The curtains came down on the dance reality show, Jhalak Dikhhlaa Jaa 4, with Meiyang Chang and his choreographer, Marischa waltzing off with the Rs 50 lakh cash prize. Star judge Madhuri Dixit performed a hip-hop act before flying back to Denver to her babies, Arin and Rayan.
There was ‘Que sera sera…’ reloaded. I remembered Madhuri telling me years ago how nervous she’d been about matching steps with ‘desi’ Jackson, Prabhu Deva, for the Pukar track. Those days, a viral infection was running riot in Mumbai. The fever laid the ‘Mumbai chi mulgi’ low too. The shoot had to be cancelled as her temperature shot up.
It was eventually picturised in Hyderabad, in sweltering May, and after every shot, all the dancers had to wipe themselves dry. “Paseena chuta diya tha yeh dance ne (This dance really made me sweat),” Madhuri laughed.
She has several other charttoppers in her kitty, including the provocative ‘Dhak dhak karne laga…’ (Beta), the controversial ‘Choli ke peechey kya hai…?’ (Khalnayak), the playful ‘Didi tera dewar deewana…’ (Hum Aapke Hain Kaun), the lovey-dovey ‘Ankhiyan milaun…’ (Raja), the groovy ‘Tamma Tamma….’ (Thanedar) and the folksy ‘Channe ke khet mein…’ (Anjaam) to name a few. But the song that made Madhuri Bollywood’s No 1 dancing star is undoubtedly ‘Ek do teen…’ that was part of her package in the opening episode of Jhalak Dikhhhlaa Jaa.
The Tezaab track paralleled Albela’s ‘Sham dhale khidki thale tum seeti bajana chod do…’ in the mass frenzy it sparked off across the country. Interestingly, the cabaret-like item song performed on a public stage before a crowd of a 1000, was inspired by a Maharashtrian folk song. The idea struck composers, Laxmikant-Pyarelal during Ganpati visarjan (immersion). “It was Laxmi’s (Lakshimkant) brainwave to blend a folk tune with modern orchestra,” Pyarelalji told me during a leisurely conversation. The tune was set first and as Laximikant was playing it on the harmonium for Javed Akhtar to come up with the appropriate words, the music director kept repeating ‘Ek do teen char paanch che saath aath da da da…’ so Javed saab would get the beat right. In a moment of epiphany, the wordsmith suggested that they start the ‘mukhda’ with numbers too, and from ‘terah’ go, ‘Tera karoon din gin gin ke intezaar, aaja piya aayee bahaar…’, moving to the calendar months.
Laxmikant-Pyarelal loved the number game. So did director N Chandra and ‘hero’ Anil Kapoor. Only Madhuri found the lyrics funny and the steps choreographer Saroj Khan gave her somewhat awkward. She’d trained in classical Kathak and when doing a song in Uttar Dakshin, found the ‘filmi’ moves so unacceptable that her limbs wouldn’t move.
Her director worried about whether she’d be able to carry off ‘Ek do teen…’ while jumping in and out of numerous costume changes. Sarojji assured Chandraji that she would, and put Madhuri through rigorous rehearsals.
D-day dawned and with it the rattling realisation that the expensive set put up at Mehboob Studio had to be dismantled the next day. This meant that they’d have to shoot non-stop for 24 hours. “We did, from 10 am to 10 am, and with ‘Ek do teen…’ I finally overcame my resistance to filmi dances,” Madhuri confessed.
Tezaab released on November 11, 1988. It was a blockbuster and ‘Ek do teen…’ a chartbuster. A male version of the song was filmed on Anil Kapor, with ‘piya’ become ‘sanam’. It was a hit too, particularly with the roadside Romeos, but it’s Mohini’s ‘Aaja aaja’ call that we remember today, 23 years later. It’s the song we still use to welcome her home!