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madhurimadhuri

Subhash K Jha

Sheís finished, they announce with prophetic authority.

But why should things have changed for Madhuri Dixit just because sheís married? "Oh, she looks old in Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke," the critical factory crinkles its nose.

Old, as compared with whom? Esha Deol? Of course, every teenybopper heroine isnít a juvenile jukebox regurgitating lyrics about love and life with misplaced self-confidence.

Thereís a Kareena Kapoor, for example, who, in two words, is a class act.

But Madhuri will remain Madhuri.

Her first post-marriage release proves nothing. Except that nothing can be done with a film that's directed by an ineffectual and hopelessly out-of-sync director, who thinks a song in which Madhuri does her jelly belly act would draw in the crowds the way Ek do teen and Dhak dhak had done.

Wake up and smell the conflict, Deepakbhai. Nobody wants to see Madhuri doing a jelly belly act at this stage of her career. You've embarrassed the hell out of this celluloid queen, and her fans and there should be state laws to prevent directors like you from doing any further damage to Madhuriís image.

Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke failed, not because of Madhuri or any other star, but because it was an awful film.

Madhuri Dixit When will the film industry realise that stars don't make a film run? The script does. Deepak Shivdasani's film would have flopped even if it starred Hrithik Roshan, Kareena Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai as the tangled triangle on screen.

Ours is a strange film industry. If a film clicks, the entire credit goes to the leading man. If it fails, the leading lady must also shoulder the responsibility. That's what happened with Madhuri in Yeh Raaste.

This, in a way, is the story of Madhuri Dixitís career. With stray exceptions like Prem Pratigya, Prakash Jhaís Mrityudand, Nana Patekarís Prahaar and Rajkumar Santoshi's Pukar, her performances have always been projected as kitsch.

Whenever I tell Madhuri this, she defends her films like a tigress, pointing out that a film like Indra Kumarís Beta came at a time when content rather than technique was the presiding concern.

Madhuri and Ajay Devgan in Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke But thereís more than a lack of technical finesse in a majority of Madhuri's films. If Madhubala is remembered to this day for Mughal-e-Azam, it isnít because of the numbers of cameras K Asif used while shooting the film.

I remember how upset Madhuri was with me when I first met her. A mutual friend, director Prakash Jha, who was doing Mrityudand with her warned me that she was in a militant mood.

But within a few minutes, the ice melted. And Madhuri confessed, "I was upset about something you wrote about my Choli ke peeche song," before rushing off to give a shot with Salman Khan and Aruna Irani for a terribly funny death scene.

Funny, because the sobbing and whimpering junior artistes would burst into peals of laughter the minute the director shouted 'cut'.

That encounter with Madhuri Dixit remains memorable for a reason. After I had completed my interview with Madhuri in her makeup room, we discovered, to our embarrassment, that the door had been bolted from the outside.

After much shaking and rattling, someone outside finally heard us. Salman Khan was grinning from ear to ear. As Madhuri stormed towards her costar to confront him, I drove away with a smile.

Weíve kept in touch since then. After her surprise marriage, I was one of the first to congratulate her.

Madhuri Dixit and Dr Shriram Nene Madhuri never sounded happier. As she spoke about what the heart surgeon had done to her heart I couldnít help wondering if she would make as successful a post-marriage career for herself as Sharmila Tagore.

Today, when she has made the crucial crossover from Miss Dixit to Mrs Nene, the debate on whether married actresses are acceptable to Indian film audiences seems pretty bogus.

In spite of her sizzling songs-and-dances, Madhuriís career was never dictated by oomphy conventions of celluloid success. To audiences, she was always the consummate screen queen, the first among the equals who found her way into the cinema of the post-Sridevi generation.

Unfortunately, her selection of roles has always left much to desired. Madhuri turned down Sanjay Leela Bhansaliís offer to play the deaf-and-mute Annie in Khamoshi: The Musical, because she wasnít convinced by the character.

Presumably, she saw eye to eye with the women she played in Dil, Jamai Raja, Thanedaar, Khilaaf, Raja and the other pot (and blood) boilers she did in the prime of her career.

Whereís that one Mughal-e-Azam in the neo-Madhubala's career? I think itís on the way.

Now, Rajkumar Santoshiís Lajja which opens Friday, August 31, will give Madhuri a chance to dazzle alongside a gallery of other screen queens.

Madhuri Dixit But itís Sanjay Leela Bhansaliís Devdas, which will immortalise Madhuri. She is cast as the silent giver Chandramukhi, who nurtures, adores, loves and finally leaves Devdas, knowing all along that he loves another woman. Madhuri looks, dresses and dances like a dream.

Sanjay, who has been Madhuri fan ever since he can remember, canít stop raving about her. The Benarasi zari saris, the heavy gold jewellery, the elegance and elan, he says, are simply going to blow audiences away.

What M F Husain couldnít do for his muse in Gaja Gamini will finally happen. Yes, I think the neo-Madhubalaís Mughal-e-Azam is around the corner.

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