Saroj Khan, choreographer of over 2,000 Bollywood songs, passes away

Saroj Khan got her break in 1974 with ‘Geeta Mera Naam’ (Geeta Is My Name), becoming the first female choreographer in Bollywood. (AP)
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Updated 03 July 2020

Saroj Khan, choreographer of over 2,000 Bollywood songs, passes away

  • Saroj Khan choreographed more than 2,000 numbers during a 40-year career
  • She got her break in 1974 with ‘Geeta Mera Naam’, becoming the first female choreographer in Bollywood

MUMBAI: 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 said 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 also fell in love with B. Sohanlal, her much older mentor who was a married father of four.
Stung by his refusal to leave his first wife, Khan, who had converted to Islam, became a single mother to their two children while still in her teens and walked out of the relationship to start working on her own.
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.
The 1988 number “Ek Do Teen” (“One Two Three”), choreographed by Khan, made Dixit a star overnight, and the actress was among the first to pay tribute to the woman she called her teacher.
“I’m devastated by the loss of my friend and guru, Saroj Khan. Will always be grateful for her work in helping me reach my full potential in dance. The world has lost an amazingly talented person,” Dixit tweeted.
“She made dance look easy almost like anybody can dance, a huge loss for the industry,” tweeted superstar Akshay Kumar.
Khan dominated Bollywood’s dance floors over the next decade, churning out hits such as 1987’s “Hawa Hawaii,” 1993’s “Choli ke Peeche” (“Behind the Blouse”) and 2002’s “Dola re Dola” (“I Swayed”).
She won three National Awards for her choreography in the Bollywood movies “Devdas” and “Jab We Met” (“When We Met”) and for the Tamil film “Sringaram: Dance of Love.”
Her last film was 2019’s “Kalank” (“Blemish”) starring Dixit.
She was also a popular presence on television, hosting an instructional dance show called “Nachle Ve” (“Dance”) from 2008 to 2011.
In her introduction to the program, she said: “Dance is my life. If there is no dance, there is no Saroj Khan.”
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.


Bodies of man and his slave unearthed from ashes at Pompeii

The casts of what are believed to have been a rich man and his male slave fleeing the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius nearly 2,000 years ago, are seen in what was an elegant villa on the outskirts of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii destroyed by the eruption in 79 A.D., where they were discovered during recents excavations, Pompeii archaeological park officials said Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AP)
Updated 22 November 2020

Bodies of man and his slave unearthed from ashes at Pompeii

  • Pompeii officials said the men apparently escaped the initial fall of ash from Mount Vesuvius then succumbed to a powerful volcanic blast that took place the next morning

ROME: Skeletal remains of what are believed to have been a rich man and his male slave attempting to escape death from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius nearly 2,000 years ago have been discovered in Pompeii, officials at the archaeological park in Italy said Saturday.
Parts of the skulls and bones of the two men were found during excavation of the ruins from what was once an elegant villa with a panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea on the outskirts of the ancient Roman city destroyed by the volcano eruption in 79 A.D. It’s the same area where a stable with the remains of three harnessed horses were excavated in 2017.
Pompeii officials said the men apparently escaped the initial fall of ash from Mount Vesuvius then succumbed to a powerful volcanic blast that took place the next morning. The later blast “apparently invaded the area from many points, surrounding and burying the victims in ash,” Pompeii officials said in a statement.
The remains of the two victims, lying next to each other on their backs, were found in a layer of gray ash at least 2 meters (6.5 feet) deep, they said.
As has been done when other remains have been discovered at the Pompeii site, archaeologists poured liquid chalk into the cavities, or void, left by the decaying bodies in the ash and pumice that rained down from the volcano near modern-day Naples and demolished the upper levels of the villa.
The technique, pioneered in the 1800s, gives the image not only of the shape and position of the victims in the throes of death, but makes the remains “seem like statues,” said Massimo Osanna, an archaeologist who is director general of the archaeological park operated under the jurisdiction of the Italian Culture Ministry.
Judging by cranial bones and teeth, one of the men was young, likely aged 18 to 25, with a spinal column with compressed discs. That finding led archaeologists to hypothesize that he was a young man who did manual labor, like that of a slave.
The other man had a robust bone structure, especially in his chest area, and died with his hands on his chest and his legs bent and spread apart. He was estimated to have been 30- to 40-years-old, Pompeii officials said. Fragments of white paint were found near the man’s face, probably remnants of a collapsed upper wall, the officials said.
Both skeletons were found in a side room along an underground corridor, or passageway, known in ancient Roman times as a cryptoporticus, which led to to the upper level of the villa.
“The victims were probably looking for shelter in the cryptoporticus, in this underground space, where they thought they were better protected,” said Osanna.
Instead, on the morning of Oct. 25, 79 A.D., a “blazing cloud (of volcanic material) arrived in Pompeii and...killed anyone it encountered on its way,” Osanna said.
Based on the impression of fabric folds left in the ash layer, it appeared the younger man was wearing a short, pleated tunic, possibly of wool. The older victim, in addition to wearing a tunic, appeared to have had a mantle over his left shoulder.
Mount Vesuvius remans an active volcano. While excavations continue at the site near Naples, tourists are currently barred from the archaeological park under national anti-COVID-19 measures.