Friday, November 23, 2007

Madhuri Dixit interview

“I was very sure of what I wanted’

Her sabbatical from the movies notwithstanding, Madhuri Dixit still has a voice and laughter that can melt a million hearts, says Sandhya Iyer

One invariably tends to slip into eulogizing clichés when the subject happens to be Madhuri Dixit. After all, this is the same actress who defined blockbuster musical cinema of the 90s and enthralled a whole generation of cine goers. And the more Bollywood grapples with the idea of finding a complete leading lady today; the heart constantly harks back to this one iconic actress who could decisively turn a film’s fortunes.
But when one is already spoken of in the most hyperbolic terms, the person rarely feels the need to shout of one’s achievements from the rooftops. Hence Madhuri’s reply as regards to her box-office clout is an expectedly placid one. “I was fortunate to get good films like Beta and Raja, which were well-balanced scripts. I wouldn’t say I was responsible for these films doing well. Ultimately the product has to be good. Not all my films did well. Just because I was there in a film, anything and everything didn’t sell,” she says matter-of-factly
But she’ll agree that none of the current actresses (barring maybe Rani Mukherjee) have managed to break into the Bollywood male bastion in terms of trade in the way she did. Most actresses are still considered perfectly interchangeable if a top hero is in place. Consequently, heroine-oriented subjects have never received a fillip. Again, Madhuri listens carefully but opts for a somber answer. “I remember distributors were always happy to have me in a film. They were confident that if Madhuri was there, then the film would be good. But as I said, ultimately only a good film will work. Otherwise, I haven’t really given this a thought,” says the actress, notorious for her diplomatic answers.

Talking of Aaja Nachle, clearly the actress was being besieged with numerous offers. What then prompted her to do this film, that too with a self-confessedly nervous first-time director –Anil Mehta? “I liked the whole concept of the film and could identify with it. Also, I have worked with Yash Chopra before and had a wonderful experience with Dil To Pagal Hai. I also had confidence in them, in the sense that I knew that if they start a project, they make sure they will carry it on smoothly and end it on time. They are a very disciplined unit and that is important for me,” she says. “Also, with regards to Anil Mehta, I have seen his work in film like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, so there was a level of confidence. No, I don’t think him being a first time director worked on my mind. I have previously worked with debutant directors like Indra Kumar (Dil, Beta, Ishq) and Lawrence D’Souza (Sajan, Dil Tera Aashiq).”

Talking of which, Indra Kumar has constantly expressed how much he misses Madhuri in his films. So much so, that he actually went ahead and opted to make an all-male film with Dhamaal this time. Tell her this and you’re rewarded with that oh-so- wonderful lilting laughter of hers but she disappointingly settles for sober answer. “All I will say is that I had a wonderful experience working with all of them and whatever I learnt in the course of my interaction with them, I put that to use in my career.”

Clearly, today, Madhuri views affairs in Bollywood with a certain serene detachment and nothing could be more honest than her saying that she’s here only for the love of her craft. In fact, it’s easy to guess why Madhuri was drawn to the script of Aaja Nachle, considering it has an ironic likeness to her own real life – a girl moving to America and then returning to her homeland as mother to renew her interest in art. The actress heartily agrees, “I know, it is so similar to my own life, which is why it instantly struck a chord with me.”

Much has changed since Madhuri left but the actress welcomes Bollywood’s recent foray into different genres of cinema. “The 90s cinema was larger than life. Today, films are more realistic. Personally, being a movie buff, I love all kinds of films. I like Manmohan Desai as much as Bimal Roy,” she says.
But doesn’t she miss the blockbuster cinema that the 90s personified? “Oh, but those kind of films are still being made. I did Devdas, which was a blockbuster film in every way. It’s just that situations are becoming more realistic in films. As for songs and dances, there is no escaping from it. That is why cinema so different.”

But really, Madhuri comes fully alive only when you speak about her family life. This might not be the popular sentiment but there is a certain disappointment one feels about a phenomenal artist like Madhuri opting to slip so entirely into her role as wife and mother and sidelining her career. Where a Shah Rukh Khan can do a fantastic balancing act between his family and a super successful career, an equally charismatic Madhuri feels the desire to withdraw from the race to nurture her personal goals. Why should a woman feel the need to give up a career she has so painstakingly built? Of course, such debates only get ignited when one talks of genuine talents and their prolonged absence from public life.

Says Madhuri, “I never did anything that I didn’t want to do. When I found the right person, I decided to marry and have a family. I have always been sure of what I wanted in life and have followed my heart accordingly. Today, I’m content with my wonderful husband and two beautiful kids. And yes, now I have Aaja Nachle,” she says, pointing at her picture-perfect existence.

Ask her how she got into such a svelte figure and there’s that famous laughter again, “It’s all about eating well, thinking positive, no vices. Also, Ram and I want to be in the best shape of our lives for our kids. We want them to be health conscious and it’s very important that we set a good example,” she says, exhibiting the same practical approach that drove her career ambitions.

Hopefully, the actress is keen to do many more films and cites the example of movies like Cheeni Kum that have pushed the envelope in terms of the roles offered for mature actresses.

In any case, Aaja Nachle will be an interesting re-introduction of Madhuri for a whole new generation that has grown up after her exit. For the others, she will hopefully provide an evocation of the unforgettable films she was a part of.


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