By Imtiaz Ali
Getting Saroj Khan to choreograph "Yeh ishq haye" for "Jab We Met" was purely coincidental. We were already shooting in Manali. We were speaking to choreographers in Mumbai to come and join the unit, and then it just happened that she was there in Manali. She was shooting for another film.
I thought it would be the best thing in the world if she agreed to do my film. So I met her at the hotel. Her work was over for the other film. There were seven to 10 days in between, so I asked her if she could stay back for those seven or 10 days. She agreed, and then she shot our song. In those seven to 10 days, she worked relentlessly. We had around 70 dancers from different places in Himachal Pradesh. She would rehearse continuously with them.
She was really a pleasure to work with. After the shooting of the song was over, I requested her if she could dance to the whole song -- the parts that Kareena (Kapoor) had done in the song. She danced for all of us -- there were 200 to 300 people, and she danced for all of us! That was the most thrilling thing I will remember about her.
As for her working style, she was very clear about the procedure. She never seemed to be in a rush, she was very calm. I remember her words, she said, 'You can reject my ideas as many times as you want. Iss dukan mein saman bohot hai (there are lots of products in this shop), so if you don't like something, fikar matt karna (don't worry), I'll do something else'. She was very simple, easy and methodical to work with. I really liked her.
Saroj Khan with Kareena Kapoor Khan on Jab We Met sets. Image sourced from mid-day archives
Directors and choreographers are usually at loggerheads because of the different ways they want to shoot a song, but she was very easy. I thoroughly enjoyed her company.
After winning the National Award, she called me. She behaved like a teenager – she giggled away! She said 'I've got a National Award' with so much excitement.
We worked together again in "Love Aaj Kal". There was one Indian song, a Saroj Khan type of song. Working with her for the second time, the comfort level was the same because, for a professional, the comfort zone always remains the same. It was very nice to have her on set because she knew what a director's problems would be. She had a good sense of humour. We used to call her Masterji. We had regard and warmth for each other.
I would have loved to another film with her, but it never happened.
I might have connected with her in the passing. But I remember her more for the experience of working with her, and that phone call she made after winning the award.
Her dance, the way she danced, was so beautiful. That is how I will remember her.
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