I needed my freedom and anonymity
In a recent publication, critic Shefalee Vasudev sums up Madhuri’s charisma by saying, “Madhuri Dixit would become Hindi cinema’s only Mohini. Madhubala was mesmerising, Waheeda Rehman engrossingly attractive, Hema Malini the ultimate dream girl and Rekha sensational, but Madhuri—oh, she was something else. An incidental sum total of desirable parts of moh (allure) and maya (illusion). As a heroine, Madhuri was neither the ‘imported’ Alpha Cat nor the Omega Kitty but a rare combination of ‘Hindustani sexy’.” For close to two decades, Madhuri Dixit has ruled the Indian male imagination as the ultimate fantasy: always sassy, indisputably sexy, and yet curiously innocent. Her multi-genre movie career has made her an actor who can wow the front row viewers and peanut gallery critics alike. Her five Filmfare awards and the highest number of Best Actress nominations (13) are reflective of the honed talent and mesmerising beauty. Here’s Madhuri for you in a freewheeling chat…
WE CAN SAFELY SAY THAT EVEN TODAY, YOU MAKE A LOT OF YOUNGER ACTRESSES FEEL INSECURE…
That’s very sweet of you to say but what I want to concentrate on is basically doing good roles, working with a good script and exploring different characters that I can play as a woman. The younger actresses are hard-working. I don’t see myself as competition to them. They are striving hard to achieve their best and I wish them luck.
WHAT IS THE SECRET OF LOOKING THE WAY YOU DO?
Beauty cannot be defined in just one simple line. For me, it’s the overall personality that makes a person beautiful. I think you are very beautiful! There are a lot of times that I go out of the house without any makeup at all. A balanced routine and some good habits go a long way in staying beautiful and having a shapely body. I don’t smoke and drink, which is one good thing. I lay great emphasis on diet and exercise. I work out at least six days a week. I also believe one shouldn’t overdo supplements. Multi-vitamins are good but with a balanced diet, you don’t even need that. Eat healthily, eat well and workout. Lead a balanced life. Dancing is my secret to the inner beauty that radiates on the face – it makes you sweat, it keeps the skin flushed, increases blood circulation and is the best mood alleviator. So yes I could say that dance is the secret to my looks – if they are good at all. My bag has only three pieces of makeup – a raspberry lip-gloss – because it works over red, brown or pink lipsticks; black eyeliner and my Issey Miyake perfume – I am that basic.
YOU WERE A FULL-TIME MOM BACK IN THE US AND NOW YOU ARE A MOM-CUM-ACTRESS. HAS THIS REALITY SUNK IN WITH YOUR KIDS? ARE THEY USED TO SEEING YOU ON TV AND THE BIG SCREEN?
A couple of days ago, my son was going around the house saying, ‘Yay, my mum’s name is Madhuri Dixit-Nene… and she is a judge on Jhalak… and she is an actress and she does ad films and she does this and she does that’… rattling it off (laughs). The other day, somebody from school must have said, ‘Oh you are so lucky you have an actress as your mom… Madhuri Dixit…’ And my sons had come home saying, ‘This is what my classmate said mom but you’re still our mom, na?’ And I assured them that I was. I said, ‘I am your mom first then everything else’. Earlier, it would give them a kick to see me on Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa, now they are immune to my on-screen charms!
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT CHANGING THE NOTION THAT ACTRESSES POST 40 ARE PAST THEIR PRIME AND THEREFORE NOT BANKABLE?
I have always said that age is just a number; it is just in your mind. I feel I am still the same person I was when I did Tezaab or Dil Toh Pagal Hai.
HOW SUPPORTIVE YOUR FAMILY HAS BEEN IN THIS JOURNEY?
I believe without the support of my family… whether it is my mother-in-law, or my mom, I would just not be capable of doing everything that I am doing. Life is a balancing act and my family’s support has been my biggest strength in balancing work and my personal life. They make sure that everything is taken care of and that I don’t need to worry about anything. It is a wonderful feeling to have that kind of backing and I hope every woman gets a family as supportive as mine. It frees you up a lot to do something you want to do and allows you to think beyond kids and family, which helps in being creative.
DO YOU HAVE A DIFFERENT CRITERIA NOW FOR PICKING ROLES AND SCRIPTS THAN WHEN YOU STARTED? DIFFERENT THINGS THAT YOU LOOK FOR?
Well, I’m looking for scripts that will be challenging. Roles that will be challenging. Something that excites me, something that I feel will give me an opportunity to do something new – that’s what I’m looking for.?
SO MORE THAN JUST PLAYING THE PRETTY GIRL OR THE LOVE INTEREST
Well, if you see my career span, I think I’m way ahead. I cannot be playing those roles any more because those will have no depth to them. I need scripts that [have] depth and I can show the kind of talent that I have.
DO YOU BELIEVE THIS IS THE RIGHT TIME FOR IT? IN THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS, WE’VE HAD VERY, VERY STRONG, SUCCESSFUL MOVIES THAT ARE WOMEN-CENTRIC…
I am glad I am in Bollywood at a time when things are changing for good for women. It was unthinkable earlier. Women are no longer caricatures – like an avenger, victim or eye candy. They are people, characters. There is a change in mainstream roles also. I liked what Deepika did in Cocktail and Chennai Express – her role was equally important as Shahrukh’s. This change is welcome. A woman’s role in the society is changing and the attitudinal change is perceptible. There was a time when I never saw female assistant directors, camera-persons or makeup artists. You could count the women directors on your fingers. New-age directors should share credit for writing interesting roles for women and continue the good work. I saw Queen and I loved it! I saw Citylights and it made me feel really good about being a part of Bollywood today.
YOU ALSO WORKED WITH YOUR ONE-TIME COMPETITOR FOR THE FIRST TIME…WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG TO WORK WITH JUHI CHAWLA?
I never thought of Juhi as my competitor and never had any qualms about working with anyone. We are actors, not horses running with blinkers towards a finish line. It is not that I haven’t worked in multi-heroine projects earlier. It is wonderful we could finally do a film together. She is a very good actress and that is inspiring when you go to a set. Our scenes in Gulab Gang were very tight and I would love to work with Juhi again.
ASIDES FROM FILMS, REALITY SHOWS WHAT ELSE IS KEEPING YOU BUSY? HOW ABOUT GOING BEHIND THE CAMERA?
My dance website www.dancewithmadhuri.com – dance is and will always be my first love and I am very passionate about this as well. We have over 21,000 students enrolled so far. The positive thing about it is that you can learn to dance anywhere in the world. You could be anywhere in the world and just log on to the website and learn. I am busy with that, and as of now I have no plans to direct or produce films •