Farah Khan is well known for her directorial ventures but the choreographer-filmmaker’s ticket to fame was her catchy, extremely popular and visually appealing dance numbers from the 1990s and early 2000s. Farah Khan got her big break as a choreographer with “Pehla Nasha” (Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander). The story goes that Saroj Khan, the ace choreographer at the time, had walked out of the film and Farah was roped in at the last minute. It was her first time choreographing a song for a Hindi movie and she left an impression that lasts till this date. Choreographing a Hindi film song is not just giving the actor some dance steps but in fact, it’s about telling a story through the song and Farah did that perfectly well. But when it comes catchy dance steps or the hook steps as they are popularly known as, Farah has been a trendsetter.
With love ballads, Farah approaches the director in her but for dance songs, her target is plain and simple, to entertain the audience.
Following up after Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander, Farah struck gold with her next popular song. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’s “Ruk Jaa O Dil Deewane” was choreographed by Farah and seamlessly blended into the film. While all the other songs were choreographed by Saroj Khan, Farah made sure that her work fit into an otherwise good film. The 90s were truly her decade.
Creating history by making Shah Rukh Khan dance on top a train to the celebration number “Dhol Bajne Laga” from Virasat, Farah made sure that the experiences she provided to her audience were unforgettable. Shah Rukh Khan and Malaika Arora’s performance in “Chhaiya Chhaiya” had some hook steps that were easy to replicate for the viewers as well. And that, we imagine, is truly a victory for her. From the visuals on top of a moving train to the excellent way she showed off her artists’ skills, Farah gave Indian cinema a historic moment.
Farah gained wider fame with her following projects. Karan Johar’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was a colossal hit and what also shone in the film were Farah’s dance numbers. The relatable, easy to perform and aesthetically pleasant dance steps from songs like “Saajanji Ghar Aaye” and “Ladki Badi Anjani Hai” certainly helped in making the album even more popular. Ask any kid who grew up in the 90s and chances are, they must have danced in front of their TV sets trying to duplicate what Shah Rukh and Kajol did on screen.
The debut film of Hrithik Roshan, Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, established him in the film industry not only as an actor but as a dance icon. And Farah Khan deserves a lot of credit for the same. She once revealed in an interview that she had initially choreographed “Ek Pal Ka Jeena” with comparatively easier dance steps but upon watching Hrithik perform, she elevated it and the result was quite epic.
In the two decades that Farah Khan was actively working only as a choreographer, she gave Hindi cinema many of its memorable dance numbers. Be it Dostana’s “Desi Girl” or “Dard-e-Disco” from her own film, Om Shanti Om, Farah knows the pulse of her audience. Not stepping into the vulgar zone yet choreographing a female actor for an item number must be a challenge but Farah was a complete natural at that and the same can be seen in songs like “Munni Badnaam Hui” and “Shiela Ki Jawani”.
In over two decades, Farah has choreographed over 100 songs alongside directing her own feature films and even trying her hand at acting. Here’s hoping that the future work of this talented director and choreographer keeps making us dance at the movies.