BIG-SCREEN ICON DIXIT ON HER CAREER AND MAKING A RETURN WITH COMEDY TOTAL DHAMAAL
by MOHNISH SINGH
Perhaps the greatest leading lady in Bollywood history, Madhuri Dixit has been firmly entrenched in the A-list ever since her superstar making performance in 1988 blockbuster movie Tezaab.
The star of legendary films like Ram Lakhan (1989), Hum Aapke Hain Koun (1994), Dil To Pagal Hai (1997) and so many more continues to power on. She was last seen in Marathi-language film Bucket List (2018). The iconic actress continues her amazing cinematic journey of over 30 years with big-budget comedy Total Dhamaal.
The multi-starrer has an impressive cast including Ajay Devgn, Anil Kapoor, Arshad Warsi and Riteish Deshmukh. The film is directed by Indra Kumar, whom she previously worked with on huge hits such as Dil (1990), Beta (1992) and Raja (1995).
Eastern Eye caught up with the evergreen actress in a Mumbai hotel to talk about Total Dhamaal, reuniting with so many she has worked with before, dance, remixes and more.
Tell us, how is life now that you have become active in movies once again?
It’s busy because with all that, I have also produced a (Marathi) film called 15th August, which will be released by next month on Netflix. So there are multiple things going on, but I thoroughly enjoy doing everything.
Total Dhamaal looks like a reunion as you are re-teaming with some actors and crew members after so many years. How has the whole experience been?
I am working with Indra Kumar after such a long time; the last time I worked with him was in Raja (1995). And I am working again with Anil Kapoor after the 2000 movie Pukar. This will be my first project with Riteish Deshmukh. It has been since 100 Days (1991) that I last worked with Javed Jaffrey. With Arshad Warsi, I last worked with him on Dedh Ishqiya (2014) and I’m working with Ajay Devgan after Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke (2001). So it was wonderful to get together with them and they are all so entertaining that you get roped into their fun. There was a sense of comfort and entertainment on the sets when we were shooting.
How was it to work with Anil Kapoor again after Pukar? You have delivered some of the biggest hits of your career with him.
It’s wonderful to see Anil Kapoor and the way he has maintained himself, not only physically but professionally also. Even today, he works with the same devotion and energy. I had such great fun working with him on this film. When we first came to the sets after Pukar, there was this hesitation as we were working together after a long time, but as soon as we started the scene, we did not feel that so many years had passed since we last acted together.
Your comedy timing in Indra Kumar’s films has always been appreciated. Do you believe he is a director who brings out the best in you, in terms of comedy?
The comedy in Total Dhamaal is over the top and working with Induji in a comic film is very fun. He has a strong sense of comedy and his dramatic flair is strong as well. So, because of that, whenever I work with him, it is very entertaining. Also, the movie has fantastic actors. It’s very difficult to make people laugh and when you do that, there is a sense of accomplishment.
Total Dhamaal has two remix songs. What is your take on recreation of old, classic songs?
Well, remixes are in trend. We cannot do much about that. But what I liked about the remixed version of Paisa Yeh Paisa was that the sweetness of the song was retained, not lost. The original lines were intact and the story of the film is also lyrically added. Each character’s attitude towards money is represented in the song as this film is all about money.
You have been working in Bollywood since 1984 and are considered one of the finest actresses of all times. How, according to you, has the industry changed over the years?
Earlier, the process of filmmaking was a bit undisciplined, except for a few big production houses like Yash Raj Films, Mukta Arts, Rajshri Productions and Rakesh Roshan’s FilmKraft Productions. They actually worked as production houses, but others were not as disciplined. Sometimes films were started and they never took off. There were times we were shooting on the sets and suddenly we would come to know that dialogues were not ready, so we would wait for dialogues to be written and we could start with the scene. Today, everything is disciplined. There is a proper budget for everything. Scripts are written in advance. Everything is ready before we go to shoot. So comparatively, it’s easier for artists today.
You are one of the actresses who has hardly repeated roles in her storied career. How do you keep your roles so diverse?
Well, that depends on the choice you make as an actor and what kind of films you want to do. Like, in Total Dhamaal, where I’m the only female character, but there are so many parts in the film that the narrative has to be such that it brings perspective to each and every role. Induji has done that wonderfully and that is what brings dhamaal in the film.
No matter who stars opposite you in a film, your chemistry with every actor is just perfect. What do you think is the reason?
I don’t know how to answer this question. I think writing plays a vital role in this. How the role is written, how it is filmed and how it has been performed, if all these are done together beautifully, then you can create chemistry.
What changes have you observed in yourself as a performer over the years?
I don’t know. Audiences are better placed to answer that. It’s difficult to answer that myself though, maybe with life experience, the maturity that comes is seen when you are performing.
Before venturing into films, you used to perform on stage. Was it difficult for you to adapt to Bollywood dance when you joined the industry?
I started learning dance since I was three years old. I started with kathak, which I continued till I was eight or nine years. When I came to films, I continued dancing here as well. At the beginning of my career, I felt I wasn’t giving my best because on stage you have to make a connection with your audience; in Bollywood, there is no audience, but a camera. It took me some time to understand the difference. So, when I was filming Tezaab and the song Ek Do Teen was going to be picturised, Sarojji (Khan) advised me to take extra rehearsals and I obviously agreed, and during those rehearsals, I learned what Bollywood dancing is. Then when the song was filmed, I learned more on the set. When the song came out, it became an instant hit. That’s how I learned Bollywood dancing, slowly and steadily.
Which actress from this generation do you find to be a good dancer too?
I think in dance, a lot of factors are important. The camera is important and its placement along with the kind of shots taken matters. Having said that, a lot depends on the director also as he or she is the one who is filming it. And when all of this is beautifully put together, you have an iconic dance number. I think Katrina Kaif works hard on her dance numbers. I saw a few video rehearsals of hers where she has done some difficult moves. Then there is Sonakshi Sinha, who gives great expressions. Deepika Padukone dances very gracefully and beautifully. Then Alia Bhatt also will surprise you. Priyanka Chopra, too, dances really well.
Finally, what advice would you like to give to all the working women out there?
I think balance is very important in everybody’s life. People say that along with my career, I also take good care of my home, but the reality is that I have a lot of help in the house. There are people who assist us with our housework. But other housewives, who are also working women, do not have the privilege of help. So I would just say that their family should support them always. A working woman is expected to work hard in her home too. So, a little help in the house from family members is very important.
Total Dhamaal is in cinemas now.