Bollywood’s first female choreographer Saroj Khan, whose sizzling dance routines breathed life into hundreds of films, died Friday, triggering further heartbreak in an industry already reeling from a string of recent deaths.
Khan choreographed more than 2,000 numbers during a 40-year career that saw her work with superstars like Madhuri Dixit and Anil Kapoor to create dazzling song-and-dance numbers that are a distinctive feature of Hindi films.
A spokeswoman for Guru Nanak hospital told AFP that Khan, 71, was admitted to the facility on Thursday evening after complaining of respiratory problems.
She “was declared dead at approximately 2:30 am” after suffering cardiac arrest, the spokeswoman said.
Born Nirmala Nagpal, she joined the industry as a child actor aged just three but soon took to dancing instead, starting out as a backup dancer before becoming an assistant choreographer at 13.
She reportedly changed her name to Saroj to avoid the censure of conservative relatives who did not approve of her career choice.
She got her break in 1974 with “Geeta Mera Naam” (“Geeta Is My Name”), becoming the first female choreographer in Bollywood.
She had no formal training in classical dance but learnt on the job and hit the big time in the 1980s when her collaborations with two of Bollywood’s top stars, Dixit and Sridevi, became chart-toppers.
Last month Bollywood was rocked by the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput aged just 34. Police said he had taken his own life.
In April two luminaries, Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor, died within days of each other.
Wajid Khan, one of the top composers of Bollywood dance numbers, died at 42 from coronavirus at the end of May. Not long afterwards celebrated filmmaker Basu Chatterjee passed away aged 90.