Mom: Show aunty that step I taught you.
Aunty: Yes beta, don’t be shy. We’re waiting.
Beta being me, step being THAT one from Mera Piya Ghar Aaya and occasion, well, a kirtan.
It was quite common back then, to extend the puja into a celebration where kids were asked to dance as women sat down and watched them. They occasionally gave us money, too.
Those were good old days, filled with drawing-room performances consisting of iconic steps from Hindi movies.
This is where Saroj Khan enters.
As I write this today, hours after her demise, all I can think of, is how huge a role she played in the lives of people like me and my mother.
I didn’t realise the importance of it back then, but mom teaching me ek do teen right hand se karna hai and nau nau choodiyon mein hands change karo are actually one of the fondest memories of my childhood.
She had a collection of CDs, which she used to play during my summer vacations. Her conservative nature didn’t allow her to pursue dancing as a profession but she did make sure her daughter learns at least some things from her.
Saroj Khan had a huge role to play in it.
There are many songs from Hindi movies that we remember as much, or even more, for their steps as we do for their words.
She added glory to it. Meaning, in many cases.
And did so, with unmatchable grace. If you go back and listen to the lyrics of some of those songs, you’d be surprised to notice how bold they are.
But whether it was Khalnayak’s Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai or Mister India’s I Love You, the depiction on screen never made the viewers feel uncomfortable.
She always managed to take sexy and add mischief to it in a way, that only she could.
Credit, of course, also goes to immensely talented actors like Madhuri Dixit, Sri Devi and Aishwarya Rai.
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— Madhuri Dixit Nene (@MadhuriDixit) July 3, 2020
Two of whom featured together in Devdas. Which brings me to another classic – Dola Re Dola.
That literally means dancing around in circles out of happiness.
And while I am no expert in choreography, I do know you could come up a million steps to depict that.
But still, whenever the song plays, it feels like an obligation to imitate. Any other move just feels wrong.
That was Saroj Khan’s gift.
She was a perfectionist, too. If reports are anything to be believed, a whopping 48 takes had to be taken for the iconic Tamma Tamma song.
Saroj Khan was also very blunt. As evident by this post from Kareena Kapoor, where she recalls how the legendary choreographer told her: Pair nahin chala sakti toh kam se kam face toh chala (if you can’t move your feet, at least move your face?).
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Master ji always told me… perrr nahin chala saktiii toh kam se kam face toh chalaaaaa. That’s what she taught me… to enjoy dancing, smile and smile through the eyes. There can never be another… Dance and expression can never be the same for us actors and for everyone who loved her… Love you master ji. Till we dance again… RIP 💔 #SarojKhan
The two worked together in Jab We Met, which was one of her last big projects. Towards the end, she also got involved in a controversy after making an unfortunate statement.
Her contribution as a choreographer is unmatched, though, and I doubt anyone will ever reach the pedestal she did.
Saroj ji once told me, beta kaam ke baare main kabhie complain mat karna. Jab nahi hota toh bahut dukh hota hai. I’ve never forgotten that. RIP #SarojKhan— Anupama Chopra (@anupamachopra) July 3, 2020
Being a Technician’s son, I’ve always known that cinema is as much about a behind-the-scenes person as it is about actors. RIP Saroj ji. You were an institution; your craft inimitable. Condolences to your family 🙏— Ajay Devgn (@ajaydevgn) July 3, 2020
My first genuine teacher in the film industry. She taught me for hours how to do the ‘dip’ for film dancing. One of the most caring, loving & inspiring persona i have ever met. Will miss you Sarojji. May Allah bless her soul. Thank u for looking after me.— Shah Rukh Khan (@iamsrk) July 3, 2020
And today, even though she is no more, her steps are there for us to follow, and thank God for that. You never know which child is learning them from a loved one, oblivious of the fact that the joy of it is going to stay in their hearts forever.