Madhuri Dixit Nene: Ever the Diva

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Madhuri Dixit Nene plays the pivotal role in Amazon Prime Video’s Maja Ma. Photo: Hardly Anonymous PR

It’s the festive season of Navaratri and who better than Madhuri Dixit Nene with whom to celebrate it—that too with the addictive garba song Boom padi from her latest film, Maja Ma?

Madhuri makes her online film debut with this film, slated for release on OTT October 6, after her series, Fame Game, earlier this year. This film has another first: it is Amazon Prime Video’s entry into original film production in India. The Hindi film, a light family entertainer revolving around a Gujarati household, co-stars the redoubtable Gajraj Rao as her husband.

For the second time in her career, Madhuri plays a character named Mrs. Patel (after Total Dhamaal), and for the first time, she enacts a garba number, returning to the era when Madhuri meant melody and choreographic rhythm on screen.

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“I did enact a dandiya song for Navaratri in Pratikaar with Anil Kapoor.  But this is the first time that I am doing this form of dance!” smiles Madhuri, when we meet at Mumbai’s J.W. Marriott for a tete-a-tete. The actress is in a cheery mood fitting the trailer launch of her new film and does not look more than a couple of years older than in Devdas two decades ago!

Excerpts from an interview follow.

You recently played a wife and mother in your debut web series, Fame Game. And Mrs Patel too in your last film, Total Dhamaal.

(Grins) Yeah, but in Fame Game, I play a famous star, who carries a professional baggage. It was a role with depth. And over here, the wife and mother part may be common, but I am a perfect mother and doting wife this time. And she is very well-known in her neighborhood, and is looked up to. She is an everyday, relatable Gujarati homemaker and this is her story. Also, the only similarity between Total Dhamaal ‘s and this film’s characters is in the name, Mrs. Patel! The story is about what this woman has to go through.

So in a way, would you say that it is about women empowerment?

I have always played strong women, come Anjaam, Beta or Raja. I am fortunate that I have got to do such roles, especially at this stage, like Fame Game as well.

Are you familiar with the Gujarati ethos?

Of course! To the extent of when we once traveled abroad, we carried theplas that we could have for many days! I am a Maharashtrian, and Gujaratis and us have so much common in our cultures. I am also a product of Mumbai’s Sathaye College in Vile Parle, where the students were predominantly Maharashtrians and Gujaratis!

What for you is the prime difference between films and OTT?

The commercial constraints that are there in films are not there in OTT. Also, look at a film like Badhaai Ho that starred Gajraj Rao, who plays my husband in this film. That film did not have a young and nubile protagonist couple! So the audience too is changing and maturing as they are watching great fare from across the world on OTT. They now expect the same from our own makers. Times have changed so much for the better!

After your short break after marriage, you have been welcomed back. And you are still relevant, unlike so many of your colleagues. What do you do to retain that relevance?

(Smiles) You have to be consistent at work for a longer life in films, and consistently in love with it for that to happen! Even now, I look forward to a day’s work with the same excitement that I had when I was starting out. Within that, I also look for something different from what I have done, and think of what new I can do.

This is remarkable for someone for whom films were never on the radar.

(Smiles) Yes, unlike so many others, there was no childhood dream of becoming an actor. I would do stage and dance from the time I was in school, but strictly as a hobby. My dream was to do some post-graduation and get a job. I even did six months of B. Sc. (Bachelor in Science) in Microbiology, but after Abodh, I realized that films were my destiny. So like any middle-class Maharastrian girl, I had to take permission from my family to do films. My family was quite conservative and it was my progressive great-grandmother who declared that she did not mind me joining the profession, as since I had learnt to do stage and dance, I would reach somewhere if I had the talent.

Madhuri Dixit Nene with Gajraj Rao,Ritwik Bhowmik and Shrishti Shrivastava in Maja Ma. Photo: Amazon Prime Video

Your list of iconic dance numbers is huge.

I love dancing. I think it is within me. And acting is a part of dancing. I have mostly done songs that are integral to the plot of the film, including Ghagra from Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, in which my role was restricted to that cameo.

You have spoken so much about Laxmikant-Pyarelal in my book Music by Laxmikant Pyarelal. They have given you the maximum memorabilia. How do you look at that era, when other composers also gave you great music, vis-à-vis today’s times.?

I think that L-P’s forte was Indian beats, and their songs have always been amazing to me. At the same time, a dance-oriented soundtrack like V. Shantaram’s Jal Bin Machhli Nritya Bin Bijli (1971) had such brilliant orchestration and percussion too. Those were different times, and I got great songs from other composers as well. Today, music has changed completely as everything is computerized, but the richness then was amazing and so were the lyrics. Today, there are exceptions like my song in Maja Ma as even the lyrics are good, and the melody is nice.

Does it upset you in any way that the heroes of your peak era are still romancing new, young heroines?

(Laughs) I cannot blame them, as they make so much effort to keep looking young, and our commercial films need all this! On a lighter note, it’s okay because don’t women mature faster than men? But having said that, some of us, like Raveena Tandon or Juhi Chawla, are moving ahead, being true to ourselves on screen.

What about the idea of working with a young male star romantically? For example, you have already done Ghagra with Ranbir.

I don’t see a problem if the film is good, the writing excellent and the male stars willing! (Grins)

Would you produce a Hindi film after making Marathi films like 15 August and the forthcoming Panchak?

At some point, I would like that. But I think it is better to practice first with Marathi films!

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