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Dance wiz

Subtlety is out, sensuality is in, muses choreographer Saroj Khan

DANCE TILL YOU DROP: song from "Bride and Prejudice" choreographed by Saroj Khan and director Sharada on the sets of "Shringara.

Saroj Khan puts up her feet after another tiring day of making stars follow her footsteps. It is late in the evening, and she looks quite unexcited about the interview, answering questions with a nod or an "ummm" and a "haan". "Aur ek, do, teen questions," you persist.

She smiles faintly knowing well that you are punning on the superhit number from "Tezaab" with which she danced her way into the hall of fame. "Okay, finish it fast. I want to call it a day. I have to go for a shoot at 6 o'clock tomorrow morning," she says, switching off the television.

"Most channels keep beaming the sleazy item numbers over and over again. I sometimes watch TV to catch up with what the other choreographers are doing. Funnily, all songs sound and look alike," says the queen of choreography.

Not the kind to mince words, Khan continues, "Subtlety has given way to sensationalism. Choreographers today hardly think on creative lines, they mechanically pack each song with seductive movements for a titillating effect. They are a helpless lot as most of these youngsters are group dancers-turned-choreographers, who have to fall in line with the demands of the producers and directors. I am sure people will soon be fed up of the overdose of vulgarity."

Swift dancer

Khan with her not-so-expressive face and girth can actually stump you with her flexibility and swiftness on the dance floor.

Hers has been a step-by-step success story. She entered the film industry as a three-year-old to support her family that moved to India post-Partition. Later, she became an assistant to the famous dance master B. Sohanlal and helped many yesteryear heroines keep perfect pace with rhythm. Then "ek, do, teen" with Madhuri Dixit happened in 1988 and Khan literally lost count of offers and awards, since. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to refer to her as a star-maker.

Many heroines have made it big at the box office by dancing to Khan's tunes. Madhuri Dixit made cinegoers' hearts go "Dhak Dhak" ("Beta"), Sridevi cast a spell with "Kaate nahin katthi yeh raat" ("Mr. India") and Aishwarya Rai left the audience asking for more with the peppy "Nimbuda nimbuda" ("Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam").

Khan has never felt the lack of formal training. "Swar, laya and taal are an integral part of me. The moment a song is played, I start doing whatever movements come to mind. There is no pattern. I just follow the rule of the heart."

What's unique about Khan's style? It is a combination of classical and folk with a dash of sensuality. Filmmakers such as Subhash Ghai gave her a free hand. The result: not only were the songs chartbusters but the nation followed her dance styles too.

And even now, despite fierce competition from young choreographers, Khan continues to call the tune.


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