Sunday, 5 July 2020

Nayanthara with Sridevi

Nayanthara receives an award from Sridevi and Boney Kapoor at SIIMA back in 2013

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Sridevi in white: Dancing Diva Poses for Chandni (1989)

Sridevi shot this entire dream dance sequence in a day - in fact, they came back from the schedule early as the symbiotic relationship between choreographer and dancer, Saroj Khan and Sridevi, was so intuitive, they got the shots and movements done in quick, faultless takes.

Till date, the YouTube clips clock in millions of views as the sensuous dance with all its intricacies and complexities is emulated by dancers till date.

Saroj Khan's muses: Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit

On the left column; Saroj Khan instructing Madhuri Dixit on the sets of (from top to bottom) Prem Granth (1996), Sahibaan (1993) and Dil Tera Aaashiq (1993)

On the right column; Saroj Khan with Sridevi on the sets of Banjaran (1991), Lamhe (1991) and Pathar Ke Insan (1990). 

Sridevi's Marathi Koli dance

Sridevi's Koli dance look for Naaka Bandi in the early 90s.

To quote Google, "Koli is the dance form of Koli fisher folk of Maharashtra. The community has its own distinct identity and lively dances. The dance incorporates elements that this community is most familiar with - sea and fishing. they dance together with movements symbolizing the waves and happiness."

Deepika Padukone, Hema Malini and Sridevi

Queens Recognise Each Other; Deepika Padukone has been present at the launch of both Sridevi's book and Hema Malini's book.

Sridevi walks the ramp for Diva'ni

Sridevi walks the ramp for Diva'ni 

More in the archives here - Sridevi walks the ramp with all the Yash Raj leading ladies back in 2013.

Friday, 3 July 2020

RIP Saroj Khan; 1948 - 2020

Earlier this morning, we woke up to read the sad news on social media that legendary Indian choreographer Saroj Khan is no more.

In the pantheon of greatest choreographers in the history of Indian cinema, Saroj Khan's name will shimmer and shine, whirl and twirl among the very best. If not the best...

It is with such sadness we scrolled through the news that the iconic dance instructor to every leading lady in Bollywood since the 1960s is no more. She died age 71 of a major cardiac arrest last Friday, as per reports, confirmed by her daughter. The news broke earlier today as the family kept it under wraps for a few days to let her rest in peace.

Fact of the matter is; when she stopped dancing, she stopped living. It was in her heart and soul.

Though she had many detractors and critics in a career spanning over sixty years (she started dancing as a child-artist - her earliest film credit is in the movie Kalpana (1960!) as "assistant choreographer!), there is no debating the fact Saroj Khan enlivened the Bollywood experience with her dance direction. There were major highs and lows, but Sarojji sailed through like a battalion ship. Watch her documentaries on YouTube, her interviews on BBC, her Ted Talk; her life was anything but smooth. Her choreography however, was.

It was slick. It was up-to-date, she set trends, she invented the hook step, she revolutionised dance, she created item numbers before the phrase was coined and later corroded - she molded the concept of a Number One actress; you had to know dancing or you were not even a contender. As musicals died out in Hollywood, she ensured that the same fate did not hit Bollywood; her songs were a highlight, she became invaluable on a film set. She met with producers and directors and came up with concepts, art direction - she brought in the ideas of month long rehearsals, shoots for a dance that lasted a week, different looks, changes, novelty... There are endless reports about leading ladies requesting she and only she direct their dances.

Khan kept up with the times, she knew and understand every phase of what was in trend in dance and she adapted it. Whether it was a purely classical number that she choreographed for Malayalam films or her take on a Janet Jackson number for Bollywood in the 1980s, she worked both with equal ease.

Saroj Khan had what many others didn't; range and versatility. She was a task master, she was a disciplinarian but she cared, cared for her dance troupes, the dancers, the dance union, her leading ladies and even the petrified men who shivered when she came at them with a stick! The infamous reports of scared stiff Sunjay Dutt during the making of Tamma Tamma is of film folklore! She was also famed for her temper and temperament, if she disciplined a newcomer on set, she also scolded the biggest stars in equal measure; they all genuflected to her when she taught. She fought with many celebrities on and off set - but she made up with every single one of them. She was the definitive Master-ji!

The greatest dance she choreographed for Sridevi was... well, there were two we think; the finale number of Nagina, Main Teri Dushman, and Chandni's wedding anthem Mere Haathon main.

For Madhuri Dixit, its one hell of a list... but we think its unquestionably Humko Aaj Kal Hai from Sailaab - for pure invention, ease and elegance.

The most epic, large-scale, difficult, National Award winning mother of all dances is, of course, Dola re Dola from Devdas that Saroj Khan helmed. With two leading superstars  - Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit-Nene at their finest - and over a hundred background dancers in perfect unison, synchronicity and dexterity. We've seen hundreds try to emulate that number and... fail to match up in one measure or another.

When she saw the calisthenics, acrobatics, the Western influence on Indian dance reality shows, Khan famously quipped, "Yeh nachna hai yah circus?" [Is this dancing or a circus act?] In the winter of her life as assignments petered down, she kept her humour, if not her spirits, up.

Saroj Khan had always refused to state who her favourite dancer/star/student was, but over the years listed Vyjanthimala, Hema Malini, Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai as "simply the best".

Famously she was asked, in the 90s, during the peak of the alleged rivalry between Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit, if she had to choreograph one or the other, who she'd pick; "I'd give up both films, but I won't let it spoil my equation with either."

In an earlier feature, we had listed Sridevi's Top Ten Dances of all-time. It is of no particular surprise to anyone who knows dance that eight of them were directed by Sarojji.

We've heard 'end of an era' so often these past few years in obituaries of one celeb or another, but with the passing of Saroj Khan, a rich chapter of Indian cinema closes forever.  Dance's greatest exponent wisps away to the great beyond.

RIP Saroj Khan. Rest in Peace indeed.