Bollywood choreographer Saroj Khan died of a cardiac arrest early on Friday morning, PTI reported. She was 71 years old.
Khan was admitted to Mumbai’s Guru Nanak Hospital on June 17 after she complained of difficulty in breathing. She passed away due to cardiac arrest around 2.30 am at the hospital,” Khan’s nephew Manish Jagwani told the news agency.
In a career spanning 40 years, she choreographed nearly 2,000 songs. Her most popular collaborations were with actors Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit.
Born in 1948, Khan started her career as a child artiste at the age of three, according to The Indian Express. She soon became a background dancer under the mentorship of director B Sohanlal. After assisting as a dance choreographer for a few years, her first independent work came in Geeta Mera Naam (1974).
Khan’s work first got noticed after she choreographed Hawa Hawai, a song from the film Mr India (1987) starring Sridevi. She also went on to work with Sridevi in films like Nagina (1986) and Chandni (1989). This was followed by her long-term partnership with Dixit in the 1990s in songs like Ek Do Teen, Hum Ko Aaj Kal Hai Intezaar, Dhak Dhak Karne Laga, Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai, and Tamma Tamma.
She also featured as a reality show judge between 2005 and 2010. Her last choreographic work was the song Tabaah Ho Gaye from the movie Kalank (2019).
Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan expressed his condolences and wrote: “Prayers...haath judien hain, mann ashant [hands are folded in a prayer, mind is not at peace].” Actor Akshay Kumar called Khan’s death a huge loss for the industry. “Woke up to the sad news that legendary choreographer Saroj Khan ji is no more,” he tweeted. “She made dance look easy almost like anybody can dance, a huge loss for the industry. May her soul rest in peace.”
Madhuri Dixit, who collaborated with Khan for several iconic songs, also expressed grief over her death. “Sarojji was part of my journey since the beginning,” she wrote on Instagram. “She taught me a lot, not just about dance but so much more. There’s a rush of memories in my head thinking of this big personal loss.”
Actor Shabana Azmi took to Twitter to pay tributes to Khan. “Tremendous grace and a mobile face with quicksilver expressions were her hallmark,” she wrote. “I worked with her very early in my career and she was immeasurably patient and kind.”
Filmmaker Shekhar Kapur said Khan defined a generation of actors in Indian cinema. “Certainly Mr India would not have been same film without Saroj Khan,” he wrote on Twitter. “You had to see her dance as she rehearsed with Sri Devi. She was mesmerizing. And what energy!”
Actor Shilpa Shetty remembered the time she worked with Khan on career-defining films. “Can’t forget the moment I first met you when you came to choreograph Kitaabe (Baazigar) and I burst out crying (I was a huge fan of your work) I couldn’t believe you were actually standing in front of me,” she posted on Instagram. “Then came ‘Churake dil’, which was a milestone in my career... and many more. You set the benchmark so high, taught me ‘how’ to express... a technician par excellence... No one shot women like you, you were the best!”
Director and choreographer Remo D’Souza said Khan’s death was a big loss to the dance fraternity.
Actor Riteish Deshmukh said Khan had single handedly changed the landscape of how songs were filmed in the Bollywood industry. “Rest in Peace Saroj Khan ji,” he tweeted. “This loss is immeasurable for the industry and film lovers.Having choreographed more than 2000 songs she single handedly changed the landscape of how songs were shot. I had the pleasure of being choreographed by her in ‘Aladdin’. One tick off my bucket list.”
Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh was one of the first politicians to offer his condolences to Khan’s family. “My heartfelt tribute to Saroj Khan, the renowned choreographer who [was] part of 2,000+ evergreen songs,” he wrote. “I share the grief of her family, colleagues in the film world and all the fans.”
Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar remembered her as a genius choreographer who entertained all with her iconic work.“Saroj Khan was a genius Choreographer, who impressed and entertained all with her iconic work,” he said. “Shocked to know about her demise. A big loss to the film industry. Condolences to her family, friends and fans. Om Shanti.”
Here are some of the other tributes: