|MAGIC WOMAN: Snapshots from (1) Khalnayak, (2) Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, (3) Ram Lakhan, (4) Abodh, (5) Beta and (6) Devdas
The wait is agonising. I sit for an hour, cocking my ears every time I hear a sound. But when she finally breezes in, flashing her 1,000-watt smile, I am like one of her million fans, happy just to see her. Madhuri Dixit the heartthrob of Hindi cinema is wearing one of her favourite Anarkali outfits a dress that a follower on Twitter has plaintively urged her to discard. But she does look gorgeous in the black outfit, with matching sequined shoes. She smiles delightfully, peppering her words with a childlike baba rey, when talking to her trusted aide, Rakesh Nath, in whose Juhu office we are meeting. I have been told that Dixit has been worrying about her ailing son. So the first question I ask her is about him. Hes had some health problems, she replies, but is getting better. So I move on. Or rather back into time.
What were you like when you were a kid?
I used to live in J.V. Nagar in Andheri, Mumbai. And I led quite an idyllic life. There was nothing to bother you you just went to school and came back, played with friends and danced.
That was when you wanted to be a microbiologist?
Yes. I was a science student and went to the then Parla College. And at one point I was really greatly interested in becoming a microbiologist. In my family, we take education quite seriously. I was in Class XII when I decided to take up microbiology, as I was interested in pursuing a career in genetics. But I didnt finish the course. In my first year, I quit my formal degree course to take up acting as a full-time career.
How did you get your first break?
I come from a totally non-filmi family. Our one connection with the industry was Govind Munishji, who was the father of my sisters friend. He used to work with Rajshri Productions and it was through him that I got an offer for the film Abodh (1984).
How did you react to it?
I love dancing. So the moment I heard that Id be dancing on the screen, I got really excited.
What happened after Abodh? It took you a while to bounce back with Tezaab?
Its funny, really, how it all happened gradually. When I did Abodh, I didnt see acting as a career. I had never dreamt I would be an actress. I thought after Abodh I would go back to college and genetics. But while working for the film, I realised I liked what I was doing, and wanted to continue acting. But since Abodh didnt do well I went back to studies. However, Id been bitten by the bug. I thought I could do some bit roles while I pursued my bachelors in microbiology. So I did Awara Baap and Swati. I would take a 10-day break for the shoot, and then come back to college. But I gradually realised that one cant go on juggling two different things. I had to make a choice.
So what was it that finally persuaded you to make a choice?
This happened when I bagged a role for Subhash [Ghai] jis Karma. I took the small role as it meant I could dance: I can never say no to a dance. While I was shooting for it, Subhashji said that he saw potential in me. But to make it big in the industry I would have to quit doing small roles. It was then that I gave it some serious thought and decided that I should take up acting as a full-time career.
How did you bag Tezaab?
I had signed Ram Lakhan first and it was while working on that film that I got the Tezaab offer.
But Tezaab released first and you became a national rage.
Well, even if the film had released later, Ek do teen would still have been a rage.
How did life change post Tezaab and Ram Lakhan?
For the others I became the number one actress. But at home, nothing changed. I continued being the same. For me, acting is just a profession. And I put in my best in every shot.
You were at the peak of your career when you gave it all up for marriage. Didnt it mean giving up everything that you had worked so hard for?
Well, not really. I had always dreamt of leading a normal life, getting married and having kids. So when I decided to get married I didnt think about anything else. In fact, at that time, I was really excited about beginning a new phase of my life, where I would be getting to do what I had dreamt of doing as a young girl.
How did you meet your husband [medico Sriram Nene]?
I met him in the US at a party thrown by my brother. We chatted a bit and then we met a couple of times again. And then my brother asked me how I liked Ram. And I replied that I liked him. My answer surprised them!
How was life in Denver?
I used to visit the US every year before I got married because both my siblings live there. So I knew what to expect. There was a lot of excitement and that was what I wanted. Denver in many ways liberated me. Life in India had changed after I acquired a star status. I could no longer move around freely, meet friends or go for walks. Denver made me more independent. I did everything on my own, right from shopping to cooking. And I would even bargain in stores or at farmers markets! After a long time I had a normal life, like the good old days of my youth.
People say that I took a break. But I didnt. I did Devdas after my marriage, Aaja Nachle and some dance reality shows. I kept coming back, so I was always connected with the audience.
Tell us about anything crazy that your fans did?
A fan of mine used to mail letters written with blood. There was a fan who designed his hairstyle in such a way that my name was written on his scalp. I still remember at a shoot, a gentleman kept trampling on flowers in an attempt to catch a glimpse of me. He was eventually asked to stop doing so, to which he replied: These flowers will grow again, but I dont think I will ever get a chance to see her from such close quarters!
Pandit Birju Maharaj choreographed Dhai shyam rok lai for
Devdas for you. How was the
I had always idolised him. I was only seven when I first saw Panditji perform at Rang Bhawan. He danced from 10 in the night to 4 in the morning, leaving us all mesmerised by his movements. Ever since then I have been his fan. So, when Sanjayji [Leela Bhansali] said he hoped to persuade him to choreograph the song, I went out of the way to get an appointment fixed between the two.
Why did you come back to India after 10 years?
You know, there has been a lot of speculation about my return. Some thought my marriage was on the rocks or that I had been divorced. On the contrary, it was a conscious effort on my part to bring my family back to India. I wanted my kids to know India. And I knew that had we not packed our bags when we did, it would have been difficult for the kids. That apart, today India is a land of opportunity. There is enough work for me and for my husband. He can do a lot here be it philanthropic or otherwise.
How active are you on Twitter and Facebook?
Let me tell you I am yet to have an account on FB! But yes, I am very active on Twitter. My husband put me on Twitter. He is very tech savvy and so when he said that it was a lovely way of interacting directly with my fans I took his advice. Twitter, in some ways, is like a mouthpiece for celebs. And its been great! I keep getting suggestions such as: enough of your Anarkali frocks, wear something else, change your pictures and so on. And, yes, I do take some suggestions seriously.
How did your wax image come up at Madam Tussauds?
Officials at Madam Tussauds said they were being inundated with letters asking why Madhuris model wasnt there. So they were kind of forced to put up my model there! They contacted us and then the measurements had to be taken. Since the model needs to be an exact replica, the measurement part was excruciating. Oh, believe me when I say that it took them almost four hours to get done with the measurements! The model will be unveiled in March.
So how is your career shaping up again?
I was initially looking for work in advertising, and the kind of role I have on Life Ok [a TV channel]. Now that the kids are in school and have made their friends, I am considering some roles in films.
What about Dedh Ishqiya? Are you going to figure in the film?
To be honest, talks are on.
Why did you choose to play the role of a narrator on Life Ok?
Well, I liked the channels philosophy. Its about how to be happy with our present life, while aspiring for a better life. I am not preaching as a narrator, but just picking on things to make people realise that there is a lot to life.