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It was a delight to see Saroj Khan rehearse on the sets, says Shilpa Shirodkar


The actress recalls how the choreographer made things easier for her in Khuda Gawah when Shirodkar was still a newcomer to cinema.

Keyur Seta

Saroj Khan's death on 3 July 2020 has brought the memories flooding back for all the stars who had worked with her in her heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, a period when every top actress, and quite a few actors, in Hindi cinema had to dance to her steps.

Among them was Shilpa Shirodkar, with whom Saroj Khan worked on films like Khuda Gawah (1992) and Aankhen (1993).

Shirodkar recalled that she faced a major challenge during the making of Khuda Gawah as she had to dance to the number ‘Tu Mujhe Qubool’ with Sridevi, an excellent dancer and a top star then while Shirodkar herself was still in the early phase of her career.

To make things tougher for Shirodkar, she had a long sequence in the song in which she had to perform while balancing a tray with lighted diyas (lamps) placed on it. It was Saroj Khan who helped her accomplish the task.

“Shooting with the combination of Srideviji and Saroj-ji was so overwhelming," Shirodkar told Cinestaan.com. "I was so new then. But Saroj-ji was fair to me. She gave me lots of time for rehearsal and explained everything wonderfully. Both Sriji and Saroj-ji were fantastic. It was just great. I learnt so much from both these powerful, wonderful women and I consider myself so so so lucky!”

Saroj Khan's death is a big loss to the industry, Shirodkar said. “Her expressions, dance moves, her interpretation of a song was just something else," she said. "For me as a newcomer, I was only told to copy her. It was a delight to see her do rehearsals.”

The actress said they were lucky to see Saroj Khan perform an entire song during the shoot. “I still remember, before we started shooting, she used to do the entire choreographed song on the set and the entire unit would be awestruck. She was splendid, so graceful... no words can describe what a loss this is for the industry,” she said.

Shilpa Shirodkar with Sridevi in Khuda Gawah (1992)

Actually, Shirodkar’s relationship with Saroj Khan goes back to her childhood, much before she joined films. “Her daughter Cuckoo was in my school and she was the one who introduced me to dance," Shirodkar said. "That’s when I first met Saroj-ji. When I met her on the set, she remembered me as Cuckoo’s friend.”

Shirodkar still remembers the advice Khan used to give newcomers like her. “She used to always say 'beta, apne kaam se humesha pyaar karna [always love your work, child]'. She used to share tales about her days of struggle, but she never complained. She shared her experiences to encourage us newcomers. Such was Saroj-ji!”