Madhuri Mania
No actress has been able to make a dent in Madhuri Dixit’s faithful fan following. Five years after Devdas, the US-based heroine returns to the silver screen to reclaim her share of the spotlight. Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena catches up with the star
Come November end and Mumbai began experiencing the preliminary nip in the air. On the filmi firmament, for countless aficionados in the country, there was a sense of magical expectation as the hype began to gather momentum around the return of the ‘Queen of Bollywood’. For no sooner had the clash of the titans occurred on the silver screen (Om Shanti Om vs Saawariya) than it was time for the diva to return to technicolour terrain with her comeback vehicle, Aaja Nachle.

After her quiet entry into the metropolis, her trademark smile was splashed across dailies. Not one to let jet lag bog her down, Dixit sat through a discussion of the clothes…and trooped in for her encounter with Verve at Yash Raj Studios on a Saturday mid-morning, the smile firmly in place, her form and figure shaped up to perfection, having put the ‘baby’ fat and the Diwali gorging firmly behind her.

Laughing out loud at the compliment, 42-year-old Dixit attributes her slim figure to dance, diet and a fitness regimen and her two small boys, Arin and Ryan, who keep her on her toes. “I am constantly giving them ‘time out’…and then one calls out to the other for help.... You can say that I have the best of both worlds,” she states. “Here, there is work and at home, I have my family. It has never been important to me to be recognised. I could happily do without the spotlight. There are Indians all over the world. My relationship with my audience…they respect me and give me my space. I have kept my private life, completely private. So, even when they see me in public, they greet me and move away. I was never a part of the daily buzz of the industry. I never wanted to be a part of it. For me, this is just my job. I have always been very uncomfortable with the other stuff that goes with it.”

Perhaps because of her background or her image, she is a peculiar combination of a superstar who exudes the aura of being immensely approachable. “I do not overpower my fans,” she admits. “After Hum Aapke Hain Koun…I became a part of everyone’s family. I was suddenly so familiar to them. They incorporated me into their world. I was suddenly not just a star. I not only had their respect but also their love.”

She signs the autograph book of a little girl who walks into the state-of-the-art make-up room to meet her icon...and speaks about the joys of having a release after five years. “The whole project worked out well,” she says. “The movie is very contemporary, with all the ingredients of an entertainer. Having worked with Yash Chopra before (Dil To Pagal Hai) I was confident that he would deliver what he promised. Dance has always been an extension of myself. My training in kathak has given me the foundation to adapt to anything new – even the pulsating hip-hop!”
Facing the camera after a lapse was no big deal for the diva of several films. “The first day I was little apprehensive; but acting is something like swimming or cycling. It comes automatically and naturally....”

The time lapse was no hurdle. “On the contrary, when I walked in on the sets for the first time, there was a reaction of sorts from the crew,” says the veteran. “I do not think about age or my standing. You are as old as you feel. In Aaja Nachle, age has nothing to do with the role. I am playing a very strong character. It took everyone just a little while to get used to me…and after that we had one big party doing the film. Work wise, the technology has improved, films are getting better. There are trained people and newer writers coming in.”
Yet, most actresses do take a break when they get married…or is it just that their demand goes down? “Most of the actresses left movies of their own free will,” Dixit points out. “No one asked them to quit films after their marriage. Today, times…audiences…and attitudes are changing; myths are being broken.”

Ask Vidhu Vinod Chopra who directed Dixit in Parinda on what her enduring appeal is and he replies, “Talent is not age specific. Madhuri is a luminous talent and like a good single malt, she has only gotten better with age. If I did think of a project for her it would have to be something that does justice to her many skills. Something that pushes her into new areas while building on the immense love she already has with her audience.”

Even as Aaja Nachle released, its star prepared to fly back to her two sons whom she had left behind for a short trip here. “At home, life revolves completely around the kids. Cartoon network is our favourite watch though my boys have now realised what I do. I never was and am no longer the star. It’s a growing experience, taking care of two young boys. In Denver, we can do a lot of outdoor things. I am now planning to learn skiing; earlier I was pregnant; then came the nursing and feeding schedules. The kids were too young,” she states. What next, work wise? There have been rumours that she is thinking of starting a Kathak school. “I don’t believe in planning I am getting offers; I see scripts even when I am there,” she says. What would help her make a choice of returning once more to the studios is the kind of roles that she is being offered. “My priorities are different today. I do not want to take names or show off but film-makers are ready to wait for me on account of my body of work and goodwill. I am satisfied that I can pick and choose what I want to do. This gives me a certain kind of empowerment.”

Source: Verve, Published: Volume 15, Issue 12, December, 2007

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