Ek Do Teen! How Saroj Khan infused 'sur, taal and adaah' in Bollywood dance numbers over four decades


Bollywood, in the past few months, had bid adieu to many talented artists. After losing Irrfan and Rishi Kapoor in the month of April in quick succession, Sushant Singh Rajput’s sudden demise shook the industry. As we were coping up with the grave sense of loss, the news of Saroj Khan’s death came across as a major blow. The veteran choreographer, born as Nirmala Nagpal on November 22, 1948, passed away after suffering a major cardiac arrest during the wee hours of Friday, July 3, 2020. Better known as ‘Masterji’, the 72-year-old choreographed over 2000 songs, in a career spanning over four decades. She embarked on her journey at the age of three as a child artist with the film Nazarana. At the age of 13, she went on to marry film choreographer B. Sohanlal under whom she learned dance.

After being an assistant choreographer on several films, Saroj ji made her debut as an independent choreographer with Geeta Mera Naam in 1974. Since then, there was no looking back for her. She marched forward with hard work and received acclaim for Sridevi’s Hawa Hawai song from Mr.India. With Madhuri Dixit’s Ek Do Teen from Tezaab, Tamma Tamma Loge from Thanedaar, and others, she became one of the most successful Bollywood choreographers.

Thanks to her Midas touch, Masterji was honoured with National Award for Dola Re Dola (Devdas), Yeh Ishq Haye (Jab We Met), and for all songs from the Tamil film Sringaram. She also received the American Choreography Award for Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India.

Today, as we remember Saroj Khan for her skillful dancing techniques and moves that inspired not just aspiring choreographers but the youth of the nation, let’s take a look at some of her best songs. From the iconic Ek Do Teen to the sensual Kate Nahin Kat Te, here’s what made her Bollywood’s favourite dance guru till eternity.

Main Teri Dushman: Nagina (1986)

Telling the tale of a shape-shifting serpent’s revenge, Main Teri Dushman is iconic for numerous reasons. Making the most of Sridevi’s expressive eyes and face, Saroj ji ensured to make it stand out. An evergreen classic indeed!  

Kate Nahin Kat Te and Hawa Hawai: Mr.India (1987)

Painting a stellar picture of passion, beauty, and sensuality, Masterji choreographed Kate Nahin Kat Te with Sridevi with finesse making it a classic. With Sridevi breathing soul and oomph into her choreography, one can’t forget the number. Another number form Mr.India, Hawa Hawai, showcased the flirtatious side of Sri in a foot-tapping dance song. 


Tamma Tamma: Thanedaar(1990)

A perfect party number, Tamma Tamma apparently was a tough number for Masterji to crack. During an interview, she mentioned that the song was okayed in its 48th take. Well, this effort surely paid off for Madhuri, Saroj ji and Sanjay Dutt. When the redux version of the song came out in 2017, one couldn't help but recall Masterji's masterstrokes, one among them being making Dutt shake a leg opposite dancing queen Madhuri!


Dhak Dhak: Beta (1991)

Delivering another superhit song with her muse Madhuri, nobody better than Sarojji could express the true essence of intense and pure love. Dhak Dhak was one of Madhuri’s and Sarojji’s landmark song and an all-time favourite. Making romance look red hot with so much ease was Saroj ji's choreography's craftsmanship. 


Choli Ke Peeche: Khal Nayak (1993)

An iconic song that shall remain evergreen forever! Choli Ke Peeche had the blend of folk dance and fragments of sensuality but not vulgarity. Home to grace, style, desiness and elements of a chartbuster, the song from Khal Nayak featuring Madhuri was a superhit recipe despite its lyrics being questioned. 


Chane Ke Khet Mein: Anjaam (1994)

Right from children to young girls of athra baras, all were hooked on to this peppy and foot-tapping number picturised on Madhuri. Choreographed by her guru Saroj ji, the song was nothing but a visual treat. The signature step of Chane Ke Khet Mein caught fancy of young girls who left no stone unturned to ace it and that was the true essence of Masterji's choreography. 


Ek Do Teen: Tezaab (1998)

Teaming up with her favourite student Madhuri, Saroj ji injected playfulness, sensuality, innocence and flavours of youthfulness in equal measures. Making it a career-changing dance sequence for Madhuri, Masterji gave Bollywood a chartbuster that can’t be recreated. And when it was in Baaghi 2 with Jacqueline Fernandez, it failed to bring alive the magic of Madhuri and Saroj ji.

Nimbooda: Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999)

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s innocence and Saroj ji’s master choreography struck the right chord. A popular track among dance enthusiasts, Nimbooda set the benchmark high for years to come. A perfect combination of fun, grace, and child-like energy, Saroj ji filled the song with her passion for dance.

Dola Re Dola and Maar Dala: Devdas (2002)

Dola Re Dola is indeed a visual treat, all thanks to Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Madhuri for their effortless dancing skills and Saroj ji’s graceful and delightful choreography. With Bengali essence being the dominant theme, the song is nothing short of a mesmerizing and gorgeous colour riot. Dola Re Dola didn’t just become a popular song on the commercial front, but Saroj ji also won her maiden National Award for the track. On the other hand, Maar Dala was an epitome of grace and royalness. Set against the backdrop of a mehfil, Madhuri injected oomph but wasn't vulgar. A trend-setter, Saroj ji's choreography stole the show with Madhuri's fine expressions and ability to pull it off with dignity. 


Yeh Ishq Haye: Jab We Met (2007)

High on expressions, emotions, and gestures, Yeh Ishq Haye picturised on Kareena Kapoor Khan will remain memorable for all the right reasons. It will be wrong to say that girls have never imitated Sarojji’s dance steps from this song from Jab We Met. Thanks to the charm and her master choreography, Saroj ji won her second National Award for the number. 

Tabah Ho Gaye: Kalank (2019)

Tabah Ho Gaye from Kalank with Madhuri was Masterji’s last song in Bollywood. A classical number, nobody better than Saroj ji could choreograph Madhuri for this track that was positioned at a crucial junction in the film. Royal adah, grace and beauty are the words that sum it up. Little did we know, this will also be her last choreography, that too with her eternal muse. 


Apart from these, Kisi Ke Haath Na Aayegi Yeh Ladki featuring Sridevi in Chalbaaz, Humko Aaj Kal Hai Intezaar from Sailaab with Madhuri and Barso Re Megha from Guru picturized on Aishwarya remain to be amongst her best.

(Source: YouTube)