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“Today’s Bollywood Cannot Dance”
Interview with the versatile Saroj Khan, Bollywood Choreographer

Interviewed & written by Anu Gopalakrishnan
Miindia Copyright 2016

It takes a lot of guts to say “Today’s Bollywood Cannot Dance”, especially when she is from the most dramatic and glamorous film industry- the much touted Bollywood. She has been the woman behind the numerous bold moves and grooves supplied by the Bollywood factory. From Nutan’s era to Kareena Kapoor’s award winning dances, the veteran choreographer Saroj Khan is on a cross regional tour teaching aspiring and professional dancers how to dance the “real” Bollywood way.

In a candid interview with Anu Gopalakrishnan (Rockin’ Raaga- WCXI 1160 AM) for an exclusive coverage, the veteran talent spoke about what Bollywood dance truly signifies and why she is out of work. Think about the dazzling, eyelashes twittering Sridevi, the jhataks and mataks of Madhuri, the graceful classical feel of Aishwarya and the effervescent moves of Kareena Kapoor, Saroj Khan talks about how everybody aspires and wants to be them and in that process have lost their true identity.

Some excerpts:

From 1951, with over 2000 films- your accomplishment speaks so loud. How do you feel this very moment?
I feel nice and proud making all these artists and stars dance. It makes me more proud when younger generation like you far away from India appreciate my work and invite me with such open arms. The non-resident Indian community has made me feel so welcome. I feel sad that the Bollywood dance industry is not so good these days.

When you say the dance is not good- can you elaborate please?
I do not see any good dancers these days barring a couple of them. The songs are cheap, no scope for dancing. In the industry, we are like sheep. When one sheep turns, the other one turns and so it is like Bhed Chaal (Herd mentality). I feel very confident that our culture is strong and one day we will get our original Bollywood back. Do you even hear the kind of music that is made today?

What did you like about your times?
Choreography was all about expressions, grace and freedom of the spirit. Not working out your pelvic muscles. I loved my time because we got opportunities to express ourselves, no restrictions. we moved our hips but with classical ease that was natural. The background in Kathak and Bharatanatyam with a dazzle of Bollywood presents a beautiful spectacle. It is like “Achaar” (Chutney) that tastes good. I am lucky that I was able to think every step and scene, be creative, create moments. It made me a true dancing professional too. Look at all my numbers, it is a wholesome package. emotions are conveyed through the steps – Hawa Hawaii, Dhak Dhak, Ek Do Teen, Dola Re, dances in Taal, Chandni, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and more- pick any dance and you will see the emotions conveyed through facial expression and the graceful energy through beautiful leg work.

Any specific actress you miss working with?
Many. Vyjayanthimala Bali for her beautiful expressions, Padmini, Ragini for their intricate leg work, Helen for her elegant moves (You won’t believe how she makes an item dance look so elegant and charming). They were real dancers with such professional ethics. Then came along their lines Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit, Karishma Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai. These ladies carved their own identities. The audience knows that their movies will have a dance that will rock the charts. In the current scene, very few. I like Kareena Kapoor, Deepika Padukone and Shraddha Kappor. Lot of elegance and they look natural. Tiger Shroff is a natural. That boy can dance. Prabhu Deva should focus more on his old identity and not be caught with the current confusion they call Bollywood Dance. I loved Prabhu Deva and Madhuri in “Que Sera Sera” from Pukar. What a fantastic combination.

What’s your favorite choreography from your stable?
Each song has different movements. My movements have to suit my song and the situation. To date, Dola Re from Devdas is my favorite. Both Aishwarya and Madhuri were natural. Wish I can see them together on screen again. Unfortunately, artists think I am too old and I do not have any work. But I enjoy teaching young aspirants.

You are on a nationwide tour with your workshops – can you share your experience?
Yes. I am so excited to teach these wonderful youngsters. In every workshop, I see at least 5-10 dancers who really know how to dance. It is so much fun to teach them as they listen and they don’t mind being given pointers. I see a few European and American dancers who are fabulous and dance Bollywood better than our Indian counterparts. It shows how Bollywood culture is so high. We copy the west in hip-hop and jazz that ultimately fades out. What comes back and what stands strong is “our” dance”. The groups I have so far comprise of 75 dancers a session.

Do you think every dancer who wishes to participate in the workshop should have a classical background?
Classical background is not necessary. The workshop is for beginners and advanced students. I introduce the real Bollywood dancing. Not the “copycat” movements. There will be all kinds of dances mixed and I firmly believe that everyone can dance. When I see some of these events and witness people dancing, they pass it off as Bollywood. This workshop will make you experience the real legwork and facial expressions. You will learn why it is important to have your own identity. I will give emphasis on facial movements, hand movements.

What happens if you spot talent at the workshop?
We video tape all the workshops from across the country and review them. We identify talent and we recommend them to producers and choreographers in Bollywood so they get a chance to see what the world has to offer. This becomes a vehicle for spotting true talent, somebody who has the potential to be the next Bollywood Dance Diva or a Charmer.

For Exclusive ©2016
Interviewed by Anu Gopalakrishnan (Rockin Raaga – Saturdays 1-3 pm EST/WCXI 1160 AM)
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