Madhuri’s magic

Even after 35 years in the film industry, Madhuri Dixit Nene doesn’t fail to cast a spell over the audiences with her winning smile and gorgeous looks, writes Rajiv Vijayakar

Madhuri Dixit

The lady who ruled Hindi cinema from 1989 to 2002 just spent “three to four years” away from cinema, says Madhuri Dixit Nene, whose return, in the sense of purely her cinematic ventures, has not yet been spectacular. There had been a gap of four years between her 1984 debut Abodh and the breakthrough Tezaab in 1988, but this time, over a decade has passed since Aaja Nachle (2007). Dedh Ishqiya and Gulaab Gang too, by no stretch of imagination, could be considered worthy of the queen. And Madhuri’s only tryst with success in the last 17 years has been the super-hit Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013) in which she had a cameo in the song Ghagra with Ranbir Kapoor.

But now, with Total Dhamaal, this setback is very likely to go into repair mode with yet another film after Tezaab with Anil Kapoor, her co-star of over a dozen films that include blockbusters Ram Lakhan, Kishan Kanhaiya and Beta. When we mention that this film is a reunion for her with so many old
associates, she laughs and says, “That’s true! Anilji is the same today. Indu (producer-director Indra Kumar) and I have worked on three hits, Dil, Beta and Raja. Ajay Devgn was my hero in Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke and Jaaved Jafferi has worked with me way back in 100 Days. Even Arshad Warsi and I did Dedh Ishqiya some years back.”

In a sense, this is also a reunion with Laxmikant-Pyarelal, who worked on so many of her films, and in songs as cult as Ek do teen and Keh do ki tum ho meri warna (Tezaab), One two ka four and Bada dukh deena (Ram Lakhan) and Choli ke peeche (Khalnayak).

“Yes, of course! They have! They have! I am part of their Paisa yeh paisa from Karz that has been redone here,” she replies. 

Laugh riot

How much are things the same and how much has changed in her relationship with all of them? “The synergies are absolutely the same,” she smiles. “Plus, this film is a let-your-hair-down kind of comedy with wonderful songs and a great script. It is a very funny but family-oriented film that you can so easily watch with both, your kids and your grandparents. I was laughing through the narration, and in between shots, we were all cracking up, as there are so many scenes in which we are all there. With all my old associates, it was as if there was no time-gap. With Ajay, I had done a totally different kind of film before, but that did not matter.”

When she worked with Indra Kumar as well as Ajay then, did she ever think they would be doing full-length comedies? “Even then, Indra Kumar was always a very humorous man. There was lots of humour in all our films together, like the sequence in Dil in which Anupam Kher squeezes a fly to suck the tea as it has fallen in it! It was not surprising that he could visualise a full comedy with the same conviction.” What is her role in the ensemble cast film? “I play a Maharashtrian girl married to a Gujarati. Rather than be a romantic couple as in our earlier films, we are unhappily married here and are always at loggerheads, giving it to each other!” she replies.

What about re-created songs in general? “I think they are fun if done well,” she replies. “Paisa yeh paisa here has new elements but has retained the charm. In any case, the song was perfect for us because our film and all the characters are running after money.” 

Madhuri is now doing the serious Ayan Mukerji film Kalank. Total Dhamaal is her first total comedy. How does she look at the comic genre? “Well, let me say that it is very easy to make people cry but very tough to make them laugh,” she says. “Any stand-up comedian will tell you that. Besides, when there is a sad scene, you cannot expect everyone to cry, but if you do not laugh at a comic sequence, it falls flat! I have done subtle comedies earlier, and I like all kinds of comedies from Charlie Chaplin to Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s films.”


Madhuri Dixit Nene and Anil Kapoor in a still from 'Total Dhamaal'.

 

No stereotypes

How has filmmaking changed since her peak days? “It is the writers and the writing that have changed. The stereotypes have gone. We not only find women being given importance but also interesting films with women protagonists. And that’s very good.” 

Would she like to do films again with the younger heroes she had worked with and are still superstars — the Khans, for one, and Akshay Kumar? “Why would I not be open to that?” she replies.

Is she a bit nervous now that Total Dhamaal is on release? “After 35 years in this profession, I am not scared. But you do get the heebie-jeebies as you want the film to be liked by the audience,” she answers frankly.
Her biggest-ever hit, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun!... completes 25 years this year. How does she look back at the film? “My career began with Rajshri Productions in Abodh, so it was a homecoming when I signed Hum Aapke Haon Kaun!..., and today, it is difficult to believe that 25 years have passed since it released. It was a
lovely journey making that film, and while shooting for a movie you do not know how big a hit any film will be.”

In the 1980s and 1990s as well as early 2000s, successful stars like her did so many films at a time. Today, most actors are doing one or at the most two films at a time. Which was more enjoyable for her? “Obviously we can concentrate better today,” says Madhuri. “Things are more organised. I know what I am going to wear, how I am going to look, the time schedules and locations are fixed. Above all, back then the writing used to happen on the sets, and the writer would plead for two minutes or fifteen minutes of time. We would then memorise our lines and speak them! In a sense, that was more spontaneous. Today, the complete script is ready. So many times, we jumped into things without thinking of the consequences. Things are safer, more disciplined now, we are more prepared, therefore calmer!” 

New challenges

So do the younger stars have it easy today? “Not at all!” she reasons. “They have other commitments like the social media, promotions, including on television serials, giving many more interviews than we did, and endorsements. Every era has its own challenges. Today, I am called by some as the last of the superstars. But I think only the definition of a superstar has changed. We were less accessible, but today, people want to know more about how stars feel, what they
are doing and so on from close quarters.”

When did her children come to know how big their mother was in India? She chuckles and says, “Quite recently! They both said that they never knew how big their mom was!” Last but not least, how does she look at her experience on her Marathi films Bucket List and her production 15 August? “I really felt happy doing films in my mother tongue,” she replies. “15 August, my first production, was especially satisfying, as it is wonderful to create something from scratch and watch it come
on screen.”

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