Maddy misses old magic

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By BHARATHI S. PRADHAN
  • Published 10.03.13
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This week, Priyanka Chopra quietly replaced Madhuri Dixit in a lucrative commercial. When Madhuri was still an exclusive entity, living in Denver, and deigning to fly down to Mumbai only for a spot of work before going back home, she had bagged this ad for a dish washing liquid. At that time itself, there were comments wondering why she had “reduced her brand equity by doing the work of a bai (domestic staff) in that ad.”

And a much younger Priyanka, still in the running as a glamour girl, is all right washing dishes “like a bai”?

Farah Khan who is directing the new commercial (she gets paid a pile of money, so she does it between her other jobs) was very clear that if Priyanka was featuring in it, there was no way they’d tamper with her glamorous heroine image. “Priyanka won’t be washing utensils in the kitchen for sure,” she laughed.

The media here haven’t got wind of this yet. Otherwise you can imagine how they’d holler the “Madhuri Dropped, Priyanka Steps In” headline, and carry tales of a fictitious war between the two.

But what the change in this celebrity endorsement does signify is two-fold: one, is doing this ad Priyanka’s way of getting into Farah’s Happy New Year which she’s making for Shah Rukh Khan? And two, has Brand Madhuri Dixit lost its sheen after she made the drastic move of shifting to Mumbai to make the most of her career?

To answer the first, Priyanka definitely feels that Happy New Year is her film. Farah too, has privately agreed that she would be the best choice for the plum lead role which requires a desi chic. As Farah once put it, “She has to be Indian in one part. I can’t possibly cast any of these girls when they are all from the UK and Brazil!”

However, it is also true that this is one time Gauri Khan has put a firm foot down, issuing the ultimatum: it’s either Priyanka in the lead or Gauri Khan in the credits as executive producer (as she always is, in SRK’s Red Chillies productions). Shah Rukh and Priyanka still merrily topline various events together where both pick up absurd amounts of money. There isn’t much Gauri can do about that, but she can disallow her name from the credit titles of a film which features her current bête noire. And that’s precisely what she’s doing.

There are many interesting asides to this stand-off. So who can Shah Rukh Khan cast in his home production? Sonakshi Sinha? But Farah won’t stand for it after Sona and Akshay Kumar treated her husband’s film Joker like a bad joke and stayed away from promoting it. In fact, when brother Sajid Khan got Sonakshi to do an item number in his new film Himmatwala, Farah didn’t choreograph it; Chinni Prakash, famous in the 1980s, did the honours. So the question of directing Ms Sinha in a prestigious, full-length feature film is out of the question in the current scenario.

How about Priyanka’s cousin, Parineeti Chopra? She was a loud Punjabi chatterbox in her first film Ladies Vs Ricky Behl. Surely a natural actress like her can become a believable Maharashtrian like Priyanka herself in Kaminey and Agneepath? Well, nobody will go on record about this but the feeling is that there’s sibling rivalry sizzling between the cousins and Priyanka won’t take kindly to being replaced by Parineeti.

Phew. Fortunately, Shah Rukh Khan’s Chennai Express is chugging along (apparently, Deepika Padukone’s busy diary slowed it down considerably) and until that’s done he won’t start Happy New Year. So there’s still a bit of time before Farah officially announces her heroine.

That leaves us with the question mark over Madhuri’s move to Mumbai. The manner in which she wed a heart surgeon and shifted to Denver where she raised her two boys, gave her equity an exclusivity every time she came down for an assignment or two. But by permanently moving here to give full attention to films, ads, reality shows and public appearances, she has simply become one of the many who couldn’t ever give up the limelight. Additionally, when she wed Dr Nene, one of the qualities her folks had greatly appreciated was that he was completely unaware of who she was. Today, by wrapping up his own career and not picking up the scalpel in India, and by beaming as her escort and almost stepping into her professional area (overseeing their website, production house et al), Dr Nene seems to be making up for not knowing who Madhuri Dixit was.

Madhuri is still a celebrity, always will be. She will get the odd film or two, and other assignments too. But with her decision to be right here all the time, her brand is losing its dhak dhak exclusivity.

Bharathi S. Pradhan is editor, The Film Street Journal