Another devastating was dealt to Bollywood news circles two days ago,when the sad news of Saroj Khan’s demise due to cardiac arrest shocked the film industry. No doubt, condolences and tributes poured in from far and wide. Now, Saif Ali Khan, too has opened up on how the legendary choreographer had transformed someone with two left feet like him into a dancing star with his evergreen chartbuster, Ole Ole, from the hit 1994 film Yeh Dillagi, in which he costarred with Akshay Kumar and Saif Ali Khan.
“Saroj ji was the greatest and most artistic choreographer in the film industry 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. I did my first film and first song ever with her in Parampara, followed closely with 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,” recollected Saif Ali Khan.
“I think only my colleagues from the 90s and before will understand the conditions. I mean, 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 malmal 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,” the actor added.
Opening up on she had made him into a dancing star with Ole Ole, Saif reminisced, “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 ‘Okay, now forget all that, now that you’re 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 and Jojo and Ahmed Khan — who at the time were her young assistants; later, they became big names in their own right — for this song and for making me into a dancing star; an incredible feat as I have two left feet.”
Recounting how Saroj Khan could shame actors into performing better, Saif narrated two separate incidents: “I was shooting a lovely romantic song late at night in Hydreabad, and the heroine was having a bit of trouble with the expression. Saroji yelled on the mike, ‘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 had once told Kareena (Kareena Kapoor), ‘If you can’t move your feet, move your face at least.’
‘That era is gone and that music is over, but for all of us who have had the privilege of being instructed on set by that great lady, we’ll never be able to hear a Hindi film song without thinking of how she has made the greatest names in Bollywood from Amitabh Bachchan and Sridevi to Shahrukh khan and Madhuri Dixit dance to her tunes. Rest in peace masterji , and thank you for everything you gave us,’ said Saif and signed off.
RIP, Saroj Khan.