The area around Mehboob Studios is buzzing with people trying to catch a glimpse of the lady with an electrifying smile. All eyes are transfixed on her as she gets out of her white Mercedes,while sipping water from her Starbucks tumbler. You can hear hearts skipping a beat as she greets everyone outside Stage 7 with her million-dollar smile. Thats the aura of Madhuri Dixit Nene,whose acting and dance skills has earned her the moniker – Dhak Dhak girl. Dressed in a fitted little black dress,ankle strap stilettos and chunky gold bracelets,Dixit – Nene at 46 and a mother of two,still retains an effervescence and charm that can give the current lot of actresses a run for their money. And its with that same grace and ease that she faces us to talk about films,life as a mother,her new ventures and more.
What was it about ‘Dedh Ishqiya’ that propelled you to take it up?
■ I am lucky that a beautiful script like ‘Dedh Ishqiya’ came my way. When I read the script,I fell in love with Begum Para. I really think Abhishek (Chaubey) has penned my character really well. I had seen Ishqiya and thoroughly enjoyed watching it,especially because of the way he depicted Vidya Balans character in the film. Also,Arshad Warsi and Naseer saab (Naseeruddin Shah) were brilliant in the first part. So,when I was told that they plan to make a sequel to it,I was excited. I was keen to do the film when Vishal (Bhardwaj) had first approached me,which was way before the script reading sessions. But,it was the strong script of the film that finally appealed to me.
So what is Begum Para like in the film?
■ Para is the Begum of Mehmoodabad,which is a small town in Lucknow. A widow,she is extremely beautiful,poised and graceful. Para loves performing arts,so you will see her dancing,singing and reciting poems.
Her husband made her take a vow that if she ever planned to re-marry,it would be to a poet. So,in her quest to meet the right poet,she organises a swayamvar every year and that is how she meets Khallu jaan (Naseeruddin Shah),who poses as a Nawabi poet. Para is a multi – layered character,unlike other roles where the characters are classified as a victim,eye candy or Miss Goody Two Shoes. She has a striking personality and that is one thing that impressed me the most.
You have always been identified with family dramas or romantic musicals. Considering ‘Ishqiya’ was raw and bold,did you have any reservations before signing up for the sequel?
■ I am aware of the kind of film ‘Ishqiya’ was,but then its a different kind of cinema. I did ‘Mrityudand’ at a time when I did a film like ‘Dil Toh Pagal Hai’. Many tried to dissuade me from doing the film as it was an arty film,but I wanted to do the film as ‘Ketki’,the character that I played in it,was very strong. Similarly,after the script reading sessions for ‘Dedh Ishqiya’,I had no doubts about doing the role of Para,as I knew I would comfortable playing her. Besides,I got a chance to work with an actor as fantastic as Naseer saab. What more could anyone ask for?
Your contemporary Kathak piece in ‘Hamari Atariya’ has got a great response. How was it working with Pandit Birju Maharaj and Remo DSouza?
■ I thought the choreography was very good,especially since its not Remos genre. He has always been comfortable in the hip-hop zone,but he took it up as a chal- lenge to make sure that the elements of Kathak come out well. While in ‘Jaagave saari raina’,I worked with Maharaj ji and that too after ‘Devdas’ which was a decade back. It was a tough task as I had to lip sync in this track and I only focus on my expressions. During rehearsals,I used to behave like a kid in a candy store,Maharaj ji,yeh adaa kaisi hain? and Maharaj ji,is step ko kaise karna hain? (laughs).
The first look of ‘Gulaab Gang’ is different from the charming Para in ‘Desh Ishqiya’ – its ferocious.
■ ‘Gulaab Gang’ is a completely different world altogether,where I play the leader of a group of vigilantes. They fight injustice,not only those which are against women,but anyone who has been suffering for long. I have tried my hand at a lot of stunts and underwent special training for it. It was tough,but good fun as I was trying something different.
Your last release in 2007,’Aaja Nachle’ focussed on dance and highlighted few problems faced by women who love art. ‘Dedh Ishqiya’ and ‘Gulaab Gang’ too has strong women characters. Are you more comfortable with women oriented films now?
■ More than being comfortable,I like how things have changed. One thing that I really love about films today is the fact that women are portrayed in a different light. There was a time when characters played by female actors were stereotypical. But nowadays,there are strong characters writ- ten for us and they have their own personalities. These characters are ambitious. Gone are the days when narrow mindsets ruled and statements like Mere ghar pe chhota bhai hai issliye main kaam pe ja rahi hoon were heard often. There are no strings of compromises attached to a female character now.
But do you think very few female oriented scripts are penned,keeping in mind the popularity of male dominated films?
■ Yes,that is true. We cant escape the fact that male domination is everywhere,not just the film industry. Even if you see a corporate office,where there are male and female departmental heads,there will always be discrepancy between the two. I have always believed that women have to work twice as hard to prove them- selves. In fact,many people talk about women making a comeback post marriage. But how is age or marriage related to talent Talent does not have an expiry date and age is just a number. So,its upto the female actress as to how she essays her character and highlights that role,whether she is 18 or 80. Also nowadays,the audience is opening up to strong-headed and confident women characters,which is a sign of better things to come.
There are several actresses in the industry today,many of whom were not around when you dominated the scene. Do you consider anyone to be a tough competition?
■ Not really. We all work in a creative field and nobody in the industry is fighting it out to reach the top spot desperately. We are not horses in a Derby race,who are trying to outdo one another in crossing the finish- ing line. Nobody is a contender,because we are all in the process of figuring out things like – how to better oneself or how portray a particular character? I think its important to work on your talent and nurture it instead of competing with others.
What do you feel is the biggest difference between the Bollywood industry,when you made a debut in it and now?
■That there is no demarcation between the genres anymore. People dont come up and say that this is commercial cinema and the other one is art. That is exactly what I experienced when ‘Mrityudand’ released and Im glad thats a thing of the past. A film is a film,why put it in a bracket?
As an actress,how else do you think the scenario has changed?
■ All the new actresses are working just as hard as we did,or maybe more. During those days,we never went out of our way to promote a film. We used to give just four – five interviews,because there were not many channels or promotional platforms. But today,we have to go out and present our product in the best way possible because there are so many things going on around the globe and it is only through excessive promotions across all media platforms that you can reach out to people and make some noise. Yes,some may say that actresses today have vanity vans and lead a more luxurious life,which is a far cry from the times when we used to be stationed outside the studio with just an umbrella above our head. But we also have to look at how the work has doubled up too (smiles).
You have always been vocal about your love for dance. With the Dance with Madhuri website and application doing really well,are there any plans of coming up with a chain of dance academies across the country?
■ Not really! That is one reason why we chose internet as the platform to reach out to a wider audience. I wanted dance to be global,as anyone who has a phone,iPad or a laptop can just log in and learn a chunk of choreography without any fuss. You dont have to pay,plus you can repeat your favourite session by just playing the video again and again,which is not possible when you are learning dance in an institute. Its the convenience that matters in the crazy,mad
rush that we are living in today.
Now that you have ventured into multimedia platforms,will we see you venturing into production as well?
■ Through RnM Moving Pictures and our online dance academy,we are hoping to bring forth a lot of talent and give budding performers a good platform. We are also planning to launch something in health- care very soon. Film production is not on the cards yet.
Coming to your family,how did your husband Dr.Shriram Nene,react after watching the first look of ‘Dedh Ishqiya’?
■ (Smiling) He was very happy and told me that he loved the trailer. Also,he really likes watching the song,Hamari atariya. Many people have asked me about his reaction towards my pairing with Naseer saab. Ram thinks I have done a good job and believes that the chemistry between Para and Khallu jaan is amazing.
After settling down in Denver for almost a decade,you recently shifted base to Mumbai with your family. How are they reacting to your busy schedule and the lifestyle of this city?
■ They love it,especially my kids. Both my sons,Arin and Raayan,love the informality and relaxed lifestyle of the city. Their friends can drop in any day and even they have the liberty to meet their friends at anytime. I think the only thing they miss are some specific places in Denver,like the parks. Almost every corner of Denver has a park,because its a clean and healthy city. But otherwise,they are very happy here. I am glad that they still have a touch of innocence in their lives. Initially,they would spot me on television and come running to say,Mom,you are on TV. Yay! But now,they are like,Oh,Mom is on TV. (laughs).
How difficult is it to balance the role of a mother and a popular Bollywood actress?
■ Its all about time management. Not just me,but every working women has to juggle different roles in life. You have to plan your life keeping your family in mind. If my kids have an annual function or assemblies in school,then I plan everything accordingly and schedule my meetings or other commitments post 2 pm. Even if I have a packed schedule,my family is always a priority,so I am balancing both my roles well and I havent allowed anything to take a backseat.