Saroj Khan: Her success story
Saroj Khan took film choreography to newer heights and gave the art respectability never granted earlier. She remains to be the queen in her lot even today. It was not all rosy for her although. She was three when she was taken to the studios to earn livelihood for her family, which was one of the many victims of the 1947 Partition. From then to now it has been a rough climb. Saroj Khan takes you through it all. Meri kahani, meri zubani.
"My parents moved to India from Pakistan after partition. My father, Kishanchand Sadhu Singh was a Punjabi, while my mother, Noni, a Sindhi. My father had a flourishing business in Pakistan but he had to leave everything behind when he came to India. I was born in India. Even as a two-year old child, I loved to dance. Since we were in dire straits, my parents put me in films. I was three when I got my first break in Nazrana. I played the little Shyama, sitting on the moon and singing a song.
My original name was Nirmala. My father changed my name to Saroj when he put me in the movies, so that his orthodox family would not know the truth about his little daughter working in films, which was not considered very respectable in those days. From a child-artiste, I became a group dancer and then graduated to being an assistant dance master and finally dance master.
To date, I haven't taken any formal training in dance. I learned my dance from the well-known dance master B Sohanlal. He taught me the basics of Kathak, Kathakali, Manipuri, Bharata Natyam et al. I was barely 13, a schoolgirl, when I married master Sohanlal. He was 43 at that time. I did not know what marriage meant at that time. He just put a black thread around my neck one day and I thought I was married. He didn't tell me that he was already married with four kids. I learned about his first wife only when I gave birth to my first child, my son Raju Khan, in 1963. I was 14 then, too young to comprehend or handle the complicated situation.
In 1965, I gave birth to my second child, a daughter who died within eight months of birth. Around that time, Sohanlal and I parted ways as he refused to give my children his name. Towards the end of 1969, he approached me again to be his assistant. When I refused, he lodged a complaint against me with the Cine Dancer's Association. I resigned myself and started working with him again. Around that time, he suffered a heart attack. I went to see him and there was that one night when I was with him. I conceived my daughter, Kuku. After that he completely disappeared from my life and settled in Madras.
I worked very hard after that to raise my children. I had two kids to bring up. I was very close to Sadhana, Vyjayanthimala, Minoo Mumtaz, Kum Kum, Helen, Sharmila Tagore, Mala Sinha, Waheeda Rehman, right down to Zeenat Aman. It was Sadhana who gave me my first break as a dance master in the film Geeta Mera Naam (1974). She was very attached to me and told R K Nayyar that she didn't want any other dance director to compose her dances. Around that time, I met a Pathan, a businessman named Sardar Roshan Khan. He was married with kids but he fell deeply in love with me. He was willing to accept my children and give them his name unlike Sohanlal, so I married him in 1975. He turned out to be Godsend, and I haven't regretted my decision to date. He gave me a lot of love and his first wife and I live like sisters today. You accept a lot when you love a man.
Though I did many films, I was not well-known till Subhash Ghai offered me Hero. After that there was no looking back for me. Today I've worked with almost all the heroines in the past two decades. Rekha, Sridevi, Madhuri, Karisma, Urmila to Aishwarya, I've taught all of them. I haven't had any problems with any heroine regarding the dance steps, as they know that I won't ever show them in vulgar light. I make them look sensuous, but never vulgar.
I don't watch MTV, nor do I derive inspiration from those western dances. I use my own imagination and that is enough for me.
I have no regrets about not being a solo classical dancer. They have so many limitations as far as filmi dances are concerned and would never fit into the Industry. I've carved a niche for myself despite not being a classical dancer and that says a lot. I am not worried about the impact of my dances on society, what I am concerned about is whether my directors and distributors like them or not?
Today, I am not scared of Farah Khan, Ahmed Khan, Chinni Prakash, Tarun or Ganesh. I am scared of only my own work. And as long as I do good quality work, I have nothing to worry about.
My son, Raju and I are friends more than family. We fight like cats and dogs, but we always sort out our differences. I accepted his first wife Shabnam and she lives with me. Professionally, Raju and I are rivals. He keeps telling me to retire and make space for others but I have no such plans. I still have a lot to do.
My dance is my life. As of now, I'm still fit enough to do work, even though I have slowed down the pace. I am happy being a part of this industry. It's family to me. More than my family, it has stood by me.
Looking back all these years, all in all, it's been a good life. I
thank God for it. Every morning when I get up and do Namaaz, I thank
the almighty for everything he has given me. If God were to ask me what
I want to become in my next birth, I'd say, Saroj Khan again."
Topic started by smallwonder
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