How Madhuri got her groove back

bOLLYWOOD buzz

She’s back where she belongs: in a good role with scope for emotions, humour, dance and song — with a social message à la her past masterpieces like Beta.

Madhuri Dixit-Nene is generally considered the last of the superstar packages of beauty with glamour, brain, charisma and incredible dancing abilities with an almost superhuman power to boost song to the skies. Add her track record of humongous box-office hits like Tezaab, Ram Lakhan, Tridev, Dil, Saajan, Khal-Nayak, Hum Aapke Hain Koun!..., Dil To Pagal Hai and Devdas and powerhouse performances in Mrityudand, Lajja and even Sangeet and we know why Madhuri will always be the ultimate diva of the post-70s era.

While her 2007 ‘comeback’ of sorts — Aaja Nachle — backfired, and she went on to judge reality dance shows, it took Madhuri a long while to select her comeback assignments when the Nene family decided to relocate to Mumbai from Denver, US.
Of the three films finally signed, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (with her audacious cameo in the song Ghagra with Ranbir Kapoor) released last year. Early 2014 saw her don a majestic role in Dedh Ishqiya, which did not do well, but now, she is gung-ho about Gulaab Gang, which is up for release.

A surprise casting in the film is of Juhi Chawla in a negative role. How does she look at a reel opponent who was always considered her prime rival in the ‘90s?

“Oh, I found her a grounded human being, and very lively!” she smiles. “Look, we would meet socially here and there, but it is only when you work with someone do you really get to know that person. Yes, I was surprised when she was signed as a shrewd politician, because her image is of a bubbly and sweet person, which she also is in real life.”

About being co-stars, she says, “I think life is all about time and destiny. We had never spoken against each other and had never starred in any film together, and so the media had nothing to write about us and projected us as rivals, which probably led to no one casting us together later. Yes, Yash (Chopra)-ji did offer Dil To Pagal Hai’s other lead to her, but Juhi has said that she turned down the role as she was not too happy with it.”

But Madhuri insists that she is happy that they have come together in the right film. “Our roles are complementary. Without either of us, the film is incomplete,” she smiles.

However, the ‘rivals’ image was so strong that the film’s team met for a discussion the day before the shoot began and gradually moved out of the room on convenient excuses, a ploy just to leave them alone to break the ice. “I am sure they expected raised voices and furniture being hurled inside!” chuckles the actor.

Madhuri plays a female vigilante in a village and fights any form of gender discrimination or sexual exploitation. “But she is not a one-dimensional character. She is not boring and has a sense of fun. The film is an entertainer with a message,” Madhuri stresses.

Recalling sexual harassment in her days as a student just like any other girl, she says, “I did feel humiliated when such things happened. This film is not just about women’s empowerment, but teaches that women and men are equal in any field and at any level, starting from family. It is bound to change the outlook of both women and men.”
A special emotional high for Madhuri was recording the traditional song Rangi saari gulaabi with her mother, Snehalata Dixit, whom she addresses with the Marathi aai.

“I was thrilled when she agreed to sing the first three lines of the song,” she says. “Aai has always been the backbone of my life and career — she initiated me into all the arts, be it dance, music, sketching and finally acting. She was solidly behind me both during my struggles and lows. She was the one who would tell me to keep on doing my best, even when my films failed and I would be upset.”

And though she gets to dance as well in the film, she admits that the choreography is different from the typical filmi dance numbers.

Madhuri was also thrilled to reconnect with another old associate, Saroj Khan, with this film. “We love working with each other, and our songs like Ek do teen char (Tezaab), Dhak dhak karne laga (Beta) and Choli ke peeche (Khal-Nayak) are still loved!” she smiles. Madhuri finds dancing “almost spiritual”, the reason why she has started an online dance academy to teach those who love the art. “That is also the reason why I love being a judge on Jhalak Dikhhlaa Jaa and Nach Baliye. I love encouraging people to take up dance, which is relaxing as well as a way to keep fit,” she says.

But Madhuri does have an issue about today’s songs as they are choreographed and shot. In a matter-of-fact way, she says, “The camera moves too much and there is too little stress on facial expressions and artistic moves by the actors. There should be more theheraav (placidity) in dance numbers.”

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