Sridevi passes away: Choreographers Saroj Khan, Remo D'souza reminisce about actress' dance prowess
Not only for her acting prowess, for which she won numerous awards in her lifetime, Sridevi is known (and revered) also for her dance numbers.
Not only for her acting prowess, for which she won numerous awards in her lifetime, Sridevi is known (and revered) also for her dance numbers. Many of them, choreographed by Saroj Khan, hold special place in our lives. Some of these songs and dance numbers like ‘Mere haathon mein nau nau choodiyan’ (Chandni), ‘Na jaane kahan se aayi hai’ (Chaalbaaz), ‘Kate nahi kat the’ (Mr India), 'Morni baga maa' (Lamhe), ‘Naino mein sapna’ (Himmatwala) were enough to pull the audience into a theatre.
According to veteran choreographer, Saroj Khan, who had a long and special association with the actress, Sridevi didn’t take things easy and would come fully prepared for her shoot armed with different costumes, wigs and hair dos, and creative ideas — all well in advance. “She was very particular about what would finally be shown on screen and how she will be presented in every song. She would come on shoots with many suitcases. Even for her roles, she dressed appropriately and she always wanted to look the part,” said Khan, who worked with Sridevi on Khuda Gawah, Karma, Lamhe, Nagina and many more.
However, the two had a brief fall-out, apparently with Madhuri Dixit’s arrival, and they decided to take a break from working with each other for some time. Later, after about a year, they sorted out their differences and were back together.
Though choreographer-turned-director, Ahmed Khan didn’t get the opportunity to design a complete dance number for Sridevi, as he was an assistant during the actress’ period of stardom, but he feels lucky to have taught her few significant steps for the iconic song, ‘Hawa Hawai’ in Mr India.
Eleven-year-old Ahmed, who was also one of the child actors in Shekhar Kapur’s science fiction adventure, says, “I worked with her in Mr India and later as assistant choreographer in many of her films like Chandramukhi, Chand Ka Tukda, but my memories with Sridevi are very different. Mr India was my first film, I was a kid then, and she would often bring us ice creams and chocolates. Then, during the hospital sequence in the film she called me in the ‘doctor’s’ cabin and asked me to teach her few break dance steps for the song ‘Hawa Hawai’. She was aware that I knew that form of dance and wanted to do something different in the song to bring in more variety. I told her that learning break dance won’t be easy and that it will take lot of time but she learnt it in a jiffy.”
“Sridevi had the grace because she was a trained Kathak and Bharatanatyam dancer. She had absolutely no competition. Also, she was one of the first actresses to wear lenses of different colours for her role in Nagina to get into the skin of the character. Then, she had also learnt a proper Nagin dance from ace choreographer Saroj Khan for the part,” said Ahmed, further adding, “The first day when I went on the sets of Mr India in Film City, they were shooting ‘Hawa Hawai’ and I saw Sridevi in a golden dress with crown on her head. I felt as if I was watching a movie. Watching her dance was an experience of a life time.”
Well-known choreographer-director, Remo D’souza regrets not getting a single chance to choreograph for Sridevi. Remo, who particularly likes her dance act in Chaalbaaz, says his first encounter with her was during an awards ceremony in Macau three years back. “She had to perform all her popular numbers and I was completely awe-struck by her when she was rehearsing. She was a totally different person on camera. Towards the end Prabhu Dheva joined her on stage and it was such a delight watching her. She was one of the few actors to take dance to another level because she was proficient at both, western and classical forms. Apart from grace, she would give great expressions which very few can do,” said Remo, further adding, “Now I feel bad for not getting the opportunity to choreograph her. Ahmed was lucky. This regret will always remain with me."
Main Hoon Naa and Happy New Year choreographer, Geeta Kapoor, who worked with Farah Khan, remembers going with Sridevi, Amitabh Bachchan and Anil Kapoor on a show to the US in 1993-’94 where they performed on all her popular numbers from Mr India, Chandni, Lamhe. “The audience would go berserk on seeing Sridevi. The crowd would roar the moment her name was announced, people would just go crazy and we would get goose bumps,” she said excitedly.
“She was the only actor I knew who would always rehearse pre-performance. By the time you do the first three shows, it is sets in your memory, but there wasn’t a single show that she wouldn’t rehearse. She never took it easy and that’s what I loved about her. She would rehearse the entire act before she went on stage so that nothing went wrong,” said Kapoor.
Terence Lewis, another prominent choreographer, loved the trend of performing in georgette sarees — which Sridevi started with her films like Mr India and Chandni. “I liked the idea of wearing a georgette saree and making it look sexy,” he said. Lewis never got the chance to teach her but he interacted with her very briefly when she had recently appeared on a dance reality show to promote her last release, Mom.
“I had known about Sridevi through Anil Kapoor and his wife Sunita with whom I used to work a lot. I am a great admirer of her work. About her dancing I can say that she had those aesthetics that comes with classical training. Most importantly, she was very expressive with her face. Sridevi and Madhuri were the last two larger-than-life superstars who had those qualities. Additionally, what was intriguing about Sridevi was that Greta Garbo-esque quality in her – she was very private, she knew her boundaries and allowed very few people to enter her life, which probably made her personality more beautiful, interesting and attractive,” said Terence.
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