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Interview By: ANKITA R. KANABAR

Those who grew up in the 90s have always found themselves in awe of her charm and that effortless grace continues to be through these years – even as you meet Madhuri Dixit today. The actress who’s seen teaming up with Indra Kumar and Anil Kapoor yet again in ‘Total Dhamaal’ – gets chatting with us about the film, also as we wax nostalgia about her films. Excerpts:

How was it working with Indra Kumar again?
It’s always great to work with Indu ji, we have a very good track record with ‘Dil’, ‘Beta’, ‘Raja’ and all were hit films. And this time when he narrated the script to me, I was excited because he’s a wonderful director and a wonderful person. And we have so many memories about our shoots. He is a very able director. I love his sense of comedy, and also love his sense of drama, the way he handles dramatic scenes. He’s someone who is equipped with both, he’s talented. So, to work with him, in this genre of a film was fantastic!

It took again five years for you to be seen in a Hindi film, why is that?
Actually, there are many other things I’ve concentrated on. I just produced a film called ’15 August’, which is going to release on Netflix at the end of March. Then I also did a season of ‘Dance Deewane’. I was busy with the kids also, they need my attention. There are other things I was doing – then some scripts came, some I like, some I didn’t like. But when Indu ji came to me, it was special. I couldn’t say no, because Indu ji is directing a comedy, there’s Anil in it. There’s Ajay who I’m working with also, after ‘Yeh Raaste Hai Pyaar Ke’, there’s Javed Jaafri who I am working with after ‘100 days’ and Arshad Warsi after ‘Dedh Ishqiya’, also Johnny Lever who I’ve worked with, in so many films. I thought it would be a fun, happy set to be on.

What is it that you take back from the films you’ve done with Indra Kumar?
The way he portrayed women in his films, was great. Women had an important role in his films, even though they were commercial. Like in ‘Beta’, ‘Dil’ or even ‘Raja’ – there’s a lot that women had to do in his movies. It’s not just being an eye-candy. There used to be dramatic scenes, funny scenes, emotional scenes – so he would give us a gamut of scenes to play with. That’s something I’ve loved about working with him.

While today we think about the 100crore club and the way films did at the box-office, your films have an unparalleled recall value irrespective of the money they made. Do you think, that element is somewhere missing in cinema today?
It’s wonderful when people say they still love my films but even today, they are making good films. We need blockbusters in the industry, so that we can make more films. We have seen some very good films on a large scale and then some great films on a small scale – like ‘Badhaai ho’ and ‘Andhadhun’ being recent examples. So, we are seeing a lot of different subjects, stories and different roles for women. I think this is the best phase for women to be in cinema because they are being given different kinds of films.

Having said that, was it difficult for you to a film like ‘Mrutyudand’ or ‘Gaj Gamini’ when women-centric films weren’t that popular?
A lot of people gave me big lectures when I was doing ‘Mrutyudand’ saying you’re a commercial star, you can’t do an art film like this. I said, if I don’t do an art film or a different genre, then how will I experience that? Because I want to do it. It was a great role and I thought it was a great chance for me to do something different. It’s a different style of acting – you know when you are in an art film and you know when you’re in a commercial film. So it really helps to give you a new experience and build a certain repertoire for you. If that happens, it creates a new path for other people also to follow. Now the line is blurring between commercial and art cinema, but there are still two different kinds of films being made – one where the budgets are big, everything is larger-than-life. And then there are these small films being made – which have every-day life kind of situations and are made with that real element. Both the genres are doing well.

“I am game for any kind of role which puts me in a different light and makes me think”

For years, many actresses were also dancing stars (you being in this list) and songs were specially paid attention to, made for them, and choreographed with such detailing as well. Is that element missing now?
Earlier films used to be larger-than-life and there used to be dance sequences because everyone expected that. But now when you suddenly go to a different genre – like say, ‘Andhadhun’. Where would you put a song in the movie? It would seem so out of the blue if suddenly a song came and Tabu starts dancing. So, it depends on what your script is, what you’re intending to show. In ‘Total Dhamaal’, you know you can expect ‘Dhamaal’ – there would be dancing, songs, spectacular scenes.

Though, you think we should somewhere also retain our quintessential Hindi cinema song-dance element?
Nobody is ever always happy I believe. When you had song-dance in cinema, people used to be like, ‘oh Madhuri has to dance in every film!’ Now when you don’t do it, people are like, ‘ek toh dance hona chahiye (laughs). So, I think, people are never happy. So, maybe we can make films where dance can be incorporated. If you make films which are more true to life, where would you add a song in it?

Would you like to re-visit a grey-shade character? Like what you did in ‘Pukar’ was also revolutionary at that point?
Absolutely. I am game for any kind of role which puts me in a different light and makes me think.

How much do you think comedy has changed over the years? Interestingly, your comic side has always been displayed as a lead heroine, which has been rare in Hindi cinema…
Yes, ‘Khel’, ‘Kishan Kanhaiyya’, ‘Raja’ – there were many films where I got to do comedy. Today, there are these big franchises like ‘Golmaal’, ‘Dhamaal’, Anees Bazmee’s films which have a different tone of comedy. And then there are movies which have subtle humour – ‘Dedh Isqiya’ had a great subtle humour, then ‘Badhaai Ho’. So, there are all kinds of comedies even today.

You started off with smaller films like ‘Abodh’, ‘Swati’ amongst others which got unnoticed initially, before rising to fame. How do you really see this sort of a successful journey?
When I was doing these small roles, I wasn’t even aware that these are small roles because I didn’t know how the industry works. And I was going back to my studies and on the side I was doing small roles. But I was always inclined towards performing arts so eventually, that’s what I chose. I think a bit of luck also plays a big role – so opportunities also came. ‘Ram-Lakhan’ happened, ‘Tezaab’ happened and things changed.

Having said that, do you think some of your films might have worked better today?
‘Mrityudand’, yes, it would have worked today. Because it’s still relevant in today’s times, and it was extremely different in those times. I think ‘Gaj Gamini’ is a very artistic film and it’s made by a painter so you need to understand that he thinks in a different way – the shots are different. That’s more like a festival film but for a common man to understand that kind of cinema – we still have few years for that.

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