‘Masterji’ to the stars, Legendary Bollywood choreographer Saroj Khan died of a cardiac arrest at the age of 71 on Friday, July 3rd, 2020. Admitted to Mumbai’s Guru Nanak Hospital since June 17 after she complained of trouble in breathing, she tested negative for Covid-19. Her funeral took place on Friday morning in Malad.
Fondly called ‘Masterji’ by stars whom she choreographed, Saroj directed over 2,000 songs in her long and storied career. Born as Nirmala Nagpal, she started her career as a child artiste and graduated to a backup dancer in the ’50s, working with choreographer B Sohanlal. She rose from the ranks, and was the first woman to become chief choreographer, before it was a thing, in Bollywood.
Saroj Khan was born in that place, the 1st of 6 kids. She recalled dancing with shadows there as a toddler, fascinated even then by what would grow to be her contacting. To complement the family’s profits, her father managed to get her operate in Mumbai’s booming movie sector as a little one actress at the age of three, below the title Saroj.
She experienced little roles in a amount of movies in advance of starting to be a qualifications dancer at the age of 10, showing up in the basic “Howrah Bridge,” starring the actress Madhubala.
On the eve of the Diwali vacation, Ms. Khan labored up the braveness to check with the matinee star Shashi Kapoor for enable. “I had just finished one song with him, I was the group dancer,” she mentioned. “I went to him and told him, tomorrow is Diwali and I have nothing at home. I will get paid only after a week. He said, ‘I have 200 rupees right now, please take it.’ I’ll never forget it, that money helped me so much.”
Khan never ever formally experienced as a dancer. Most classical dancers devote several years learning below a instructor in advance of they at any time conduct in general public, but with a household to enable help, that was not an choice for Ms. Khan.
Although nonetheless a younger woman, she turned an assistant to the choreographer B. Sohanlal, doing work with him on some of the most important movies of the . He taught her the basic principles of kathak, a classical Indian dance.
“When he started teaching me, I realized that I can’t keep a posture, I don’t know how to do this,” she recalled in the documentary. “He made me work very hard, I had to remain in the same posture for hours at a , but he turned me into a good dancer.”
Her first break as an independent choreographer came with Geeta Mera Naam (1974) and she would taste fame with the song Hawa Hawai from Mr. India (1987). Her collaboration with Sridevi on other projects like Chandni (think Nau Nau Choodiyan) and Nagina (Main Teri Dushman) further boosted her profile.
But it was her collaboration with Madhuri Dixit that transformed the careers of both the artistes, beginning with Ek Do Teen (Tezaab), and then Tamma Tamma Loge (Thanedaar), Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai (Khalnayak) and Dhak Dhak Karne Laga (Beta).
Saroj was also the one who gave Shah Rukh Khan his iconic open arms pose, in Baazigar. Other standout choreographies included Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast (Mohra), Nimbooda (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam) and Radha Kaise Na Jale (Lagaan). Her last film was Kalank (2019), where she choreographed Tabaah Ho Gaye, picturised on Madhuri.
She also won National Awards for choreographing Dola Re Dola (Devdas), all the songs of Tamil film Sringaram, and Yeh Ishq Haaye (Jab We Met). Saroj was also the very first recipient of the Filmfare Award for Best Choreography, when the category was introduced in 1989. With 8 wins, she holds the record of most awards in this category.
Bollywood stars have mourned the death of the legendary Khan. Shekar Kapoor tweeted: “She defined a generation of heroines. Certainly #MrIndia would not have been same film without #SarojKhan. You had to see her dance as she rehearsed with SriDevi. She was messmerizing. And what energy! You could shoot all night, yet she smiled and danced constantly fresh.”
Madhuri Dixit said, “I’m devastated by the loss of my friend and guru, Saroj Khan. Will always be grateful for her work in helping me reach my full potential in dance. The world has lost an amazingly talented person. I will miss you. My sincere condolences to the family. #RIPSarojji.”
Akshay Kumar tweeted: “Woke up to the sad news that legendary choreographer #SarojKhan ji is no more. She made dance look easy almost like anybody can dance, a huge loss for the industry. May her soul rest in peace.”