Comeback Queen: Madhuri Dixit

Ek, do, teen, char…. That’s how long the Hindi-speaking audience hasn’t seen Madhuri Dixit Nene on the big screen. “Yeah, my last release was Gulaab Gang,” she says with both a smile and a shrug. And for those fans Christmas is coming way early! The actress has two releases in quick succession. There’s Indra Kumar’s zany comedy Total Dhamaal that has Madhuri reuniting with Anil Kapoor. The franchise film also stars Ajay Devgn, Riteish Deshmukh and Arshad Warsi. Come April and we’ll see Madhuri in Abhishek Varman’s period drama Kalank, along with Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt. If this is not enough, she’s produced a Marathi film for Netflix that will launch this year and there’s a pop album in the works.

The Telegraph recently met the actress, while she was promoting her first release Total Dhamaal at the Sun-n-Sand Hotel in Juhu, Mumbai. We chatted with the stunning actress about working with Anil Kapoor again, the pop album and stepping into Sridevi’s shoes.

Was this mini-break from Hindi films a conscious decision?

Well, it kind of just happened. I also wanted to produce my own film, a Marathi film that we were working on. I have a website and an app, Dance with Madhuri, that we were also working on during the time, and I did one season of Dance Deewane too. Then I came across Induji’s (director Indra Kumar) film, Total Dhamaal, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to let my hair down and do an over-the-top kind of comedy; a total potboiler, commercial Hindi film with dances and songs and the works. It’s very funny and is a family film that will appeal to kids and grandmas and grandpas as well. Also, it’s me and Anilji after a long time, me and Induji after a long time.

What was it like to shoot with Anil again after more than two decades?

We started with a song for this movie. It was great to be on the set, wearing these lovely clothes and all of us looking dapper and belting out this number, Paisa Yeh Paisa. The first actual scene we did was in a car, where we’re traveling and there’s this whole relationship between us. He’s playing a Gujarati guy and I’m a Maharashtrian girl, at loggerheads with each other. Till now, people have only seen us in lovey-dovey, pining-for-each-other kind of roles, but here we’re just giving it to each other in every scene. I thought that was also very nice, and it just brings out the funniness.

Has he changed from the co-star that you knew at that point?

Everybody changes a little, because you have to change with the times. Suddenly, he’s so Net-savvy and everything, but he’s the same guy I knew so many years back. And I don’t think I’ve changed much either, I’m the same person. So it was lovely and it was as if those years had not passed at all. We just picked up where we left off. Even with Induji, that was the equation. I’ve done three films with him, and we had a great rapport as an artiste with a director. When we came on set, we picked it up right there.

You’ve done substantial work with both Anil and Induji. What would you pick as a favourite from both those sets?

All three films with Induji have been fab, like Dil, Beta and Raja — nobody could have asked for anything better. But I think I enjoyed doing Beta the most, not just because of Anil but also for the scenes I did with Aruna Irani. The dramatic scenes were fabulous in the film. And then, I enjoyed Raja because it gave me a chance to do over-the-top comic kind of scenes. I felt very liberated when I was doing that, because there was nothing I had to be while I was playing that character. I just had to go all out and lay it there. This film brought back those memories.

You’re doing comedy after quite a while. Does it require a different acting muscle to be this OTT?

(Laughs) It does require you to be in a different zone, and it’s important for what you’re saying to be well-written, so that it has the punch. Of course, how you approach it is important. Those two things go hand in hand for a good comic film to succeed. Of course, this is not a subtle comedy — it’s in your face, so it was a lot of fun to be that liberated. In real life, I’m calm and cool but this gives me a chance to be something totally different.

A lot of actresses today maintain that this is possibly the best time for actresses in the industry, in terms of stories. Do you agree?

Yes, I believe that too. Even when I did Dedh Ishqiya and Gulaab Gang, I thought of that. In Gulaab Gang I got to do all my stunts myself and it was very liberating to let that anger go, it was great. And then when I did Bucket List, it was a very nuanced and subdued performance, that of a middle class Maharashtrian lady. Now there’s this one which is completely crazy, and then with Kalank, it’s a different note altogether.

Your next release is Kalank. You step into the movie because of Sridevi’s untimely demise. Did you have a lot of time to prepare?

I was doing Total Dhamaal when the unfortunate incident happened and we were all shocked. We didn’t know what hit us and it’s still unbelievable, when I think back I still can’t believe it’s true. And I just thought life is so short, you don’t know what will happen tomorrow. All you can do is make sure you tell your kids and your husband that you love them, and keep them close. We were going through all that when I had to step into the role. For me, as a person, it took a little more getting used to but as an actress, you just read the role and just slip into it. It was a little more immediate than I would have liked, and I was also shooting for Total Dhamaal which is so different. Suddenly, I had to make the shift to a different era and time with more serious dialogues. But yeah, it was wonderful working on that movie as well.

I believe you’re recording an album as well….

Yes, I have to work on it now, and release it, picturise the songs and stuff like that. People know I sing, and I do sing but this album is different because it’s in English. That’s how I grew up, went to a convent school and spoke English, and enjoyed English music. It’s a bouquet of different genres, but in the pop kind of realm, and yet different.

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