Opening up about the late dance director Saroj Khan, actor Saif Ali Khan called her the greatest and the most artistic choreographer of the 90s who could make the music come alive with her dance steps. He said, “Saroj ji was the greatest and most artistic choreographer in the film industry when I joined in 1990. Her name involved with a project was always a huge advantage to the producers and her style of choreography had the top talent of the film industry making the music come alive with grace and sensuality.”
Saif remembered working with Saroj Khan and how she made him do some steps which ended up being trademark dance steps for him. “I did my first film and first song ever with her in Parampara, followed closely by Aashiq Awaara, the title song of which was a big hit and stabilised my floundering career. She had me doing some trademark moves on my knees on a sweaty, incredibly hot and crowded set with no air conditioner and lots of chemical smoke,” he shared.
He added, “I think only my colleagues from the 90s and before will understand these conditions. I finished the step and found I had torn the knees of my trousers and blood was trickling down my leg. I told Saroji, or masterji as I called her, and she said ‘oh don’t worry about blood. See where this blood takes you in life’. She taught me to work hard. I would turn off the set lights and wrap a mal-mal cloth around my head and rehearse her steps for hours, often without lunch, to get it right; but we were never allowed to change the step to make it easier. That was not her work ethic”.
Saif then shared how Saroj Khan tailor-made dance steps for actors after understanding their style and persona; “She knew what ‘style’ suited each of us actors best and would create that for us. She made me rehearse for a week for a song I was to do with her and when I got to the set she made me perform it in one go in front of the unit. When I finished panting, she said ‘ok, now forget all that, now that you are easy with the song let’s try something better!’ That song was ‘Ole Ole’ in Yeh Dillagi and she took a hit song to another level. I must have performed this song a few hundred times on stage on international tours, often three times in a row to encores! I will always owe her for this song and for making me into a dancing star — an incredible feat as I have two left feet.”
The actor then shared yet another anecdote from working with the legendary choreographer. “I was once shooting a lovely romantic song late at night in Hyderabad and the heroine was having a bit of trouble with the expressions. Saro ji yelled on the mike, saying ‘sex! It’s sex! Have you never had sex?’ She could shame us into performing. A song with her often became real art, with every beat and step requiring an emotion and expression. Like she told Kareena once, ‘if you can’t move your feet, move your face at least.”
Saroj Khan passed away on Friday in Mumbai after suffering a cardiac arrest. She was 71.
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