Saroj Khan Had ‘Adaa’ That Choreographers Today Lack: Kunal Kohli

Kunal Kohli recalls all the times he worked with Saroj Khan aka ‘Humare Pyaare Masterji’. 

3 min read
Kunal Kohli recalls the times he worked with Saroj Khan aka ‘Masterji’. 

Choreographer Saroj Khan passed away on Friday after suffering a cardiac arrest. She was 71. Talking to The Quint, Kunal Kohli recalls Saroj Khan as the most loving person but also someone who knew when to put someone in their places.

“When she entered the sets, you knew that Saroj Khan had walked in. She had a personality that commanded respect, admiration and awe. We did Hum Tum and Fanaa together. Even if it was a big set or an outdoor location, you would know when Masterji had entered. She was lovingly called Masterji, and I added my little twist to that and called her Humare Pyaare Masterji,” says Kunal.

Kunal also reminisces having a conversation with Kajol when they were shooting Dekho Na for Fanaa. Kajol had asked him to be sensitive when it came to choreographing the song. Kajol told Kunal Kohli, “I have to watch this film and this song with my in-laws. I am a married woman, I have a child. I said ‘Kajol, you have told us, now relax’. By the end of the song, we had a rough edit ready and she just looked at the song and then at me and Saroj ji and said ‘Thank You’. And I told Saroj ji that Kajol was worried and she said that that’s not what I do and I know you won’t do that either, so how will that translate on screen?”

Still from <i>Dekho Na</i>&nbsp;choreographed by Saroj Khan for Kunal Kohli’s <i>Fanaa</i>.
Still from Dekho Na choreographed by Saroj Khan for Kunal Kohli’s Fanaa.
(Photo: Twitter)

“She would get biryani on the sets. She would either make it or get it made but she would always carry the delicacy with her. It was her deal with me that she would get biryani for every song we did together. She was very loving, just like a mother,” said the filmmaker.

He also added that some people thought she was difficult to work with.

“When someone crossed the boundaries or did anything wrong, the way Saroj Khan unleashed her wrath on that person was unreal. She could blast anybody. I did not want to be that person who was being ‘fired’ by Masterji. Star or no star made no difference to her. Nobody was a star for her and no one was a worker for her. Everyone was the same. If any actor came late to the sets, she would be extremely angry. She knew who could do what step, but if she could tell that someone was being lazy and not focused, then that person has had it. If there was any injustice of any kind, someone disrespected anyone on the sets while she was around, they got a piece of her mind”.
Kunal Kohli, Filmmaker
Still from <i>Chaand Sifaarish</i> choreographed by Saroj Khan for Kunal Kohli’s <i>Fanaa</i>.
Still from Chaand Sifaarish choreographed by Saroj Khan for Kunal Kohli’s Fanaa.
(Photo: Screenshot/Youtube)

Kunal also said that what choreographers lack today is adaa. “Adaa is something that’s inherent in Hindi films which people like Meena Kumar, Madhuri had in their dancing. And Saroj ji introduced this adaa in Indian cinema in a big way. And not just in women, even in men. If you see a song like Chaand Sifaarish, which Sarojji and I did with Aamir, there’s very little dance there but there is adaa. There’s an attitude that the guy has, which is there in the lyrics, in the character and she brings that out in the song. That same attitude she could bring out in any type of song, whether it was a comedy, a sensuous song or a romantic song. Today choreographers don’t understand the difference between vulgarity and sensuousness”.

Kunal Kohli also throws light on how most songs choreographed by Saroj Khan had a strong woman character that stood out. He says, “It’s hard for me to choose one favourite song of her’s because she was so diverse in the songs she did.”

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