Mumbai: Choreographer Saroj Khan, the feisty 'Masterji' of Bollywood who stormed into a largely male bastion with her dance moves, died following a cardiac arrest at a hospital here early Friday. She was 71.
The three-time National Award winner had been admitted to the Guru Nanak Hospital in Bandra on June 20 after she complained of breathing issues. She tested negative for COVID-19.
Khan, who helped remould the coy Bollywood heroine into the bold, unapologetically sensual one and made the career of many a star in the 1980s and 1990s, is survived by her son Raju and daughter Sukaina.
"She passed away after a cardiac arrest at around 2.30 am at the hospital," Khan's nephew Manish Jagwani told PTI.
Khan, who was only three when she first entered the film industry as a child artiste, was buried at a cemetery in suburban Malad.
The formidable Khan, who made a name for herself in an industry dominated by men at the time, became the woman who made dancing queens of the likes of Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit.
Madhuri Dixit, who did some of her best work with the choreographer, said she was devastated by the loss of her friend and guru.
"Will always be grateful for her work in helping me reach my full potential in dance. The world has lost an amazingly talented person. I will miss you. My sincere condolences to the family. #RIPSarojji," Madhuri tweeted.
In a career spanning over four decades, Khan choreographed more than 2,000 songs, some of which a generation of women grew up practising in front of their mirrors.
The career path wasn’t easy and neither was her life.
Khan's parents migrated to India after the Partition. She started her career in the film industry as a child artiste when she was only three and later worked as a background dancer.
When she was just 13, she got married to film choreographer B Sohanlal who she worked under. He was 41 at the time. She later married again.
Khan was born as Nirmala but converted to Islam of her own will, the choreographer had revealed in an interview.
She got her first break as an independent choreographer with “Geeta Mera Naam” in 1974 but it took Sridevi’s “Hawa Hawai” and "Kaate Nahi Kat Te" from 1987 film “Mr India” for her to receive acclaim as a dance choreographer of repute.
There was no looking back after that.