Celebrated choreographer Saroj Khan, 71, passed away on Friday following a cardiac arrest. Fondly called ‘Master ji’ by most in the industry, Khan is a three-time National Award winner. With close to 2000 songs to her credit, her best works have featured Madhuri Dixit, Sridevi and even Kareena Kapoor Khan.
Apart from a glorious Bollywood career, Saroj also had a successful stint on the small screen. From being a judge to a guest, the choreographer has graced mostly all dance shows on television.
While most reality show contestants expressed feeling intimidated in her presence, they couldn’t believe their luck, with the dance guru giving them feedback on their craft. Saroj was always straightforward as a judge and never sugar coated her comments.
However, in case she liked an act, she would give Rs 101 to the contestant, a habit she picked up from her teachers. Dance for her was never about the steps but how much one could emote through facial expressions. Whenever she was on the panel, most contestants would not perform for marks, rather that coveted ‘shagun’, and not to forget her trademark seeti (whistle).
As the world mourns the death of the legendary choreographer, here’s looking back at her illustrious small screen stint.
Nach Baliye Season 1 and 2
In 2005, Nach Baliye premiered with Saroj Khan, Malaika Arora and Farhan Akhtar as the judges. While Malaika and Farhan focussed on style and glamour, Saroj judged contestants purely on the basis of dance. While she was mostly critical of the contestants, the choreographer didn’t hesitate to shower them with compliments and blessings whenever she saw honest efforts of the couples.
Ustaadon Ka Ustaad
Launched in 2008 on Sony TV, Ustaadon Ka Ustaad was a one of a kind reality show which brought the crème de la crème of the entertainment industry under the same roof. Various reality show contestants were brought together to compete in various categories like dance, comedy and music. Joining Saroj Khan on the judging panel were Javed Akhtar and Shekhar Suman. Through the course of the show, Saroj maintained that a performer’s only duty is to entertain the public.
Nachle Ve with Saroj Khan
NDTV launched a virtual dance class Nachle Ve with Saroj Khan in 2008. The show featured Saroj as the host and performer. It had her breaking down all her popular songs to help people learn the steps. To help her viewers understand the technicalities better, the choreographer would invite celebrities, like Vidya Balan, Jennifer Winget, Drashti Dhami, Sharad Malhotra, Gaurav Chopra, Karishma Tanna and Divyanka Tripathi among others, and even young dancers to perform along with her.
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Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa Season 3
Saroj Khan came on board Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa 3 along with Juhi Chawla and Vaibhavi Merchant in 2009. The season featured a healthy mix of celebrities like Ram Kapoor, Karan Singh Grover and sportsmen Mohinder Amarnath and Baichung Bhutia. The season saw light-hearted banter between the two choreographer judges. While Vaibhavi lauded contemporary styles, Khan believed in the more traditional dance forms and the importance to feel and express the words in the songs.
Apart from featuring on these shows, Saroj Khan made her presence felt in many other reality shows as a guest. She would regularly grace Boogie Woogie, Dance India Dance and Dance Deewane. The choreographer also joined her favourite student Madhuri Dixit on her show Dance with Madhuri as a guest. Last year, Saroj had even appeared on the grand finale of Surya TV’s Dancing Superstars of India. Apart from non-fiction, she appeared as a celebrity judge in an episode of Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah.
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