Ahmed Khan can’t believe Saroj Khan is gone! “I got to know of her death at midnight. I rushed to the kabristan (graveyard) in the morning. I have just returned, numbed. It has still not sunk in. I knew she was keeping ill health. I wanted to visit her in the hospital but couldn’t because of the Kovid lockdown. Now I’ll never see her,” says Ahmed sorrowfully.
Saroj Khan was like a mother to Ahmed. “Everything I know about choreography, I learnt from her. At the age of 12, I was watching her do the choreography of ‘Kaate Nahin Kat-Te’ in Mr India. I was a child actor in that film. Though I was too young to understand what was going on, I could feel the uniqueness of the body language, the urgency of the movements. I knew then and there that I wanted to be a choreographer.”
At 16, Ahmed began assisting Saroj Khan. “I was a child bewildered and lost. She mothered me. She nurtured my talent. I was just like her own son (choreographer Raju Khan). Whatever I know about choreography I learnt from Sarojji. She gave choreography in Indian cinema a name, face and place. All of us (choreographers) owe our careers to her.”
Ahmed got a chance to repay some of Saroj Khan’s debt two years ago. “In Baaghi 2, I got a chance to do my homage to Sarojji’s iconic ‘Ek Do Teen Chaar’ from Tezaab I was so nervous. I thought she would be angry. But she was not upset. I went to her house with a cheque, a token gesture of appreciation (the ‘token amount’, I am told, was 20 lakhs). I knelt before her and gave her the cheque in her hand. I cannot tell you the emotions I felt at that moment. Sarojji was my guru and a mother-figure. There were other great choreographers before her. But what she did to Bollywood choreography was historic.”
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