'She made dance look easy': Tributes pour in for Bollywood choreographer Saroj Khan

Khan, one of India's most prominent choreographers, has died aged 71

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Saroj Khan, widely considered Bollywood's top choreographer, has died at the age of 71.

The three-time National Award winner died of cardiac arrest in a Mumbai hospital early on Friday, her family confirmed to local media.

Khan was hospitalised on Saturday, June 27, after she complained of breathlessness. She tested negative for Covid-19.

Khan had an illustrious career in Indian cinema, which spanned over 40 years.

Her first job was acting in a Bollywood film at age 3. She moved into the dance sphere in the 1950s when she became a back-up dancer, appearing in films such as Madhumati. It was on that set that she met dance director B Sohanlal, who she went on to marry.

Khan then forged ahead with a career in choreography, and got her break in 1974 in the Bollywood blockbuster Geeta Mera Naam starring Sunil Dutt, Feroz Khan and Sadhana.

She became a household name in the 1980s when she began regularly working with the likes of Sridevi Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit.

Khan gained further fame when she choreographed Sridevi in the hit song Hawa Hawai from the 1987 blockbuster hit Mr India.

Over the span of her four-decade career, she is estimated to have choreographed more than 2,000 songs.

Khan was buried in a Mumbai cemetery on Friday, local media reported.

She is survived by her husband and three children.

In the hours since her death was announced, Bollywood stars have been sharing tributes to Khan on social media.

Dixit said she was "devastated by the loss of my friend and guru".

"[I] will always be grateful for her work in helping me reach my full potential in dance. The world has lost an amazingly talented person," she wrote.

Actor Akshay Kumar said "she made dance look easy" and it was "a huge loss for the industry".

Actor John Abraham simply wrote "heart broken. Rest in peace".

Director Kunal Kohli shared a long thread of tweets to Khan, who he called his "beloved Masterji".

"From music videos to films we had a long journey together. Now you've left me and gone. I will do and make what we spoke about one day, my promise to you.
Kohli said he would encourage actors to emulate 50 per cent of what Khan told them to do and they would "be a star".

"She stood up for the rights of people. Never bothered who was a star or not. She said her bit unadulterated and from the heart. [She] brought biryani on every song and fed the whole crew so lovingly. We gossiped. We worked. Thank you for the memories," Kohli wrote.

Director Farah Khan said the choreographer had been an "inspiration to many, myself included.

"Thank you for the songs," she wrote.

Indian singer, composer and music producer Shreya Ghoshal also offered up some anecdotes.

"Every time I got to know you would be choreographing the song I stepped up an extra notch. You brought nuances, expressions, grace on screen with your heroines. The end of an era," she said.