Vaibhavi Merchant remembers Saroj Khan: She opened the doors of choreography in Bollywood for females
Choreographer Vaibhavi Merchant has always looked up to the late choreographer Saroj Khan not just as a senior in her field, but also for the fact that she opened the doors of Bollywood choreography to females.
Merchant outrightly says, “It’s because of her and her choreography in Ek Do Teen (Tezaab, 1988) that the category of Best Choreography was created in the first place, so it’s because of her we all get nominated now.”
The one thing Khan was strict about was discipline on set, and also told everyone to be grateful if they had work in hand. Merchant reveals that there was a reason behind it.
“She came out through a lot of hardships. Imagine, she actually entered the choreography industry when it was dominated by male choreographers, and she was never really given a chance to prove her mettle,” feels the Kajra Re choreographer, who was a co-judge with Khan on Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa season 3.
Merchant adds that the scenario was such that it might have also happened that the projects Khan got could have been taken away from her.
“If she got a job, there was always somebody who probably must have undercut and pushed her out of the project. They’d grab it away from her. Imagine for her to have come from that time, and then to change that somehow. She has struggled to find jobs, therefore she valued it. People who get it easily, don’t know the value, they have the luxury to say so. The success and hits didn’t matter to her as much as that memory of the struggle. She’d never forget that this is bread and butter, and something you should never shy away from,” Merchant recalls fondly.
The two used to have a lot of conversations about how the scenario used to be in the 1950s, right from the time Khan started working in films. Referring to the experiences she had as a Pandora’s Box, Merchant says, “I used to be fascinated with how it used to be. She had a legacy and body of work.”
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