Dance Master Saroj Khan has choreographed most of the leading ladies in the Indian film industry. From Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit to Juhi Chawla, all of them have learnt from the Master herself.
Here’s what Juhi Chawla has to say about Saroj Khan’s demise.
“I am truly sad to hear about Saroj ji’s demise.I have many memories of working with her very early on in my career and right up to Jhalak Dikhla Jaa which was a couple of years ago were Vaibhavi Merchant, Saroj ji and myself were judges on the show.”
First of all, I'd like to say for Saroj ji, she was sheer magic. She was head and shoulders above all. Not only did she make her heroines look like queens and perform like that. But even personally, when we would go for rehearsals, or she was showing you how to do a shot, Saroj ji like a lot of other choreographers is short, a little plump. So not the perfect figure, or the perfect beautiful face. But when she began to dance, you couldn't take your eyes off her. Everybody else around dancers all faded into oblivion. She was mesmerizing.
And she had the finest sense of how to take shots. The shot taking from a direction point of view to expressions, whether that was naughty or seductive, or sad or whatever. She was fantastic in seductive, dance, humour. What a fine sense of humour. I mean, that was finesse in her every shot. She was really iconic.
In every department, her sense of her sensibilities was top notch. Whether it was the way she was taking the shot, what she was making you do in the shot or what she was probably guiding you as to how you can dress up or you know what you could look like in the shot. I mean for the song. She was superlative. My first time that I ever faced the camera for Yash ji was very soon after Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak had released or not, or it was still in the making. And I got called to do the guest appearance for Chandni.
First, of course, I remember doing a photoshoot for Yash ji, with the costume and everything, so he wanted to see the looks and everything beforehand. And then the first time I actually faced the camera was in Chandivali Studios, and it was for the song 'Lagi aaj sawan ki phir woh jhari hai'.
I was very new. And here I was going to shoot, which was for Yash Chopra. And it was a film starring very, very big stars and I was going to do the song. Mercifully, it was at least the shots were just me but then it was just me and working with the top choreographer of that time, Saroj ji, and I was very nervous. Panri dada did my makeup that day and I was like, "Oh my god, I hope it all goes well" and it was an outdoor shot in Chandivali studios amongst the greens and Saroj ji would show me the shot and then say 'okay taking shot baarish and action camera' and my God it was a fortunate day because my every first or second take was okay.
And I remember it, my staff telling me after the shoot, “Today your shoot went really well. Saroj ji never gives an ok so easily if the shot is not perfect.” I thought ‘Thank God’. Then I got to work with her time and again but at intervals.
Some of my most famous songs have been choreographed by her. And somehow we gelled very very well in the humour parts. So I think we have 'Hum Hai Rahi Pyaar Ke' the title song, which is very fun. Then I remember we did 'Yes Boss', 'Mein koi Aisa Geet Gaun' was choreographed by her. Then 'Ishq Hua Kaise Hua', 'Raju Ban Gaya Gentlemen' too she had done one or two songs there
I'm sure she has done Lootere, my gosh that song which again was you know just when I had taken off in my career. Just started after QSQT and I had to do this song 'Mein Teri Rani Tu Raja Mera' and I was so nervous because they wanted me to wear just a shirt on the beach. And I was supposed to be on the beach and in the sea and I was so nervous thinking "Oh my God I don't know how it will turn out.”
But then she handled it and my goodness when I saw the way she shot it, and you know what it turned out like? I look like a million, she could make magic out of nothing and she could make everything look classy. That was her gift. It was finesse. It never looked cheap or just a song. She had finesse in the way she made you look and what she made you perform.
I remember that we were shooting for Karobaar all the way in South Africa. That was a film which I was doing with Anil Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor and Rakesh Roshan was the director. And we were supposed to do this seduction number.
Tisca Chopra and I were going to do the song and it was a bit of a seduction number and all over there. And I was again very nervous and I insisted and I cried I said I will do the song only if Saroj ji is doing it. Otherwise, I’m too nervous to even do it.
Rakesh Roshan was very kind. He called up Saroj ji. Saroj ji was here in Mumbai or somewhere in India and in the 90s, she was overloaded with work because she was the best. I mean, she was just shooting back to back and maybe three shifts in a row if it was even possible. And Rakesh ji told her, Juhi is crying otherwise she is not going to shoot the song, so you have to come and she was in.
She was busy doing other work but she finished that and came for us. So we waited a day or a day and a half in Cape Town. And then, you know, she came and shot the song for us. But I always loved working with her and I was always very excited to work with her because she was the best. And I think artists who totally, totally consumed her were Sridevi ji and Madhuri.
With Sridevi ji she did so much work and I was such a fan of both. I would love to listen to Saroj ji's anecdotes about how Sridevi ji comes on the set and how she's so shy and quiet but how she lights up in her songs and how Sridevi ji is so amazingly put together for any song. The way she does her costume, the makeup. It's also almost unexpectedly stunning. And I was always learning on the job and I would just listen with wide eyes and always somewhere try to emulate try to do these things the way they were doing it because they were so good at what they did. They were sheer magic.
I was looking at these songs that I've done with her. And I realized that almost the entire team of Chandni has passed away. And I'm always thinking, ‘God, are they making a film up there without me?’ Yeah. All of them, imagine such great people, such superb talent.
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