Nirmala Kishanchand Sadhu Singh Nagpal, better known as Saroj Khan, was one of the leading Indian choreographers who mostly worked in Bollywood. Khan is popularly known as the “The Mother of Dance/Choreography” in India. She choreographed more than 2000 songs in a career spanning over forty years.
Saroj Khan was born on Saturday, 20 November 1948 (age 71 years at the time of death) in Bombay (Present day, Mumbai, Maharashtra). Her zodiac sign was Scorpio. Her family had its roots in Pakistan from where her parents relocated to India after the partition of India & Pakistan. She belonged to an affluent business family but, as her parents relocated to India they lost all the wealth.
As a child, Saroj used to see her shadow on the floor and dance. When her mother saw her dancing after her shadow, she thought that Saroj is mentally ill and took her to the doctor. After thoroughly analysing Khan, the doctor advised her mother that Khan just wanted to dance, so she should let her dance. The doctor even suggested Khan’s mother to try Khan’s luck in the film industry; as her family was financially weak at that time. When Saroj was three years old, she starred in the film, “Nazarana” as a child artist. In the 1950’s Khan worked as a background dancer in the song ‘Aiye Meheraban’ from the film, “Howrah Bridge.”
While in school, she started learning dance from film choreographer, B. Sohanlal.
Height (approx.): 4′ 10″
Hair Colour: Salt & Pepper
Eye Colour: Dark Brown
Family & Caste
Saroj Khan was born into a Hindu Family. However, she converted to Islam before her first marriage.
Parents & Siblings
Saroj Khan was the daughter of Late Kishanchand Sadhu Singh and Noni Sadhu Singh. She had one younger brother and three younger sisters.
Husband, Relationships & Children
Saroj Khan married her 41-year-old dance guru, B. Sohanlal when she was just 13 years old. Sohanlal was already married at that time and had four children. However, Saroj was not aware of the fact that Sohanlal was a married man. She gave birth to her first child, Hamid Khan (a popular choreographer, known by the name of Raju Khan) when she was 14 years old. The couple parted their ways in 1965. Later, they got reunited after Sohanlal suffered a heart attack. The couple was then blessed with their second child, Hina Khan (She died 8 months after her birth). However, Sohanlal refused to give their children his name, so she raised them as a single mother.
Saroj, then, found love in a businessman named Sardar Roshan Khan. The couple tied the knot in 1975. Together, they have a daughter, Sukaina khan, who is the owner of a dance institute in Dubai.
Saroj started her career as an assistant choreographer under B. Sohanlal at the age of fourteen. The first song that she choreographed was “Nigahein Milane Ko Jee Chahta Hai” from the film ‘Dil Hi Toh Hai.’ In 1974, Saroj made her debut as an independent choreographer with the film, “Geeta Mera Naam.” Although Khan started her career in the early 70s, it was only in the late 80s that she rose to fame.
It was the Bollywood film, “Nagina” featuring Sridevi that earned Saroj recognition. Her choreography in the dance number, “Main Naagin Tu Sapera” brought her laurels. Khan, then, choreographed Sridevi in Mr. India’s song, “Hawaa Hawaai.” Her choreography skills were loved by the audience and the critics alike.
Subsequently, Khan choreographed several songs for Madhuri Dixit like “Dhak Dhak Karne Laga,” “Ek Do Teen,” “Tamma Tamma Loge” and “Dola Re Dola.” The songs went on to become huge hits and made Saroj Khan a household name.
Thereafter, she choreographed several songs for films like “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam,” “Guru,” “Tanu Weds Manu Returns,” “Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi,” and “Jab We Met.” Saroj appeared as a judge in the first and second season of the dance reality show, “Nach Baliye.” She had also judged other dance reality shows like “Ustaadon ka Ustaad” and “Boogie Woogie.”
In 2008, Saroj hosted the dance class show, “Nachle Ve with Saroj Khan” on NDTV Imagine.
- Saroj Khan attracted controversy after she came in support of the practice of casting couch in the film industry. Saroj, in her statement, said that at least the film industry provided people employment, it didn’t rape and abandon artists. Her comments faced a severe backlash on the internet.
- Saroj Khan accused Bollywood choreographer, Ganesh Acharya of harassing struggling dancers and choreographers. However, later Acharaya filed a defamation case on Saroj and said that it was her strategy to tarnish his image.
Saroj Khan was admitted to Mumbai’s Guru Nanak Hospital on 17 June 2020 after she faced breathing problem. Khan died of cardiac arrest at 2:30 am on 3 July 2020. She was 71 years of age at the time of her death. Khan was laid to rest in a cemetery in Malad, Mumbai by her family at around 7 am.
Awards & Achievements
- Dadasaheb Phalke Excellence Award for Legendary Choreographer of Indian Cinema (2019)
National Film Awards
- National Film Award for ‘Best Choreography’ for the film, “Devdas” (Dola Re Dola) (2003)
- National Film Award for ‘Best Choreography’ for the film, “Sringaram” (All Songs) (2006)
- National Film Award for ‘Best Choreography’ for the film, “Jab We Met” (Yeh Ishq Haaye) (2008)
- Filmfare Award for ‘Best Choreographer’ for the film, “Tezaab” (1989)
- Filmfare Award for ‘Best Choreographer’ for the film, “Chaalbaaz” (1990)
- Filmfare Award for ‘Best Choreographer’ for the film, “Sailaab” (1991)
- Filmfare Award for ‘Best Choreographer’ for the film, “Beta” (1993)
- Filmfare Award for ‘Best Choreographer’ for the film, “Khalnayak” (1994)
- Filmfare Award for ‘Best Choreographer’ for the film, “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam” (2000)
- Filmfare Award for ‘Best Choreographer’ for the film, “Devdas” (2003)
- Filmfare Award for ‘Best Choreographer’ for the film, “Guru” (2008)
American Choreography Award
- Outstanding Achievement in Feature Film, “Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India” (2001)
- Nandi Award for Best Choreographer for the film, “Choodalani Vundi” (1998)
- 19th Annual Kalakar Achiever Award for Outstanding Contribution in Dance Choreography (2011)
- Her hobbies included dancing and travelling.
- In 2012, PSBT and Films Division of India produced and released a documentary on Saroj Khan titled “The Saroj Khan Story.” The documentary was directed by Nidhi Tuli.
- Khan was the first one to receive the Filmfare Best Choreography Award. In fact, Filmfare introduced the award category after watching her choreography in the song, “Ek Do Teen” from the film, Tezaab. Saroj won Filmfare Awards consecutively for three years from 1989 to 1991. She even held the record for winning the maximum number of Filmfare Awards for the Best Choreographer category.
- Khan is also the recipient of the most number of National Film Awards in the Best Choreography category (three wins).
- While talking about her marriage with her dance guru, B. Sohanlal, Saroj said,
I used to study in school those days, then one day my dance master Sohanlal tied a black thread around my neck and I got married.”
- Her friends and family lovingly called her Moti Bachi and Masterji.
- Bollywood actress, Madhuri Dixit was her favourite dance student.
- Saroj often referred herself as Anglo Indian; because she was trained in dance forms like acrobats, jiving, and rock & roll.
- Reportedly, before establishing herself as a choreographer, Saroj got rejected several times because of her western dressing style.
- Mere at the age of 12, Saroj taught dance to the leading ladies of Bollywood, like Helen and Vyjayanthimala.
- In 2019, Saroj choreographed her last song, “Tabaah Hogaye,” from the film, “Kalank” featuring Madhuri Dixit.