Choreography is an important component of Indian movies, since it is vital to most of the songs. South India prides itself for the birth of Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, and Kathakali, whereas North India can boast of Kathak and Bhangra. Over the years, the Western influence has changed the dance style of both Tamil and Hindi movies alike. Now, we rarely have the purest forms of our classical dance; I think it is a fusion of both worlds. There are a few in both movie industries who have stood the test of time and outshone others. Let us see who fares how.
1) Tamil choreographers:
Thankfully, gone are the days of 'Puliyoor' Saroja, and, to some extent, Raghuram, both of whom approached cine-dance as just 'dancing to the tunes'. In the late 80's, Maniratnam showed in his movies what new and innovative choreography and picturization can do to the viewing pleasure. Atleast a couple of songs in each of his movies, since Mouna Raagam, had some great dance numbers. The person whom he teamed up with, Sundaram, was undoubtedly the best of his times. It is very apt that, he and his sons were utilized to maximum possible extent by another master of visually pleasing cinema, Shankar.
The 90's saw Prabhu Deva and Raju Sundaram taking the central stage in choreography. There were others too, such as, Kala and her sister Brindha, who shone occasionally but they paled in comparison with the Sundaram family. Then, in 2000's, Lawrence Raghavendra entered the scene and he has created his own style in choreography.
The main problem with the choreography in Tamil cinema is not with the masters, but those who matter, i.e. the actors and actresses. Barring a handful, most actresses dont dance well. The less said about the actors, the better. Due to this, we often see some great dance scores wasted as item numbers.
2) Hindi choreographers:
Khans rule here too.. there is old-but-still-gold Saroj Khan, Farah Khan (who is undoubtedly the #1 now) and Ahmed Khan. In addition to them, Ganesh Hegde, very stylish and highly talented choreographer, Vaibhavi Merchant (young and very promising master) and Shiamak Davar (selective but delivers unforgettable hits like 'Dhoom 2', 'Bunty aur Babli') and Remo. Unlike their tamil counterparts, these masters are blessed with very good dancers in the hindi cine industry. It is hard to pick lousy dancers over there, which makes their job much easier and the outcome much better.
It also happens that the language/regional barrier is broken quite astoundingly. Saroj Khan won the National award for the Tamil film 'Sringaram' whereas Prabhu Deva won for the Hindi film 'Lakshya'. All of them command respect among each others, and so, I feel that Tamil and Hindi choreographers are quite evenly matched and hence share the honors.
Tamil leads Hindi 4-2, after 9 rounds of competition/comparison.