Today, Madhuri Dixit Nene turns 44. Her last tweet on May 3 read, “Enjoying spring in the Rockies.” I still find it hard to believe that ‘aamchi mulgi’ is now an NRI Mrs in the US. For me she will always remain the Bollywood diva who remained untouched by superstardom. Away from the studio lights, she was maddeningly sane, at times boringly staid. Which is perhaps why it was easy for her to slip into the role of Dr Sriram Nene’s domesticated wife and a doting mamma to Arin and Ryan. Every year, she makes flying visits to B-town, sparks off talks of a ‘comeback’ with a ‘jhalak’ at an award function, in a commercial, on a TV show or in a movie. Then, just when everyone is getting set to serenade her on screen, she flits away, with the promise, “I’ll be back.”
“I’ll be back…” I remember she said these words to me even in 2002 on the day she was flying back to Denver. She was in Mumbai to promote a range of beauty products and had pushed back a dubbing session by an hour to rush through our interview. She was pregnant with her first child and blooming. I wondered aloud how often she looked into the mirror. “Not too many times, usually only when I’m putting on make-up,” she admitted. And how many times had the mirror answered back, “Madhuri is the fairest of them all.” The smile turned into a laugh, “Lots of times. And the more times I’m told that, the better it is for the brand I’m endorsing.”
There were no sighs as the time for goodbye drew near. Mrs Nene appeared blissfully content being the woman-next-door. As her Ram’s Sita, she had learnt to climb mountains, sail and scuba dive in the oceans. And now, she was looking forward to listening to music, catching up on books and movies and weaving dreams around her baby. “I’m going to relax, take it easy, that’s what the doctor ordered,” she chuckled, sure that her child would grow up in America. “That’s where the father is… where his work is.”
And what about her work? Was it adieu to the movies? “I’m just taking a break, I’ll be back,” was her reassuring retort, even as she revelled in all the attention Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas and her performance was getting.
Chandramukhi was silent and soft-spoken. Yet, when she confronted Kalibabu, Parvati’s son-in-law, she was all fire. “The fire and ice in her personality made that the most demanding role I’ve played so far,” she admitted, saying that her ‘Maar dala..’ had knocked her husband over. Madhuri’s own favourite was ‘Dola re…’. Her ‘jugalbandi’ with Aishwarya Rai that brought Chandramukhi and Parvati together in a marked departure from Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novel. The classicists were up in arms, but Madhuri reasoned that the twist was justified because inevitably, one wondered what it would be like if the two women in Devdas’s life ever came face-to-face. “Well, in our movie they do meet like Meera and Radha who despite their different backgrounds, dance together during Durga puja and talk of the same Krishna.”
As a judge on the last season of Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, we saw Madhuri swinging to many of her chartbusters. But we would like to see a little more on the big screen. May be she’s saving that for when she gets back for good. I remember when Waheeda Rehman had suddenly started dancing to her Guide song, ‘Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai…’ during a parody sequence in Lamhe, the whole theatre had burst into spontaneous applause. I hope we don’t have to wait 25 years to see Madhuri go ‘Dola re..’ again.
PS: Waheedaji turned 75 yesterday!