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|September 24, 2001||
There is a smile, a dazzling one at that, which occasionally brightens up the chaotic shooting studios. It belongs to Madhuri Dixit.
Film City is witness to a new avatar of the superstar -- television anchor.
Sony TV recently pulled off a coup when it signed on Madhuri to play Cupid in a reality TV show called Shubha Vivaah.
As Sony TV officials and UTV head honchos (producers of the show) bite their nails and mop their brows (who knows when the AC will conk off or the lights will play truant? They can't risk any crisis with Madame Dixit around), the lady of the moment is cooling her heels in the makeup room, awaiting her call.
Why television, you ask. A benign smile (she has a whole gamut of them), flashes, before she says, "I'm not supposed to say anything about the show now. All I can tell you is I liked the concept. That is why I am doing it."
We all know what MD is capable of. From those daring jhatkas to the sensuous numbers... from playful performances to terrific histrionics... One wonders, is there still anything left to see?
Does she still have something hidden in her vast house of talent? "That remains to be seen," she says, this time with a wait-till-you-see-me-on-TV smile.
The show goes on air in October. And we move on to speak to Madhuri about her recent performance in Lajja. If she made an appearance in Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke as a mentally imbalanced wife, failing to move the critics, she compensated for her poor show by a stupendous performance as Janaki in Lajja.
It must have been a tough task for her, considering she was pitted with two talented actresses like Rekha and Manisha Koirala. But she vowed the critics (with her fiery lines on Ram, Sita and the agnipariksha) and the audience alike (with the sizzling Badi mushkil number).
To think of it, she had almost decided to not do the film. "Yes, there was a problem with my dates. Since I was shuttling between India and the US, I wasn't too sure how I would manage to give Rajji (Rajkumar Santoshi, director of Lajja) the required dates. Rekhaji persuaded me to do the film. Anyway, I had already worked with Rajji in Pukar, I wanted to work with him again."
As calls pour in from the industry, appreciating her performance, the smile gets broader. "Janaki was an interesting role, since it was a well-rounded character. She is a fun-loving person who trusts her man completely. She makes her own decisions and stands true to her word.
"I identified with her completely. Like her, even I don't take anything lying down. If somebody gives me grief, I make sure the person knows about it."
Born into an educated family, Madhuri says she has been fortunate to have parents who have never imposed anything on their children, "There has never been any disparity between male and female in my family. If my brother was allowed to do something, so were my sisters and I. We are a family of professionals.
"My parents believe we can make right or wrong choices as human beings, not because we belong to any particular gender."
The actress who has given some memorable performances in films like Beta and Mrityudand feels Lajja has a strong social message about women: "In our society, any man who pays a woman her salary thinks he owns her. Atrocities against women happen everywhere. Sexual harassment happens at so many workplaces, when you're walking on the road, travelling in buses, trains...
"I won't comment on whether it happens in the film industry. But I will say it happens everywhere."
How does she feel about the adulation she receives from her peers? Post Lajja, Manisha Koirala raved how she found Madhuri a wonderful person and actress.
Having worked with her in Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke, Preity Zinta recently said "She is numero uno. None of us worth our work and salt can match her. She beautiful, she's also very professional."
Mahesh Manjrekar wants to work with her (which is why he will direct her in the English version of Astitva) and Sanjay Leela Bhansali had been nursing a desire to work with her ever since he made his first film Khamoshi.
A news report recently mentioned how Yash Chopra had flown to the US to sign her on for his next film... "Yashji did come to the US but not to meet me alone. He had come as part of a delegation to meet Sushma Swaraj, who was in LA.
"As for the adulation, all I can say is it feels good to have inspired somebody into doing something better. If I have inspired them to write a role or a film, it feels good."
India News Feature Service
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