Shaikh Ayaz in Mumbai
For M F Husain, Band Baaja Baaraat is the new Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! And the three-film old Anushka Sharma the new Madhuri Dixit.
Or is it?
Though the painter, who characterises himself as a 'lover of beauty', calls Anushka a natural actress, he immediately disapproves of any comparison between Anushka and his muse-for-many-years Madhuri Dixit.
In a telephonic conversation from Dubai, he talks to Shaikh Ayaz about his latest muse.
Firstly, how many times have you watched Band Baaja Baaraat so far?
(Laughs) Twelve. And I don't know how many more times I'll watch it. I'm never sure about these things.
When I saw the Barjatya films, Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! and Vivah, I never thought I'll watch them repeatedly. It's like music; you listen to your favourite song all night and never get bored. Or a classic book; you can't say now I'm done and finish. You read and re-read because every time you do so, you find newer meanings.
What attracted you towards Anushka?
I always look for an Indian face. Anushka has that quality. Beauty isn't physical alone. Beauty is much more than that. It's the totality. I think any actress could have played her role in Band Baaja Baaraat but nobody could have brought life into that character like she did. That's why I always say there's talent and competence everywhere but you require intelligence to leave an impact.
'I would love to cast Anushka Sharma in my film'
Did she make any impact on you when you saw her in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi?
I liked her in that film, too, but Shah Rukh (Khan) overshadowed her. He's such a big star that people tend to forget who the co-star is. But in Band Baaja Baaraat, she was fantastic.
The way she played the Delhi girl was so real. I'm fascinated by the Punjabi culture which has so much power. The film took me back to the Punjabi-Delhi culture.
Will you cast Anushka in any of your films?
I'd love to but you can never plan such things. I want to work with best talent.
'I'm not a portrait painter that I'll paint Anushka Sharma'
Do you foresee a successful future for her?
Of course, she's bright. But I cannot predict such things. A film is a director's medium. Like Ritwik Ghatak and Satyajit Ray could mould their characters so well -- they are two of the world's greatest directors.
What I am saying is if she's in the hands of a good director, and she gets good scripts, she will shine.
Do you hope to meet her soon?
I've never met her. Why not?
Will you paint her or gift her any of your paintings?
See, I cannot think of these things at this moment. I'm not a portrait painter that I'll paint her. Even Madhuri, I never painted her portrait. I express myself on canvas.
'Madhuri is a classical beauty and still fascinates me'
Can we say you are over Madhuri Dixit now?
Madhuri is in a different league. I'll always be her admirer. She's a classical beauty and still fascinates me. But she's not working, you see. Fortunately, I found Anushka and I was excited to watch her on screen. Anushka wasn't acting, she was living her character. She's a natural actress. But you cannot compare Madhuri with Anushka. Both are different.
So Madhuri is still your favourite actress?
Yes. Madhuri is Madhuri. But there are two actresses who I think are the best in the whole world: Greta Garbo and Marilyn Monroe. Greta is the epitome of beauty. No one has been able to surpass her even today while Marilyn is the last word in glamour.
Are you in touch with Madhuri?
Yeah, we speak but not very frequently. We spoke on my last birthday for about 10 minutes. I was in London and she was in the US.
What about Amrita Rao?
I liked her at one point but now I find great energies in Anushka.
Every few years you have a new muse. Why?
Because an artist can never exhaust his search for beauty. I am a lover of beauty. I find beauty in everything around me.