Patcy N in Mumbai
We haven’t seen Madhuri Dixit on the big screen since 2007, when she starred in the poorly-reviewed Aaja Nachle.
"A lot is at stake because the audience will see me on the big screen after a long gap," the actress confides.
The new year will see her in two women-centric films, Dedh Ishqiya (releasing on January 10) and Gulaab Gang (releasing on March 7).
Madhuri tells Patcy N what to expect from her films, and also talks about life after marriage and kids.
Tell us about Dedh Ishiya and Gulaab Gang.
I play Begum Para in Dedh Ishqiya. She is a beautiful, poetic woman, the begum of Mehmoodabad in Lucknow. She is a widow, and her husband’s last wish was that if she ever remarried she should marry a poet.
Every year she has a swayamwar and calls shayars (poets) from all over India, but is unimpressed with them.
In the third year, Khalujaan (Naseeruddin Shah) and Babban (Arshad Warsi) end up there, and meet her and Munniya (Huma Qureshi) and the story begins from there.
I have tried my best with Begum Para. It’s a very strong character. She is very secretive. She is different from what you see. She has multiple layers to her personality.
In the other film, Gulaab Gang, I play the leader of a group of vigilantes who help people facing social injustice.
'It is a great time for women to be in the film industry'
What kind of characters do you personally like to do?
I don’t have any favourite characters but I like a character with depth.
Earlier, the characters were very shallow -- the ‘daddy main first aayee hoon’ kind of dialogues were written for them. Those dialogues are redundant now.
I am very thankful our cinema has come a long way and women are portrayed as characters and not just eye candy or avengers or victims, but normal people.
I feel that it is a great time for women to be in the film industry.
Ishqiya had an adult theme. You are identified more with family films like Beta, Hum Aapke Hain Koun…
When they told me my role, I was very excited because it was multi-layered role.
'The first day I worked with Naseeruddin Shah, I felt I was being judged'
Begum Para loves shayaris. Do you like shayaris?
I love Urdu. I tried to read and write a little bit, but I didn’t stay in touch. I should have and I kick myself for that. I love the poems of Ghalib, Mir and Kaif.
How was your experience of working with Naseeruddin Shah?
When you are doing scenes with him you don’t feel like you are acting. He speaks so normally in a scene.
It was wonderful working with him. The first day I felt I was being judged. But he tells everyone ‘she is a good actress’. I did not want to let him down.
What was your husband Sriram Nene’s reaction to your chemistry with Naseeruddin Shah?
He found our chemistry very good. He thought I did a good job.
Most of the chemistry actually comes from the way the scenes are written. If it is badly written then there is no chemistry. And to bring that on screen properly is the skill of an actor.
'I liked Vidya Balan not only in Ishqiya, but in her first movie Parineeta'
Ishqiya was a turning point in Vidya Balan’s career. What do you think of her as an actress?
She is wonderful. She is a lovely actress. I liked her not only in Ishqiya, but in her first movie (Parineeta).
I think I was the first one who talked about her in an interview saying she is a very good actress. I liked her work in Kahaani, Dirty Picture and all her other movies. She is very talented.
There is a lot of expectation from this film. Are you getting cold feet?
No, in fact I am very excited, upbeat, not only because my role is good but the whole film is very good.
I am not nervous at all.
'We never went out of the way to promote a film'
How do you see this Rs 100 crore club today, compared to the box office in the 1990s?
Cinema is different now. There are more than 3,000 theatres and a film is released everywhere at the same time. Even the foreign revenues have increased because there are more Indians living abroad. The ticket rates have gone up. So everything contributes to that figure.
There were hit films then too. Only the coining of words has changed. First it was ‘super hit’, ‘silver jubilee’, ‘golden jubilee’. Now it is 100 crore and 200 crore clubs.
How different is it now from before?
We never went out of the way to promote a film -- at the most, four or five interviews. And there were not so many TV channels.
Today, if you attend even one function you are seen on every channel and people think you are everywhere.
You have to promote your film, you have to go out and say this is our product please come and watch.
It is more hard work today then it was earlier. Earlier, it was hard because we didn’t have vanity vans, we had to sit in the sun and do our make-up.
Are you enjoying this phase?
Yes, I am, whether it is TV, movies or ads, I enjoy it and therefore I do it.
'I wanted to have a home, family, husband and children, everything that I had dreamt of for myself'
How did your husband and children take the change from the US to India?
They love being in India. My kids love the informality that we have here, that friends can drop in and they can go to their place any time. They love their school.
The only thing they miss is space, that is, parks. In Denver, there are parks at every corner. It is a very healthy city.
What about you?
I’ve always loved Mumbai. I grew up in Mumbai so for me it is like coming back home.
Were you homesick when you were away?
No, not really. It was a different phase in my life, where I wanted to have a home, family, husband and children, everything that I had dreamt of for myself.
I was living a dream there too and now I am living another dream here.
'I like the touch of innocence that my kids have'
Photographs: Madhuri Dixit/Twitter
Now that you are here and busy, has family taken a backseat?
No. Family is important to me, and it will always remain like that. When I plan my daily schedule, my family comes first. If there’s some event to attend in my kid’s school, I go there first and accordingly plan things for the day.
It’s just time management and every working woman goes through it.
How do your kids react when they watch you on television?
I like the touch of innocence that they have. At first they used to come running excitedly, saying mom you are on TV.
Now they take it casually.
Did you always want to marry a non-celebrity?
When I met Dr Nene, I did not think about who he was, whether a celebrity, or doctor or actor. I just liked him as a person.
We gelled and got along well and that was important.
If there is a bold scene in your film, do your children watch it?
If there is a scene in the movie that I feel my kids shouldn’t watch, I don’t take them to watch the film.
'Remo took it as a challenge and he has done a good job in the song Hamari Atariya'
Remo D’Souza has choreographed the song Hamari Atariya...
I think the choreography is very good. This is not Remo’s genre. He is completely out of his comfort zone. He is more into hip-hop, semi classical, maybe folk, but never kathak.
He took it as a challenge and he has done a good job. The way it was shot was also very nice.
You are working with Birju Maharaj in this film again, after Devdas?
Yes, for the song Jagave Saari Raina. I was asked not to lip-sync in the song so everything is just conveyed by facial expressions and who better than Maharajji to choreograph such a song?
I had fun I was like a kid in a candy store asking every minute detail.
'The heroes are always better paid than the actresses'
Photographs: Madhuri Dixit/Twitter
Bollywood is biased. Older actors like Shah Rukh, Aamir and Salman Khan romance younger actresses, but older actresses don’t get to romance younger men.
That has always been the case. Actors have always worked with the popular actress of the time.
You can’t blame anyone. They are making a film that they want to sell.
Male domination is everywhere all over the world, not only in the film industry.
I have always felt that women have to work twice as hard to prove themselves.
Are actresses better paid today than they were before?
It will always be the same. The heroes are always better paid than the actresses.
But it is so all over the world and in all industries, not just the film industry.
That’s why I said it is up to the woman to make her place and work twice as hard, and nudge a few people to make them notice her.
'I don't want to start a dance studio'
Are you going to start your dance studio after your online dance portal Dance with Madhuri?
I don’t want to do that. That’s why I started it online. I want to reach out to a wider audience, to be global.
Anyone who has an internet and PC, IPad or phone, can sit in their home anywhere and learn how to dance.
You can repeat a class any number of times, which you cannot do if you go to dance classes. And you don’t have to travel.
Will we see you singing?
I sing in Gulaab Gang. It is a very small piece, and a very popular song.