By Jyothi Venkatesh
Today happens to be the 55th birthday of Madhuri Dixit, whose zest for life has continued unabated and she has not turned from being an interesting and lively human being into a boring housewife. “I am glad I am in aamchi Mumbai, for good, after a long period of gap, with my husband Dr Nene and two kids.”
Madhuri paused for a minute and gave some instructions on her mobile in Marathi to presumably her maidservant at home. I couldn’t help but ask her how she manages to talk in Marathi even after having been away from Mumbai for such a long time. She shoots back admonishingly, “How can anyone forget his or her mother tongue? My husband Dr Ram Nene always talks to me only in Marathi. In fact I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I were to state that Ram is more proficient in Marathi than even I am.”
I butt in to ask Madhuri whether Ram knows how to read, write and speak in Hindi and she coolly tells me that Ram does not at all understand Hindi. “It is easy for us in Mumbai to know all languages because of the cosmopolitan nature of the city but back there it is difficult for anyone to know several languages other than one’s mother tongue and the language which everyone talks- English in the workplace.”
Madhuri continues. “People, who have known me right from the beginning of my career since Abodh, like you, can vouch for the fact that I have always been a very homely soul. While in the USA, I used to make it a point to go to the supermarket to buy fruits and vegetables almost every other day because they are perishable commodities and cannot afford to buy them in bulk.”
At home, Madhuri says that she mostly cooks non-vegetarian dishes. “Ram is fond of South Indian snacks like dosa while my kids are mad about Chinese food. I also make sabudana khichdi and kanda pohe besides Varan Bhat, which is another favorite dish of mine, as well as Ram. When my kids were small, I couldn’t even think of taking up acting. I start working on my roles, when I get the completely bound scripts with me before the shooting schedule of the film begins.”
I ask Madhuri to tell something more about her husband Dr Nene. She shoots back. “Ï couldn’t have asked for any one better than Ram as my husband. He does not let me be just a housewife. In fact, in spite of his hectic schedule as a doctor, he used to help me out in looking after our kids. He also used to encourage me to visit him whenever he was busy with heart transplants there”.
Madhuri reiterates that besides being a mother to her two kids and wife to her husband, she is also an athya as well as maushi to her brother’s kids as well as her sister Bharathi’s kids, who stay in the U.S.A. In fact, she says that even before she became a housewife she had actually become an aatya as well as maushi.
Madhuri confesses that her sons see her in films in a scene here and a song there whenever a movie of hers is telecast on TV. “Initially when we shifted to India, my kids did not know at all what it means to be an actress or the fact that their mother is well known as an actress in India, because Ram and I wanted them to lead a normal life away from the glitter and hustle bustle of the industry.”
Madhuri concedes that right now it is far too early to even think of what her kids are going to take up as a career in future. “Whether they want to take up medicine as their career or acting as their avocation, it all depends upon their mental frame of mind when they grow up. It is the duty of Ram and me to educate them properly so that they become intelligent enough to chalk out their own profession. We are there to guide them and advise them about the pros and cons of each and every profession if they care to seek our opinion as and when they need it.”
It is not surprising that Madhuri’s kid Arin is able to sing well. After all, both Madhuri and her mother are good singers though Madhuri does not want to hog the credit for her singing. “I have never learnt singing the way Juhi Chawla has learnt as you say. Singing has always been my hobby but I have no desire to take it a level above and end up singing for any film of mine in the future.”
Madhuri Dixit clarifies that she couldn’t take up the assignment to work in a period film on Ravi Varma earlier only because she couldn’t afford to leave the kids back home and come to shoot for the film in Mumbai. “With kids, you cannot afford to travel around or run around. Filmmaking has also changed in a big way. Nowadays movies get completed professionally unlike in the days of yore in two months flat, even with big stars.”
Madhuri fondly admonishes me when I ask her whether she has put on weight after marriage. “Everyone is asking me whether I have put on weight or not. I have started working out to knock off whatever excess weight I had gained after marriage and delivery of my two kids. You have got to look good if you choose a career. Why just because of a career, even otherwise Ram and I are health freaks and even have our own individual and independent gym at home where we make it a point to work out daily. You have got to be fit and trim even to look after your two kids. Isn’t it?” Madhuri quips.
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As far as her resuming her shoot is concerned, Madhuri has her fundas right. “It is nice to know the people with whom you are going to work before you start working. When I was in Mumbai, at least I used to bump into people off and on and hence knew people even without working with them. But after I was out of touch with everyone, it took time for me to get to know people. I have always believed that it is better to work with nice people, who are also professional to the core”.
What is your advice to the readers of Cineblitz? I ask Madhuri. She quips. “I’d advise everyone to lead a healthy life and have healthy thoughts round the clock throughout the year and also have a positive attitude in life.”
People say that you have changed a lot now. Is it true? I ask her. Pat comes the reply.” You know that I am not complicated in real life but many new journalists are under the impression that I am a Diva with a lot of attitude as there is a strange perception about me that I am very standoffish though I am friendly and I love to make new friends in life and talk a lot.
In what way has the scenario changed over the years from the time you had made your debut with Abodh as an actress?
Even then we were as enthusiastic as we are nowadays but today there are a lot of pressures for an actor in the sense that there are social media promotions, besides the promotions in the print media and the electronic media, besides acting. It is very inspiring. I have no complaints because social media has given us our own voice to communicate with all our fans and I enjoy chatting on social media.
What is your opinion about the new trend of films banking on the weekend box office collections of films?
Today everything has become the product of the first weekend as far as films are concerned and it is imperative that by hook or crook, your film has got to catch the eye balls of the audiences. That is because earlier Cinema was the only form of entertainment whereas nowadays there are various outlets for entertaining. In those good old days films could grow slowly like Hum Aapke Hain Kaun did. It is an entirely different world in which we are living today.
Does it mean that the pressures an actor faces have increased?
The pressures were always there, whether it is today or earlier, because the films had to deliver. But whether a film turns out to be a hit or not it is not in the actors’ hands. It depends on many things. As an actor, if I do my job well, half the battle won.
You staged your comeback with Aaj Nachle after your marriage but then but for a few films like Gulabi Gang and Dedh Ishqia, you vanished from the scene only to emerge with Marathi films like Bucket List, 15 August etc and Hindi films like Total Dhamaal and Kalank.
In life, I have always believed in some planning. I took up Devdas after marriage. I loved having kids and hence after Aaja Nachle, I started my own production of kids. My kids were growing up and today I am not only a wife but also a mother to two teenage kids .I thoroughly enjoyed that phase of my life and never bothered to think of hogging the limelight. To set goals in your life you have to plan five years in advance. I have to strike a balance between my various roles. I and my husband Dr Shriram Nene have made our foray into digital and made dance training programmes.
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You turned a producer with a Marathi film. Are there plans to make a Hindi film?
We made a Marathi film called 15 August, which is being streamed on Netflix. Me and my husband Dr Nene started with Marathi because it is our mother tongue and we have our roots in Marathi. I have plans to make films in not only Marathi but also in Hindi.
How did you manage to get Sarojji to choreograph the song Tabaah Ho Gaye in Kalank?
For the first time in Hindi films, two choreographers Sarojji and Remo were choreographing the same dance number together Tabah Ho Gaya in Kalank. After we heard the song, I felt the song deserved Sarojji as a choreographer and vice versa. It has a very balanced kind of choreography with Sarojji supervised my expressions for the scene. Not just the song but even the story had to move ahead during the song. The song came at a very emotional point in the film.
If Hum Aapke Hain Kaun is remade today, who do you think will fit the bill right to play Salman Khan and your role in it?
Though I am of the opinion that an iconic film like Hum Aapke Hai Kaun can never be replicated, Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt will be the right fits for the parts played by Salman Khan and me because I feel that they can easily get into any role and make it their own.
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Can we soon see you emerging as a director or choreographer?
Though I may take up choreography since I am well versed in kathak as well as other classical dances, I am not sure about whether I will take up direction. I do not have the time. I will take up direction only if I have the requisite time to devote to it. Right now I have far too many distractions in front of me including training in music since I have always liked to sing right from my childhood and I feel being just a producer is a better option.
Finally, do you think it is no longer a male dominated film industry?
It is still a male dominated film industry. The only change is that when I did Tezaab, there were very few females on the sets other than us actresses but today there are female makeup women, female hairdressers etc, though then females were not allowed to do make up as it used to be a male bastion. Today with the emergence of female directors like Zoya Akhtar, Meghna Gulzar, Reema Kagti, Gauri Shinde, a whole new generation of young women filmmakers are coming up, which augurs well for the film industry. Today all female actors are doing extremely well. The way the writers’ pen stories are also different. The roles that women play are no longer stereo typed, like say Deepika Padukone is playing in Chhapaak or Alia chooses different roles like Raazi. We are inching slowly and steadily towards our goal now.