Beyond the glamour

mass appeal

effervescent Madhuri Dixit has always worked in films that purely appeal to the masses.

She was pleasantly surprised to know that she was in the same space where Pundit Ravi Shanker, S D Burman, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Madan Mohan regularly practiced song rehearsals. As she looked into the eyes of Chetan Anand, she understood she was facing a director far different from the ones she was used to working with and getting pampered.

Chetan Anand asked her to show the anguish of Anarkali on her face, but she just couldn’t do so, as she was utterly confused. Although she was excited at the idea of essaying the role of Anarkali on screen, she was doubtful whether she would be able to equal the legendary Madhubala with her performance. When she told Chetan Anand that she would get back to him after checking whether she had dates available, Chetan Anand retorted sharply as he was not used to these starry attitudes.

He never accepted such behaviour even from the likes of Suraiya, Nimmi, Meena Kumari, Balraj Sahni or Raj Kumar. Madhuri Dixit understood she lost a lifetime’s opportunity and never dared to get back to Chetan Anand. On hearing about this episode, Satyajit Ray severely criticised Madhuri for dealing unprofessionally with a director of Chetan Anand’s caliber.

Queen of the 90s

The beautiful, charming Madhuri Dixit, with a million dollar smile, enviable dancing skills and above all, a superstar, started her career as an actress with Abodh opposite Bengal’s leading actor, Tapas Pal, two-and-a-half decades ago. She tasted success with films like Tezaab, Ram Lakhan, Dil and Beta. Her pairing with Anil Kapoor, Aamir Khan and Shahrukh Khan was well received. Such was her popularity that her films were sold out in all territories prior to their release. She even went on to give two of the biggest hits of Indian cinema in the 90s — Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and Dil To Pagal Hai.

Yet, the truth remains that Madhuri Dixit has never concentrated on her performances like Dimple Kapadia and Tabu have. Throughout her career, she has only done films which have appealed to the masses. There were only two projects she was a part of that required her to essay intensive characters — Prahaar and Mrityudand. Although Nana Patekar is credited as the director of Prahaar, it was his co-director, Subhankar Ghosh, who specially worked on Madhuri, controlled her mannerisms, making her appear realistic on screen sans glamour and make up. In Mrityudand, Prakash Jha put in lots of effort but could not extract the desired results from Madhuri Dixit.

It is a known fact that Madhuri Dixit tried to emulate Suchitra Sen and Madhubala. In fact, very close associates of Suchitra Sen know that the legendary actress stopped watching a Madhuri Dixit film on a television channel after she realised that Madhuri’s histrionics had close resemblances to her own performances in films like Bombai Ka Babu and Mamta.

When Bengal’s revolutionary director, Utpalendu Chakrabarty, offered a pivotal character to Madhuri Dixit in his ambitious project, Chabuk, based on Munshi Kishan Chandar’s classic, she kept the director waiting for months without any proper reply. This irritated Utpalendu Chakrabarty who later shelved the project.

After her marriage, Madhuri Dixit took a sabbatical from mainstream cinema and settled down in the USA with her husband. At that time, she was approached by Vijay Anand with a challenging proposal. He offered her a double role opposite Dev Anand where she had to play his wife and daughter in his last venture, Jana Na Dil Se Door. She was too diffident to star opposite the evergreen Dev Anand and refused.  Though the film was not a memorable one and never released, it was clearly understood that Madhuri Dixit wanted to perform with only those directors who were ready to accept her diktats.

Her comeback venture as a leading lady, Aaja Nachle, was a damp squib at the box office, despite her brilliant dance moves in the film. She is now a judge on the dance reality show Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa. No doubt, the show is garnering a lot of interest and viewership, but the million dollar question remains, why has Madhuri Dixit never experimented with off-beat characters, opted for alternate cinema or tried to tread the most difficult paths in her career as an actress?

She could opt for a forgettable venture like M F Hussain’s, Gajagamini, but never bothered to work with the likes of Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Goutam Ghosh or the most well known of the lot, Buddhadev Das Gupta. As she is passing her prime, Madhuri Dixit should understand and realise that she is yet to have a film in her kitty, which will be remembered for ages like Mother India, Sujata or Guide. She should also come to terms with the fact her biggest assets — her smile and skills as a dancer — are not enough to turn her into a Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman or Sophia Loren.

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