Born Nirmala Nagpal, her parents Kishanchand Sadhu Singh and Noni Singh migrated to India after partition of India. She started her career as a child artist at the age of three with the film Nazarana as baby Shyama, and was a background dancer in the late 1950s. She learnt dance while working under film choreographer B. Sohanlal, whom she married at the age of 13 while he was 43 years and was already married with 4 children which she did not know at the time of marriage. After having three children (excluding one that died as an infant), the couple separated; after their separation, she married businessman Sardar Roshan Khan in 1975 and changed her name after converting to Islam. They couple have one child together: a daughter, Sukaina khan, who is known to run a dance institute in Dubai. Later, she moved to choreography, first as an assistant choreographer and later getting her break as an independent choreographer, with Geeta Mera Naam (1974). However, she had to wait many years to receive acclaim, which came with her work with Sridevi; Hawa Hawai in Mr India (1987), Main Teri Dushman, Dushman Tu Mera in Nagina (1986) and Mere Haathon Mein in Chandni (1989), and later with Madhuri Dixit, starting with the hit Ek Do Teen in Tezaab (1988), Tamma Tamma Loge in Thanedaar (1990) and Dhak Dhak Karne Laga in Beta (1992). Thereafter, she went on to become one of the most successful Bollywood choreographers.