Anil Kapoor: Saroj Khan brought out the best in me

Updated: Jul 04, 2020, 07:19 IST | Upala KBR | Mumbai

Despite having two left feet, Anil Kapoor says Saroj Khan made him feel like a dancer.

Sridevi, Anil Kapoor and Saroj Khan on the set of Mr India
Sridevi, Anil Kapoor and Saroj Khan on the set of Mr India

Anil sarSarojji [Khan] was meant to give several more years to Bollywood. Her contribution to cinema is something no choreographer can match in one lifetime. She changed the craft by bringing back the old-world charm.

Subhash Ghai and Sarojji were magical and often chose to work together. We were introduced during the filming of Mr India with Sri [Sridevi] and Tezaab [with Madhuri Dixit-Nene]. Madhuri was just starting her career when she recorded the song Ek do teen by Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Sarojji had choreographed [the number]; N Chandra [director-producer] and I had gone to Satyanarayan hall to catch a glimpse of it. Like a proud guru, Sarojji asked Madhuri to perform the entire song in front of us. Considering Madhuri had rehearsed extensively, she aced the entire number in one shot. I gained tremendously from her as these songs [have now] become iconic, which invariably lead to the success of the film. [There were times], when I'd be on set to watch, admire and appreciate them even if I was not required for the shoot.

Cinematographer Baba Azmi and Sarojji were a lethal combination. Once they took over, the directors had to take a backseat. Kaate nahin kat te from Mr India and Dhak dhak from Beta were the fruits of their effort. While shooting for [the song] Dhak dhak, our aim was to make it as appealing and passionate as the song Kaate nahin kat te, which is one of my favourite numbers.

Sarojji always maintained a beautiful element in her choreography; she would ensure to produce sensual numbers with dignity and aesthetics. [There was a notion] that make male actors required a male choreographer, but she gave me some iconic numbers like Ae ji o ji [Ram Lakhan], Ramta jogi [Taal], Karte hum pyar Mr India se [Mr India], which was originally inspired from Kishore Kumar and Madhubala's film [Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, 1958]. After Kaate nahin kat te, my favourite choreography includes Hawa hawai, Ek do teen, Ae ji O ji, Humko aaj kal hai [Sailaab]. During a song shoot, when the original choreographer couldn't make it, Sarojjii promptly responded, came on set, choreographed the number by morning and we were ready to shoot by afternoon.

I remember shooting a song for Jamai Raja [1990] on the train in Ooty and Sunita [wife] had accompanied us. When I expressed my desire to give Sarojji gurudakshina, Sunita explored all the vintage shops and bought a beautiful necklace for her. It was such a simple gesture, but Sarojji was so emotional and moved by it. That was her innocence. She would translate her beautiful smile and twinkle in the eyes through us on screen.

I never felt short-changed when I was paired opposite Madhuri or Aishwarya [Rai Bachchan]. Sarojji brought out the masculinity with the gait and dance. She knew me and where my capabilities lay. She was aware that I was not a dancer, but brought out the best in me despite my two left feet. I am eternally grateful to her.

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