Wednesday, 29 June, 2022
HomeOpinionFrom Tezaab to Total Dhamaal, Madhuri Dixit’s ‘Diva-ine’ force continues to dazzle

From Tezaab to Total Dhamaal, Madhuri Dixit’s ‘Diva-ine’ force continues to dazzle

Madhuri Dixit was a studious girl with aspirations in microbiology. 34 years on, she is India’s beloved ‘Dhak Dhak’ girl.

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The name conjures up stunningly nuanced performances and amazing dance numbers. It propels us back to the era when heroines like Nutan and Meena Kumari commanded heftier pay packages than the hero, as they pulled in audiences on their own steam. Madhuri Dixit—now Nene—remains, arguably, the last of the female superstars. And even as she turns 55 on 15 May, her ‘Diva-ine’ force continues to dazzle.

However, that aura sits lightly, very lightly on her shoulders. As she traversed from no one to ‘No. One’, Madhuri the person, remained on terra firma, but the actress within her grew fast. In an era when social media was absent, she still connected with her humblest fans and the media on a one-on-one basis.

When an errant secretary had not told her that I would be coming to interview her on sets of Hum Aapke Hain Koun!… in 1994, she just pulled up a chair and asked me to sit, and chatted for an hour between shots. I also recollect her concert tour of the US and Canada in 1995—she requested an interview for it, asking the journalist to state his day and time to meet!

And when I needed her inputs in 2019 for my book on Laxmikant-Pyarelal, whose songs from TezaabRam-Lakhan and Khal-Nayak had helped her zoom up the starry ladder, she simply insisted on a proper phone conversation in place of an e-mail interview promised by her PR person.

Also read: O.P. Nayyar, the untrained musical genius who was more than just a hit machine

Acting wasn’t her first choice

Much water has flowed under the bridge since her classmate, daughter to veteran writer-director Govind Moonis, introduced Madhuri to him and he signed her for Abodh (1984), a Rajshri production. In college, Madhuri had been “excellent in studies and elocution and fond of acting in and directing plays” as per her father. From there, her journey began, her plans for becoming a microbiologist abandoned.

Madhuri had her share of struggle with some flops until N. Chandra cast her in Tezaab (1990), and along with the song Ek do teen char, she made history. And the kind of stardom and bevy of acting awards (besides the Padma Shri) she got after that is well-known. Her films topped the box-office in 1988 (Tezaab), 1990 (Dil), 1991 (Saajan), 1992 (Beta) and 1994 (Hum Aapke Hain Koun!…).

And she maintained then, “They can call me number one to 1,000, I don’t care! All this is just nice to talk about, and looks nice in print! I would assess it like this—after Hum Aapke Hain Koun!…, a lot of directors are conceiving roles suitable to me and that is one of the biggest changes!” She decided to reduce her assignments and do weightier roles.

Come hit, success or flop, Madhuri always sparkled in films as varied as Ram LakhanPrem Pratiggya, Parinda, Sangeet, Anjaam, Raja, Dil To Pagal Hai, Mrityudand and in 2002, Devdas. Of course, her chartbusters in these and other films would merit a separate story by itself!

Also read: Shamshad Begum — one of Hindi cinema’s first female playback singers & voice of many hits

Family first, always

Then, on 17 October 1999, Madhuri married US-based cardiovascular surgeon Dr Shriram Nene. She moved to America shortly, quitting films to concentrate on family life and motherhood. She did make an exception for Yash Raj Films’ Aaja Nachle in 2007, but was very clear about her fundamentals.

“I always intended to work as there was no reason why I should not—after a point” she had told me then. “In the first few years after I was married, I was busy setting up home. Then I became busy as a mother. I had worked for almost 20 years and I gave my family the same passion and love that I gave to my films. As I was never treated like a star by my parents, siblings, husband or in-laws, I never thought of housework as infra-dig.”

And she had added, “My kids, Arin and Ryan, are my priorities and their playtime, studies and other activities are all equally important, and should not suffer.”

Madhuri also relished the non-starry life she was now leading for the first time in two decades, and was very proud just being the wife of a well-known surgeon. But in 2011, the Nenes made another crucial decision—to permanently head back to Mumbai. And she has—with the support of her husband—been very active since.

Also read: Meena Kumari — the ‘ajeeb dastan’ Bollywood actor who never needed glycerin to shed tears

Madhuri and versatility go hand-in-hand

Her latest outing is her second single, Tu Hai Mera, which will launch on her birthday this year. Alongside, she has acted in rapper Raja Kumari’s video re-creation of the cult non-film song, Made in India. Madhuri always had an interest in singing and music and had officially made her singing debut in the song Kaahe chhed chhed in Devdas under none other than the legend, Pandit Birju Maharaj.

Since then, with her musically-inclined mother, Snehalata Dixit, she had sung Rangi saari gulabi in the 2014 film, Gulaab Gang. And during the pandemic, she had also recorded her first (and English) single, Candle of hope.

Madhuri is also exploring other avenues besides Hindi cinema, in which her latest enterprise was her reunion with her Dil-Beta-Raja filmmaker Indra Kumar and frequent co-star Anil Kapoor in Total Dhamaal (2019) and her recent Netflix debut, The Fame Game. On the way also is the film Maja Maa directed by Anand Tiwari, a feel-good mother-son tale.

She has also turned producer with RnM Moving Pictures, which celebrates her passions of music and dance besides fashion and (through her husband) health. Her online class, Dance with Madhuri, trains dance aspirants in over 30 different forms of dance. For good measure, Madhuri also produced the Marathi film 15 August (which was all about freedom in choices) and starred in Bucket List, her overdue debut in her mother-tongue Marathi, and also a feel-good film.

Thank you, Govind Moonis, for this wonderful find, is all we can add.

Rajiv Vijayakar is a film and music journalist, critic and author. He tweets @rajivvijayakar. Views are personal.

(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)



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