Madhuri Mania
The Diva, who is down in India for receiving the Padma Shri for her contribution to cinema reveals her future plans and priorities
Diva: Dictionary meaning:A famous woman usually a singer/performer.

In Bollywood, the term is usually synonymous with a temperamental, tantrum-throwing star. However, you can tell the difference when you meet a real diva. Madhuri Dixit-Nene for instance. In Mumbai en route to receiving the Padma Shri in Delhi, she is diminutive in comparison to her larger-than-life enchantress image but no less enchanting.

It is at the Hotel J.W.Marriott in Juhu, where she's put up along with husband Shriram, that I make her acquaintance. Dressed in black tee and track - she's been working out-she apologises for the delay while making a few enquiries from her secretary Rakeshnath, all in one breath. She slips in and out of the inner chamber, leaving hubby to fill in for a bit, which he does effectively.

Rakeshji meanwhile unwraps a box of barfis that he's brought along for her. She indulgently nibbles at a small piece. Hubby Ram is reluctant after a workout but with a little prompting from his better half he gives in too. The conversation more often than not is punctuated with the ring of her laughter, the famous smile flashes effortlessly and you know why the junta still wants her back in the movies, never mind her recent misadventure.

Her last movie Aaja Nachle, a YRF production, bombed due to a weak script and tacky production but Dixit came away unscathed. "The only good thing in the movies was Madhuri," was a reaction I heard from most critics and movie reviewers as also her countless fans. Dixit, however, remains unfazed. "You can't get worked up about every success or failure, but doing the movie was a lot of fun."

But first, the Padma Shri-- how does she feel being honoured with a Padma Shri?

"I feel very proud of course, but I had always imagined that the Padma Shri was awarded to scientists and intellectuals so I was a little surprised. But it's a nice feeling," she laughs. And with Hollywood filmmaker Manoj Night Shyamlan for company (he's also a recipient this year) she agrees that it's a great honour.

But that's about the movies. Offers of a different kind-the political variety - have come her way too but nothing that's impressed her. "I don't have the mindset for a career in politics," she admits.

On the film front, there are no plans afoot of an immediate career revival as she's too busy playing mother and wife. While there were rumours of a sequel to the super-hit Hum Aapke Hain Koun!... being planned by the Barjatyas with Salman Khan and her playing older characters, she rules out the possibility of devoting herself to the arduous regime of facing the camera.

"Two home productions are enough to keep me busy for the time being," she says. "But maybe once the kids start going to school I would be able to seriously consider projects."

Enthused by all that is going on within the film industry she admits that it is an exciting time for everyone who is a part of it. "The finance has become streamlined, because of which even production has become very smooth. Earlier the money used to come in spurts and the film was made accordingly with our lines being written on the spot! We made all our mistakes on-screen but today the girls look as good in their first movie as they do in their next. The good part was that difficulties made us work harder and helped us go beyond the brief," she recalls fondly.

Considering that she's worked with quite a few top-rung actors- Aamir Khan, Akshay Kumar, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, and Saif Ali Khan-- who are the newer actors on her wish-list? That takes her a while to ponder. "Who are the younger actors?" And then in a flash, "Hrithik Roshan, maybe? I would love to act with him. Actually I would love to dance with him! I remember Hrithik from the days when he was assisting on Koyla and would often wonder aloud if he would ever make it as a star. It's good to see him successful."

Meanwhile she might just rub shoulders with the other big -ticket young actor Abhishek Bachchan if all modalities of The Unforgettable World Tour are worked out. "We are in talks," is all that is forthcoming from her.

Among young directors it is predictably Karan Johar's name that springs up almost immediately. "The actresses in his movies look so good. Wearing those beautiful designer clothes would be a treat indeed," she sallies.

As for actresses, she thinks Rani Mukerji is very talented and Katrina Kaif has an innocent and beautiful face, Amrita Arora is a good dancer, Kangana Ranaut is refreshingly different and Ayesha Takia very competent. High praise indeed.

Dixit's also fascinated by the growth of television and the new vistas that it has opened up for the stars-she has done her bit of television too-Kahin Na Kahin Koi Hai, a show that helped participants find their life-partner, if you will. "There are TV shows like Bachelorette in the US that work extremely well but maybe my show was a little ahead of its time then," is her analysis, all uttered with the detachment and calm of a Zen master.

If there were to be an example of the perfect work-life balance it would have to be hers-happily traversing the two disparate worlds of domestic bliss and high-gloss Bollywood. But kids are a clear priority. Interesting work, if it comes her way when they are older (they are three and five) would be welcome. And then there is her dance that she would like to take forward. This is certainly one woman who has it all figured out.

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