Madhuri Dixit, The Last Of The Screen Legends

Madhuri Dixit, after dominating the box office, chose to retire at the pinnacle of her career post Devdas by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, opting for a domestic life with her non-film husband and two sons. However, in 2008, she made a highly publicised return with Aaja Nachle, portraying a US-based dancer revitalising her hometown's dance school.
Madhuri Dixit, The Last Of The Screen Legends

Madhuri Dixit, The Last Of The Screen Legends

When I first met Madhuri Dixit she was very upset with me. A mutual friend, director Prakash Jha, who was doing Mrityudand with her warned me that she was in a militant mood. But within a few minutes after we were introduced by Prakash (thank you, Prakash) the ice melted.
Madhuri confessed, "I was upset about something you wrote about my Choli ke peeche song," before rushing off to give a shot with Salman Khan and Aruna Irani for a terribly funny death scene. Funny, because the sobbing and whimpering junior artistes would burst into peals of laughter the minute the director shouted 'cut'.
Madhuri Dixit
Madhuri Dixit
That encounter with Madhuri Dixit remains memorable for a reason. After I had completed my interview with Madhuri in her makeup room, we discovered, to our embarrassment, that the door had been bolted from the outside. After much shaking and rattling, someone outside finally heard us. Salman Khan was grinning from ear to ear. As Madhuri stormed towards her costar to confront him, I drove away with a smile.
Madhuri saw it all, conquered the box office and then decided to quit at the peak of her career after Sanjay Leela Bhansali’蝉 Devdas to make a home far away from home with her non-filmy husband and two sons. Expectantly the itch to get back in front of the camera crept into Ms Dixit-Nene’蝉 soul and sole.
In 2008 she made a well-publicised comeback with a tailormade role in Aaja Nachle as a US-returned dancer reviving her small town’蝉 rusty dance academy. The film bombed. Madhuri scampered back to the US.
Three years later she came back with a graphically designed comeback plan. A full-fledged marketing team went into top gear for Operation Dixit. Endorsements were signed. An item song with fan boy Ranbir Kapoor in Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani and Ms Dixit was ready for the kill. Sadly both her comeback films Dedh Ishqiya and Gulab Gang bombed in spite of good reviews
I feel the best of Madhuri came before she migrated to the US. In one her earliest films Vidhu Vinod Chopra’蝉 gangsta raag Parinda in 1989, Nana Patekar’蝉 aggressive performance hijacked all the praise—doesn’t it always?! But look closely and you will see the subtle angst of a girl caught in a primeval crossfire. Dixit’蝉 Paro Nair (what a weird name!) expressed with subdued intensity, the pain of being part of a violent system that doesn’t nurture tender affection.
The romantic song Pyar ke mod pe choroge na baahen meri was choreographed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali who decided then and there that some day he will cast the divine Dixit as Chandramukhi in Devdas.
In Raj Kumar Santoshi’蝉 Pukar (2000) Madhuri Dixit gave her finest performance to date. A film about obsessive unrequited love, Madhuri’蝉 acts of desperation to make Anil Kapoor love her even as he preferred Namrata Shirodkar, haunted me for months. I still remember her pleading eyes begging Kapoor for a chance to prove herself. As Anjali, the casualty of the worst scourge mankind has (n)ever invented, Dixit, so unlike Anjali in real life, just nailed it. The pleading, cajoling, threatening…eerie! And as far as Dixit’蝉 legendary dancing skills goes can anything she did beat her Que sera sera with Prabhudheva?
In the brilliant Bapu’蝉 Prem Pratiggya (1989) as the neighbourhood dabbewali Laxmi (a sort of streetwise version of Nimrat Kaur from Lunchbox) who tames the good-hearted goonda Mithun Chakraborty, Madhuri gave her first indication of histrionic greatness in this quaint love story. She later told me that every gesture in the performance was decided by the great Telugu director Bapu. But even following a director’蝉 instruction requires a surplus of common sense and intellect.
While most filmmakers prefer to cast her in dramatic roles, Rakesh Roshan gave Madhuri that rare opportunity to a female actor to explore her funny bones in Khel(1992). The lady’蝉 comic timing in her scenes with her favourite co-star Anil Kapoor and Anupam Kher were priceless. Madhuri had a lot of fun playing the role, and it showed.
And then there is Prakash Jha’蝉 Mrityudand (1997). As a rebellious Bahu in a Bihar’蝉 feudal household Madhuri’蝉 character fought all odds (including the director Prakash Jha who insisted on recreating Bihar in the outskirts of Mumbai). And emerged triumphant. This is the first and last time that Madhuri was pitched against the formidable Shabana Azmi. And Madhuri held her ground. Among her slew of dramatic triumphs in Beta, Devdas, the appalling Sajan and the misfired Prem Granth, Mrityudand stands tall and is a glorious testimony to how far she could stretch her wings and soar in the sky when given a chance.
Not too many of Madhuri’蝉 fans have seen her class act in Rajkumar Santoshi’蝉 underrated Lajja (2001) vintage drama about four gorgeous women (Manisha Koirala, Rekha, Mahima Choudhary and Madhuri Dixit) and their journey of self-discovery. Koirala and Rekha shone. But Dixit outclassed herself. She dazzled as a theatre actress who was about to become an unwed mother. Whether taking on the moral police or taking a pee at the roadside, Dixit was an unstoppable meteor. If you haven’t seen the great Madhuri Dixit Nene in Lajja or Pukar, then you ain’t seen nothing yet. You don’t really know what this superlative actress is capable of.
I also thought the actress par excellence was in her element in Kalank (2019). So all right. The film failed. But this is the last time we saw Madhuri Dixit reach sublime heights in her performance. Playing a tawaif Bahaar Beghum Dixit delivered a dewdrop delicacy into the doomed project. She was fatally beautiful as a person and yet flawed. Just like the film.
Speaking to this writer in the past on her priorities as an actor and a homemaker Madhuri said, “I always wanted to lead a simple life and spend time with my kids and family. Earlier, we used to do multiple projects together. Sometimes 6-7 films at the same time, and as a result, I did not have time for myself. It was all work-work and then home, but when I got married and moved to the US, I found it liberating in a way that I understood myself, who I am as a person and how I process things. Also, whenever I used to travel abroad for work, it was always for my job, and when I would wrap the schedule, I would return home. But, after getting married, I finally got the chance to visit those places as a tourist. The time I spent in the USA also was a blessing as I got to spend much time with my husband and kids. It was a win-win situation for me. I've worked with terrific directors and choreographers in films with good subjects. I remember when I met Aditya Chopra for the first time after I returned from the US to Mumbai permanently my first question to him was , do people still want to see me? He looked at me very strangely and said, 'Don't worry about that.' But I was rea
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