my tribute to her.
I had spoken to her daughter on the phone when she was in the hospital and she told me that Saroj ji would be fine. Two days later, she was gone!
I doubt if anyone can make women look so beautiful, desirable, and sensuous on-screen like Saroji ji. Being a woman perhaps she knew what would create magic. So aesthetic! The camera angles… she made everything look like poetry in motion. Enamoured by her graceful movements, I had told her once, “Saroji ji, agar aap shakkar hoti na, I would add you in my cup of tea and drink it.” She would laugh heartily at this. I will miss that playful laughter!
I still remember the first time I met her as if it was yesterday. We were shooting Maine Rab Se from Karma. Saroj Ji asked me so many questions, one being ‘Where did you learn to dance?’ Unfortunately, our sequence was removed from the film but I will always cherish that memory. I will miss her many questions!
Saroj Khan was a game-changer in the industry. She was the rebel in the male-dominated profession. There were rough edges to her personality and I feel that’s because life has been pretty uneven and harsh to her. She has seen poverty and had to fend for her family early on. Life’s experiences had steeled her but it couldn’t dent her talent. I will miss that determined and headstrong woman!
Dancing in front of the camera and dancing on stage are two completely different things. Saroj Ji taught me how to romance the camera when we worked on Ek Do Teen for Tezaab. We rehearsed for a couple of weeks before filming. That’s when I really picked up Bollywood dancing. Such was Ek Do Teen’s popularity that Filmfare had to create the Best Choreography category to honour Saroj ji. That’s how majestic that woman was. She made it happen! I will miss her resolve to push the envelope all the time.
I was smitten by her dancing style. The Nazakat, the aadayein, the elegance of every move, I have have been besotted by that. When we started working together, we made a pact. I knew we would do a lot of songs together and so, we decided not to repeat any of the movements. She agreed that we will create hook steps that people will identify with every song. She was a genius! It’s such a loss. I will miss the other half of this pact!
Saroj ji was innately talented and so gifted as an artiste. Challenge her with any track and she will come up with sets that will leave you mesmerised. I remember we were shooting Hum ko aaj kal hai from Sailaab. The track was tricky as most of the lines were sung by the chorus. She just listened to it a few times and told me to use this to our advantage. She had it all figured out in a few minutes. I couldn’t help but ask, “Saroj ji, how do you come up with these ideas?” She smiled and said, “Never listen to music, you should feel the music.” I will miss the woman who made me feel the music!
Saroj ji was very affectionate and it wasn’t limited to just the main artistes. She was equally fond of her dancers and very mindful of them. She would work as hard on the main artiste and her group members. All of us together used to make a song successful and it’s because Masterji never neglected one for the other. I will miss her affection and inclusiveness on the sets!
Many a time she would grudgingly praise my performance in songs choreographed by someone else. But Saroj ji was always encouraging. She liked my work with Prabhudeva in Pukaar or Payal meri from Rajkumar. I admired this quality in her to appreciate others, that’s so rare! Many would say she was possessive about me. If that’s true, I will miss her unconditional love for me!
Dola re dola is one of her best choreography sets. Of course, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s vision has to be credited here but the way Saroj ji used the camera angles, it’s marvelous. She had worked on Hoton pe aisi baat from Jewel Thief, which was filmed on Vyajayanthimala. She was an assistant to Sohan Lal ji then. So she knew the trolley movements well. She never learned dancing and yet she was flawless. Only a blessed soul can have a talent so ingrained in her. I will miss her mind!
Saroj ji’s loss is deeply personal for me. Not only because we created magic together on screen but also because she was very close to me and my family. She would demand videos of my kids playing musical instruments and my kids were equally fond of her. My younger son was part of a project which needed him to interview a celebrity who he felt had achieved a lot in life. I was pretty confident that he would ask me and was even ready to get quizzed. But he stunned me when he chose to interview Saroj Khan. When I asked why, he reminded me how I had told him about Saroj ji breaking stereotypes in the male-dominated industry. I will miss her demands for videos!
Saroj ji was an inventor and very innovative in the way she perceived the lyrics of a song. We created so many movements that we didn’t even know were a dance form. We never knew what we did in Tamma tamma loge in Thanedaar was called Dab! She was so versatile. I will miss inventing new hook steps with her!
There’s no one like her and there won’t be another like her. She had told me once, “Not only your body but you should emote through your face and eyes as well. Jo dil mei hai woh aankhon mei dikhna chahiye.” My eyes are moist for a while now.
Saroj ji, I will miss everything about you. I will miss your banter on the sets. I will miss your ‘Perrfect’!