Issue 45 / Masterji of Movement: Saroj Khan On Bollywood Dance And Today's Reigning Screen Queens

Masterji of Movement: Saroj Khan On Bollywood Dance And Today’s Reigning Screen Queens

Mar 13, 2016

Masterji of Bollywood dance opens up to ANOKHI about her start in the biz, the evolution of film dance and her take on today's reigning screen queens.

Song and dance are synonymous with Bollywood cinema. You cannot have one without the other. It's iconic. It's history. It's symmetry. It's balance. It's natural. So when, now iconic dance choreographer Saroj Khan strutted into Bollywood in the late '70s with a clear vision on what she wanted to accomplish, it's hard to believe it didn't exist earlier. Now having choreographed dance sequences in over 2,000 films, Khan is the most accomplished choreographer to have graced the silver screen in India.

Khan made her debut as an independent choreographer in Gulzar's Mausam (1975), with her first breakthrough in 1983 with Subhash Ghai's Hero. But it wasn't until Sridevi's nagin dance "Mein Teri Dushman" hit the screens in 1986 with Nagina where Khan was noticed for her talent, which was then quickly followed up with more hit dances with Sridevi in Mr India (1989) and Chandni (1989). However, Khan's popularity and iconoclast nature began with her professional pairing with Madhuri Dixit which began in 1989 with "Ek Do Teen" from Tezaab and the rest was history.

So when I was given the opportunity to interview Saroj Khan for ANOKHI Magazine, I jumped at the chance. Her entire body of work is indicative of my childhood, and the inspiration to many moments where I emulated Madhuri Dixit in front of the mirror. Yes, Saroj Khan could very much well be responsible for my obsession with Madhuri Dixit and Bollywood cinema, but I digress! Here, she chats with me about her iconic career, her professional relationship with the dancing queen Madhuri Dixit and how she believes Bollywood dance has evolved over the years.

Saroj Khan on the set of the dance reality show Nachle Ve.
Photo Credit:

So how did Saroj Khan make her debut as a female choreographer in what was and still is a male dominated film fraternity? "Of course producers and directors didn't believe in me because I was a lady. They had the impression that it was a man's job until director and producer Subhash Ghai gave me a break in a movie named Vidhaata. Then came "Ek Do Teen" from the movie named Tezaab and Filmfare acknowledged me by giving me an award in 1988, the first ever in the choreography category. That opened doors for other choreographers and to my ecclectic career" says Khan to ANOKHI.

Behind-the-scenes photos of Saroj Khan working with Madhuri Dixit-Nene and Sridevi.
Photo Credit: &

Clearly that never stopped the visionary from doing good work. It was her charisma and ability to work with talent to extract the best from them, coupled with her innate ability to understand rhythm and beat, paired with the meaning of music. This delicate balance of elements led to the now iconic professional pairing with Madhuri Dixit-Nene. From what started with one song, Tezaab's "Ek Do Teen" in 1989 to a decade of hits that continue to resonante with Bollywood lovers for multiple generations.

Together the hit pair when on to re-define Bollywood dance numbers with a string of iconic pop-culture dance numbers including "Humko Aaj Kal" from Sailaab (1990), "Dhak Dhak Karne Laga" from Beta (1992), "Choli Ke Peeche" from Khal Nayak (1993), "Chaane Ke Khet Mein" from Anjaam (1994), "Mera Piya Ghar Aaya" from Yaraana (1995), "Maar Dala" and "Dola Re Dola" (2002) from Devdas and most recently the songs of Gulaab Gang (2014).

Stills from Madhuri Dixit-Nene's dance numbers.
Photo Credit: Stills from individual songs

So what was it about her work with Madhuri Dixit-Nene that was so popular and iconic? "Madhuri is a delight for any choreographer. It is a wonderful experience working with her as she is graceful and fun to work with. She is never tired and until she perfects her dancing steps she continues to practice," says Khan to ANOKHI.

"The most difficult song that we did together was the "Dola Re" number from Devdas because the dance was purely a classical Nautwary song. It was a blend of Kathak and Bharatnatyam. One reason I believe our pairing worked so well was because she has complete faith in my choreography and follows the steps exactly the way I suggest." continued Khan. 

"Madhuri Dixit is one actress who gets all the moves right, she moves right, she smiles at the right time, everything! If there is anything called perfect dance, Madhuri does it. She is a choreographer's delight. The way she expresses herself, the way she rehearses her steps, even today she feels guilty if she misses a step in front of me. Budding artists should learn this sincerity towards dance from Madhuri Dixit," says Khan. 
But surely, the woman who has been credited with creating "choreography" in Bollywood cinema must feel that things have changed since her hey days. "When I started in the industry, at the time the dance directors who were there had their own identity. By looking at a dance, we could make out this dance is done by so and so dance director. It was obvious" says Khan to ANOKHI.

But Khan feels that her time was more about taking creative liberties. "We used to create movements and dances. We never used to copy. Now a days choreographers watch English videos and tell the artists to dance the same. There is no more creation."

Main Image Photo Credit: Still from Imagine TV

Daniel Pillai

Daniel Pillai


Daniel is the Digital Media Manager for ANOKHI MEDIA and the host for ANOKHI's entertainment channel, PULSE TV. As part of the dream team, Daniel manages all multiple channels under ANOKHI’s portfolio, while also training new on-air talent, and showing budding p...


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