The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mad about, not at, Madhuri
- Actress dials, politicians fall head over heels

New Delhi, Dec. 3: Aaja Nachle — come, dance. To Madhuri Dixit’s tune. And that includes India’s ban-happy politicians, too.

Two days ago, Ramdas Athavale was using up all his lung power in Parliament seeking a nationwide ban on Madhuri’s comeback film because it seemed to insult cobblers.

It took one phone call from the 42-year-old actress to have the Republican Party of India MP doing a 360-degree pirouette.

The filmmakers’ offer of snipping the offending line may be the main reason Athavale is not seeking a ban any more. But the reason he now considers Madhuri a Dalit icon is her offer to perform free of charge in Athavale’s parliamentary constituency, Pandharpur in Maharashtra, when she visits India next.

“She is not guilty. She is a Marathi and we (Dalits) are proud of her,” Athavale gushed over the phone today. He added: “Although she has been married a few years she continues to be a charmer.”

Does he bear her a grudge'

“The controversy has nothing to do with her. The matter is settled.”

Information and broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, no laggard when it comes to bans, also wore a wide grin. He said Madhuri had spoken to him, too.

“She was most earnest saying she did not intend to hurt anyone’s feelings. She also said she was prepared to take all corrective measures,” Das Munshi said.

“She offered to perform at Athavale’s constituency and my friend is extremely happy at the prospect of playing host to her.”

Madhuri has promised to spare a whole day for Pandharpur, the “Kashi of the south”, where Lord Vitthal (Vithoba) is worshipped as the supreme god of the universe and an incarnation of Shiva and Vishnu.

“I have watched most of her movies. She is a nice person, a true Maharashtrian,” Athavale said.

With his ban call, the MP had clearly bitten off more than he could chew. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, despite his love of good food, never made that mistake with Madhuri around him.

At one of those government functions where celebrities are invited, Vajpayee was sticking like glue to the food counters while his private attendants fretted and fidgeted, wondering how to remind the then Prime Minister of his diet restrictions.

Then they spotted Madhuri. A polite, whispered request and she had walked up to the veteran politican. Vajpayee forgot his food. As he conversed with her, engrossed, the counter was discreetly cleared.

Pervez Musharraf, the no-nonsense military man, had mentioned during the Agra summit how the Indian actress held his countrymen in thrall.

During an India-Pakistan cricket match in Sharjah, the President said, a group of Pakistani supporters were heard singing “Madhuri de do, Kashmir le lo (Give us Madhuri, take away Kashmir)” to the beat of a Bollywood number.

Before India can give her away to Pakistan, however, Madhuri has a small job to do in Pandharpur.

Athavale has raised a second demand. He wants Das Munshi to nominate Dalit members to the film censor board.

The minister is unwilling to oblige, fearing similar demands from the Other Backward Classes and other social and religious groups.

Das Munshi is counting on Madhuri.

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