When Saroj Khan, the ace choreographer of Hindi cinema, passed away recently, most people knew that one of the filmmakers who felt the loss personally and immensely was Subhash Ghai. They had worked together right from Vidhaata in 1982 and Hero in 1983 till Kisna in 2005. Some people also know that it was actress and dancer Aroona Irani who had introduced Saroj Khan to Subhash Ghai.
When he was looking for a choreographer for his film, Aruna had highly recommended Saroj Khan who was unknown and looking for work. Subhash Ghai tried out Saroj for one number in Vidhaata and they clicked so well that they made cinematic history thereafter with their scintillating song and dance numbers.
However, what nobody knows is that Saroj Khan and Aruna Irani knew each other since they were 10 years old and worked in films. The production car would start at Churchgate, fetch Aroona from Grant Road, and then Saroj Khan from Worli before proceeding to Mohan Studios in Andheri for the day’s shoot. Aruna became famous as a dancer after numbers like Dilbar dil se pyaare in films like Caravan.
But actually she was no dancer. Aruna always acknowledged that the real dancer amongst them was Saroj Khan even as a child. Remember the song Ae phasa in Bobby? During the shooting of that song, Saroj Khan who was choreographer Sohanlal’s assistant, used to dance and show Aroona her movements and facial expressions. Saroj was so superb at both dancing and at facial expressions that people on the sets would break into applause watching her.
When distributors visited the sets, Raj Kapoor would ask Saroj Khan to show her exquisite dance movements and her wide range of expressions and everybody would go away impressed. Aroona was so conscious that she was not a patch on Saroj Khan that she would cringe when she had to get up from her chair to try and replicate what Saroj had just shown her. That was Saroj’s biggest strength later on too. She not only excelled in dance movements but also in facial expressions.
Later, when Saroj was looking to work as an independent choreographer, Aroona recommended her for a Rajnikant film. But the director KC Bokadia told Aroona that Saroj was not equipped to be a good choreographer because she didn’t have technical knowledge like camera placing.
Therefore, when Subhash Ghai told Aroona that he was looking for a choreographer, she once again recommended her old friend Saroj Khan but she also told Subhash Ghai, she’s an excellent dancer and choreographer but you’re so good at it, you’ll have to teach her camera placing and other technical aspects. That’s how the great partnership began between Subhash Ghai and Saroj Khan and he helped to add technical knowledge to her natural skills.
When Madhuri and Sridevi insisted on having Saroj Khan to compose all their song and dance sequences, it was because she had become a complete choreographer who also enacted and gave them fabulous facial expressions to go with their sensual dance movements.
Madhuri Dixit’s Dhak dhak karne laga, Koyi aaye ya na aaye, Choli ke peeche, Akhiyan milaoon kabhi akhiyan churaoon, Dola re dola or Sridevi’s Hawa Hawai and Kaate nahin katte and hundreds of other such dances.
If you have enjoyed watching them, you should thank Aruna Irani for recognizing the genius in her childhood friend and helping her become an institution called Saroj Khan.
This is Bharathi Pradhan bringing you Stories Never Told Before. Will tell you another one, soon.