Bollywood’s top choreographer Saroj Khan isn’t worried about stepping on anyone’s toes. Searingly honest, the 64-year-old choreographer to iconic songs such as Dhak Dhak and Dhola Re doesn’t mince words when sizing up dancing skills of the current crop of actors.
“Now there’s a lot of vulgarity,” said Khan in an interview with tabloid!. She was in town to pick the winner of Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa Dance Extravaganza 2013, a talent hunt held last Wednesday. Her job was to pick the best from the local talent pool so that the winner gets an opportunity to participate in the TV show telecast on Colors Middle East.
After having worked in over 200 films, Khan believes it’s time for actresses to put their foot down and say no to vulgar steps. She claims that under her dance direction, her heroines would never look crass. Excerpts from our chat with the architect behind dancing queens such as Madhuri Dixit and Sri Devi ...
Q: You have been in Bollywood choreography for decades. What changes have seen in choreography over the years?
I have seen several changes and they are not always for the good. Earlier, there were actors such as Vyjantimala, Waheeda Rahman or Helen. They looked as if they were made exclusively for dance and their movements were so neat and clean. Now, there’s a lot of vulgarity. The only thing people know these days is how to copy. It makes me think: if you cannot get the original steps right, why make a bad copy? Every film has the same type of dance movements. If I were to point out some good dancers today, it has to be Hrithik [Roshan] and Govinda. They can carry off Indian and Western steps.
Q: What made you say that today’s actors look vulgar while dancing?
First and foremost, what they wear is wrong and their movements in front of the camera aren’t flattering. Frontal movements (facing the camera) tend to look vulgar. For instance hip movements should always be executed side-ways. The moment it becomes a thrust towards the camera it looks vulgar. You will never find any of my heroines looking vulgar. They will always look like a temptress and sensuous. When I choreograph a song, I never forget that children are watching my moves.
Q: So would item songs such as Sheila Ki Jawani or Munni Badnaam fall under the vulgar category?
The steps and the movements in these songs are good, but it’s the camera angle that spoils it. It doesn’t look nice if the camera is placed bang in front of you. There’s a thin line between sensuous and vulgar. Also, to look sexy remember you don’t have to put them in frocks and shorts. They can be draped in a six-yard sari and still look alluring. There has to be some mystery surrounding the women.
Q: Do you speak about your concerns to the director or producer of a film?
I don’t know how to stop this. When you put forward all this to a director, they may tell you that they have opened the shop to earn money and that the world wants this. Who’s going to argue with that logic? The only way to get out of this problem lies with the artists themselves. They need to put their foot down and say they won’t do a movie if it looks vulgar. They need to draw the line somewhere. Sometimes, I have told them off about the lyrics of certain songs. But they don’t listen. Maybe, the audience should go on a strike and refuse to get into theatres when they see vulgar songs. Somehow, it’s also put into a producer’s brain that a picture won’t run if there is no item song.
Q: Have you lost out on work because of this?
A: I do films that I like. The buzz word these days is ‘fusion’. But sometimes, I want to ask them if they really know the meaning of that word.
Q: Do you maintain contact with actresses whom you have choreographed dance numbers for?
I have always been a loner and I never go to parties. Nor do I sit near actresses’ feet or press their feet. I have seen one of my colleagues do it and I felt sick in my stomach. Even when I am shooting, I don’t go to their make-up room and hang around them. If I am called in to see a dress or their hairstyle, I check it out in their vanity van,
Q: Tell us more about your future projects?
I just completed the choreography for Madhuri Dixit’s Gulaabi Gang. It’s always nice to work with Madhuri. I also worked recently with Deepika Padukone and Rajinikanth for Kochadiyaan. It’s a Western number. I have worked with Rajinikanth before but this song is extraordinary. Rajinikanth is a non-dancer but he has this unique appeal. If the song is choreographed well, he can do the movements.
Q: Who are the best dancers in Bollywood today?
A: The actresses today are disciplined. They practice a lot. When I choreographed Katrina Kaif for Namastey London, she wasn’t a great dancer but now with lots of practice she has become a good one. The same goes with all actresses such as Deepika, Kareena etc.
Did you know?
Creating a dance for Dhola Re from Devdas
“It was purely classical. I have never learnt dance in a formal fashion but it turned out beautifully,” Saroj Khan who runs her own dance academy called Saroj Khan Dance Institute in Dubai.