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 Covid 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 Kate 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.”