Few Bollywood heroines have successfully shed the allure of the arch lights post-marriage and motherhood down the years. Notable exceptions have been, amongst others, Nargis, Kalpana Kartik, Vyjantimala, Rajshree (the sultry siren daughter of the legendary actor-director V Shantaram, and Shammi Kapoor heroine), Kimi Katkar, and Meenakshi Sheshadri. Others have, to quote English poet, WB Yeats, done the “come and go, talking of Michael Angelo.” And with the exception of Dimple Kapadia, almost all the others, then and now, made the backdoor entry, essaying ‘motherly’ roles: Nutan, Nimmi, Nalini Jaywant, Waheeda Rahman, Mumtaz, and Rati Agnihotri. Some died, others faded away much faster than they had made the comeback. The solitary exception has been, Waheeda Rahman. The latest on the comeback trail is the dancing diva with a million-rupee smile, Madhuri Dixit.
She was back in India, and making waves though not necessarily for the right reasons. First, she was believed to have demanded to be at par, price-wise, with the current leaders like Kareena Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra. And now her winsome face and smile are all over the print and electronic media endorsing assorted products, hosting television shows, performing on television and playing judge. Now making a second comeback of sorts at 44 (the first being Yashraj Films disastrous Aaja Nachle in 2007) in the remake of Satte Pe Satta replacing Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (38) opposite Sanjay Dutt.
Madhuri Shankar Dixit (born 15 May) made her debut opposite unknown Bengali actor Tapan Pal in a written-off Rajshri’s Abodh at the tender age of 14 (1984) followed by a couple of other equally forgotten films. A trained Kathak dancer, she got a major breakthrough gyrating and singing Javed Akhtar lyric Ek do teen char paanch che in N Chandra’s blockbuster, Tezaab (1988) after which there was no looking back over the next 14 years after Sanjay Leela Bansali’s version of Saratchandra Chatterjee’s Devdas co-starring Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai, when she opted for marital bliss, tying the knot with Dr Shriram Madhav Nene, a Denver, Colorado based cardiovascular surgeon. She now also has two growing up sons.
During the time, between 1988 and 2002 (she got married in 1999) her stars were on the ascendant, the whole of Bollywood seemed to be dancing to her tune, literally and she was being hailed as the ‘dhak dhak’ girl. No other heroine in the over 100 year Bollywood history dominated the scene, sweeping both film makers and viewing public alike (even when rival Sridevi enjoyed the coveted numero uno status commanding a price of Rs 40 lakhs or more per film) with her acting prowess and dancing feet. She had 13 unparallel Filmfare Best Actress Award nominations, winning four trophies and one supporting actress one for Devdas. At the time of quitting, she had starred in 66 films.
If memory serves one right before casting her in Uttar Dakshin opposite Jackie Shroff and Rajinikant, producer-director Subhash Ghai had motivated eight other leading directors (including Shekhar Kapur, Rahul Rawail, Yash Chopra, Shashi Kapoor, and N N Sippy) and issued five full-page inserts in trade broadsheet, Screen endorsing their faith in Madhuri’s acting capabilities. And suddenly her smile was being compared to Madhubala’s by the time the self-styled showman made dance director Saroj Khan she had heaving breasts and gyrating rhythmically to Choli ke Peeche kya hai in Khalnayak.
When she was on top, columnist Anupama Chopra described her assets aptly, brilliantly: “In the profusion of bare midriffs and wiggling hips, her sexuality stands apart, marked by an apparent innocence. Her expressive eyes retain a childlike look. Her slim body lends grace to the most blatant and suggestive choreography. She doesn’t ooze sex, only suggests it. With no overt come-on, she is the ultimate male fantasy—a desi, middle-class Madonna.”
Not that all her starrers had been box office burners, there were probably more wet blankets. But nothing seemed to affect her box office draw. There was certainly “more behind the choli than most people” fantasised about? Now more than a decade later with withered charm, and face lifts later she will be able to arouse those feelings in today’s young males, the way, for instance, a much younger Dimple Kapadia had managed post-Saagar and when heroines half her age are failing to lure them into the theatres with blatant skin shows, is anybody’s guess.
Talking to a daily, Soham Shah, director of the flick, expressed his ecstasy for having Madhuri Dixit on board. He said, “I was always keen on Madhuri playing Hema Malini’s role in my remake. However, I was hesitant to put the proposal forward wondering if she would accept it. Looks like someone up there was listening, because Mehta and Baba (Sanjay) who are co-producers sent Madhuri a message. I sent her the script and I was ecstatic when she agreed.” Madhuri and Sanjay were once allegedly in a relationship and the duo had set the screen on fire with their sizzling on-screen chemistry in blockbusters like Saajan and Khalnayak. The flick will go on floors in mid June next year and will be completed on a go in a single schedule spread over 45 days, reported a Mumbai tabloid.. “After this, we will have two songs remaining to be picturised which we will do when Madhuri returns,” Soham added. But Ms Nene has disputed the contention in a telephonic interview from Denver.
At the time of going to press the lady with a dazzling smile had reportedly given green signal to Vishal Bhardwaj’s script of Dedh Ishqiya, with the rest of the cast to be finalised in time to come. Sadly, the project has gone back into troubled waters as the old dazzler has demanded a price that the project cannot afford. But the very act is known as harakari in Bollywood.
By Suresh Kohli