Madhuri Dixit: The Prima Donna of Indian Cinema

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Madhuri Dixit’s endearing smile wins the heart of one and all. The prima donna of Indian cinema turns 50 on May 15. Smriti profiles the actress, a cult figure of Bollywood, exclusively in Different Truths.  

Her smile dazzles the silver screen. Her dance moves make the hearts of millions go dhak dhak. Her ethereal reminds us of another diva of yesteryears, Madhubala. She is Madhuri Dixit blessed with eternal .

Born on 15th May, 1967, in a Maharashtrian Brahmin family to Shankar and Snehlata, Madhuri wanted to be a microbiologist. But dance was her childhood passion, and she started dance training at the age of three and later on became a trained Kathak dancer.

Her entry into Bollywood happened by chance. In an interview to Anupam Kher, for his show, Kuch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai, she recalls her by chance entry into Hindi movies. One of her elder sister’s classmate’s father, Govindji used to work for Rajshri Productions. He knew about Madhuri’s talent for acting, dancing and her involvement in the extracurricular activities. So when Rajshri announced a new film and started their search for a new face, Govindji approached Madhuri. Initially, her parents said, “No”, but after meeting the simple, nice Rajshri’s people, on Govind’s insistence, they changed their mind.

Madhuri gave a proper audition for the role, she was asked to dance, and to read a few lines from a Hindi book to ensure that she did not have a accent. Madhuri describes this experience of hers, “Looking back, I feel like I didn’t have any qualms about performing and was very carefree about the whole process.”  This reveals that she was a very confident young girl, ready to take on anything in life.

Abodh released in 1984 and was a very moderate film at the box office, but Madhuri was noticed by the critics who gave positive reviews to her performance.  Aakash Barvalia on Gomolo praised her. He wrote, “Madhuri excels in her role as a young naive bride who acquits herself well as the naive village girl and does not realise what marriage actually entails.”

But commercial success came to Madhuri after a long wait and struggle. She gave consecutive flops such asSwati, Hifazat, Dayavan, and Khatron Ke Khiladi. These films and many others failed to do well at the box office, though they had stars like Anil Kapoor, Vinod Khanna opposite Madhuri. Her kiss scene with Vinod Khanna, who was twenty years elder to her, in Dayavan, was highly criticised and considered as one of the creepiest kissing scene ever. However, life took a turn and Madhuri was cast by N. Chandra as the female lead in his movie, Tezaab. The film was a huge commercial success, Madhuri was praised by all for her dance and acting skills. Her song, “Ek do teen…” from the film became a huge rage and is still considered as one of Bollywood classics.

Akshay Shah of Planet Bollywood wrote, “Mahduri Dixit gives a fine-tuned performance. Though she is more remembered for her crowd-pleasing dance act Ek Do Teen, her acting needs to be noted, especially in the scenes where she is pitted against Anupam Kher. She looks and dances like a dream.” Madhuri received her first Filmfare nomination for this film.

After Tezaab, the success journey of Madhuri began. She had many hit movies in her kitty, such as Ram Lakhan, Tridev, and Parinda. But the later movies which followed these releases actually defined her. In 1990, the romantic drama, Dil, starring Madhuri and Aamir Khan became the biggest hit of the year, and Madhuri won her first Filmfare Award for the Best Actress. The success of this movie made her one of the leading actresses of Bollywood. Dil was followed by super hits like Sajan, Kishan Kanhaiya, and Beta.

Beta was another turning point in Madhuri’s career. The film featured probably the sexiest and popular dance number of Madhuri, “Dhak dhak karne laga” and till date she is known as the Dhak dhak girl. Her blazing performance earned her critical acclaim. People jocularly said that the movie should have been called Beti, as Madhuri with her performance made Beta completely her film, stealing a march over the film’s hero Anil Kapoor. She won her second Filmfare Award for Best Actress for this film. The movies later in the trail, were bigger hits, her magic became more captivating, she was critically acclaimed for her acting and the viewers went crazy with her sensuous dance numbers, be it “Choli ke peeche,” from Khalnayak or “Humko aajkal” from Sailab.

She once again worked with Rajshri Productions in Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, with Salman Khan as her co-star. The film turned out to be one of the biggest hits in the history of Hindi cinema. wrote, “Madhuri Dixit, reunited with the banner that launched her, stands out and is undoubtedly the life of the film as Nisha. Be it the mischievous but strong-minded, independent girl who gives it to Prem as good as she gets or the woman willing to sacrifice her love believing she is doing the right thing, Madhuri is absolutely spot on creating one of the more memorable female characters of Hindi Cinema.”

Madhuri strongly represented the Indian women in the various characters portrayed by her. Be it Saraswati of Beta, Nisha of Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, the police officer, Ganga, in Khalnayak, or a negative character in Pukaar, she epitomises the strength of a woman, who rises in adverse conditions.

Such was her screen aura and so mesmerising was her beauty that the renowned and celebrated painter M.F. Hussain, besotted by her, made a film, Gaja Gamini, with Madhuri playing the title character. He was so fascinated by Dixit in Hum Aapke Hain Koun that he watched the film 67 times, and in 2007, he booked an entire theatre to see her comeback movie Aaja Nachle.

But as very common in any actor’s career, Madhuri too faced a slump in her career graph. Though her performances in Lazza, Prem Granth, Mrityudand, etc. were appreciated, the films failed to perform at the box office. But she bounced back with hits like Dil Toh Pagal Hai and .

Her portrayal of Chandramukhi in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas won her great reviews. Sita Menon of wrote, “The most understated role and perhaps the one that is most lingering, in terms of virtuosity, is that played by Madhuri Dixit. As Chandramukhi, she is simply stunning, lending passion, fire and gentleness with such consummate ease that watching her perform is sheer delight.” The film was screened at the Cannes Film Festival and was also India’s official entry to the Academy Awards for Best Film Award. She also won the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting actress for this film. The dance number from the film,“Man dola re…” featuring two sensuous heroines, Aishwarya and Madhuri was a visual delight.

After Devdas, she took a sabbatical from films as she married Dr. Shriram Nene, a cardiovascular surgeon and moved to Denver. She made a comeback with Aja Nach Le in 2007. Though the film was a commercial failure, Madhuri was appreciated by the critics. Since then she is active in films and experimenting with new kind of roles in her movies. Her character of a con woman in Dedh Ishqiya got rave reviews from the critics. Deepanjana Pal of Firstpost wrote: “She’s still capable of keeping an audience glued to their seats when the credits start rolling, all because she’s dancing on screen.”

Post her comeback Madhuri is very active on television by being a judge on reality shows and is seen in many ad films too. Her endorsement of Maggi noodles also got her into legal trouble as the Tamil Nadu Consumer Forum sent her notices for “false representations” in the advertisement.

She even conducts online dance classes for her fans.

Her list of achievements is a long one. She is the only Bollywood actress to be nominated 13 times for the Filmfare Best Actress Award. She has won six Filmfare Awards, four for best actress, one for the Best Supporting Actress and one special award for completing 25 years in Bollywood. She has also been conferred with the Padmashri by the .

Like any other celebrity of the tinsel town, Madhuri also has had her shares of controversies. Her rumours with Anil Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt made the headlines. Her father objected to her relationship with Sanjay Dutt, who at that time was married to Richa Sharma. But in spite the objection, the two continued to be together, till Dutt’s arrest under TADA in 1993, which made Madhuri end the relationship. Talking about this break-up, film journalist Bharati Pradhan reported in The Telegraph, “Madhuri had always been a clean player. A Dutt-Dixit alliance would’ve been disastrous and she was too sensible not to see it.”

Her supposed rivalry with Sridevi, her contemporary was also the talk of Bollywood, though the two kept quiet on it. They both shared a common choreographer Saroj Khan, and upset by Madhuri’s immensely popular dance numbers, Sridevi stopped working with Saroj Khan, alleging that she gave better dance steps to Madhuri.

But all this is past now. She is enjoying her second innings in the glamour world. Her passion for dancing is still as intense, she practises Kathak thrice a week, enjoying family life with her husband and two adorable sons.

Even on her 50th birthday, she is still as sensuous, her smile can make heartbeats race and her dance movements create rage. She is the eternally beautiful Bollywood diva with an invincible style and charm.

©Smriti Maheshwari

Photos and videos from the internet.

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Smriti Maheshwari

Smriti Maheshwari

Smriti Maheshwari loves cooking, reading, mostly fiction and thrillers. She enjoys mythological stories too. She also loves meeting people and making friends, socialising, and is a big movie buff. A homemaker and a dreamer, she stays in Allahabad with her husband.
Smriti Maheshwari