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Thank god, I didn't do Umrao Jaan: Saroj Khan

Saroj Khan, winner of National award 2006, tells Piyush Roy the reason she left JP Dutta's film.

india Updated: May 08, 2007 17:48 IST
Piyush Roy

It doesn’t matter that Saroj Khan does not know whether Shringara, a period film on the life of a devadasi, is in “Tamil or Telugu”.

What does matter is that she’s won this year’s National Award for Best Choreography for the film and will attend attend its screening at IFFI, Goa, on Saturday .

“I have been informed about the National Award by a letter, though the results are yet to be officially announced,” she says happily.

Khan, who recently wowed the audience on

Nach Baliye 2

with her impromptu dance to

Dil cheez kya hai

to “correct” contestant Shweta Kawaatra’s faulty steps, was J P Dutta’s first choice as the choreographer of his much panned

Umrao Jaan


“Yes, I was signed for the film. But once I heard the songs I refused to choreograph them. I have a reputation to live up to. Thank god, I didn’t do it. J P Dutta and I are old friends. I have choreographed nearly all his films. But once I listened to Anu Malik’s compositions, I told Dutta that the music wasn’t a patch on the original. I also asked him to dub Alka Yagnik’s voice,” says she.

Dutta assured Khan that he would discuss her criticising the music of the film with Malik. “Instead, when I met him three days later, he said that since I didn’t like the music, I wouldn’t work from my heart’.

So I quit the film. “As a choreographer I can save lousy songs but Dutta doubted my dedication,” says a hurt Khan. Saroj Khan saw Umrao Jaan with director Vipul Shah in Chandigarh. Frankly, she says she couldn’t survive the experience and left after the interval.

“I saw Salaam and the two songs that follow it. I felt Salaam was totally wrong. There weren’t so many hand gestures in the dances of 19th century Forget jumping into a pool, women were too shy to even show their legs those days,” she adds.

Khan feels Kamal Amrohi’s 1971 film Pakeezah is an ideal example of pure mujra: “Only Meena Kumari’s feet are visible in all the songs. But in the new Umrao Jaan, there was no sharm (shame). Making Aishwarya dance so much has backfired. I know that Aishwarya is a good dancer but her choreographer was faulty."

“A tawaif only looks at and sings for the person who has paid for the mehfil. She doesn’t go near others , neither does she allow anyone to touch her.”

Saroj Khan's personal favorites:
Chane ke khet mein ¦ (Anjaam)
Hawa Hawaii ¦ (Mr India)
Choli ke peeche kya hai ¦ (Khalnayak)
All songs of Devdas ¦
Sridevi’s dances in ¦ Chaalbaaz

First Published: Nov 29, 2006 21:00 IST