Interview - Ram doesn’t control my career: Madhuri

By HT

Madhuri Dixit is the second actor in Hindi cinema after Amitabh Bachchan to have skillfully resurrected her slipping career. And just as the Big B, she has also been given a warm welcome back by people around. Post marriage with US-based doctor Shriram Nene in 1999, Madhuri stayed away from the greasepaint, arc lights and cameras, but a Yash Raj film Aaja Nachle (2007) lured her back from the picturesque Denver, USA to the gritty Mumbai studios and almost nailed her chances of a career revival.

But Mads proved stronger than her unfavourable circumstances. She rose from the ashes, shrugged off the ‘has-been’ dust and bounced back with renewed energy. TV has given her the centre stage with Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa and in movies, Karan Johar breathed a new life into her career with the hit ‘Ghagra’ number that’s currently topping the charts. Her chemistry with a younger co-star Ranbir Kapoor (in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’s ‘Ghagra’ song) is another proof. Tell her that and she launches her famous smile. There are endorsements deals and more movies to talk about. But what she is most excited about is her new venture online that promotes dance — the reason for Madhuri’s being. We meet her at Filmistan Studio to wrap up this long pending big interview.

Let’s start with your new song ‘Ghagra’ in Karan Johar’s film. The chemistry between Ranbir and you was incredibly palpable. How did you manage that?
Ranbir’s fabulous expressions lend an additional value to anything he does. In this case, it added a good proportion of ‘mirchi’ (hot quotient) to the song. He has got very infectious energy. It was like a ched-chaad (playful teasing) between Ranbir and me. Also I guess the fact that we enjoyed each moment of the dance and were pretty comfortable with each other, made a difference to the song. And then there was Karan (Johar), Farah (Khan), Ayan (Mukerji) and the whole team.

What if you were offered to do a movie whose script revolved around an older woman and a younger man? Would you do it?
I can’t say now. I have to listen to the script. It depends on how it is treated. Everything depends on the treatment.

Is it true that Ram has full control over your career now?
No, he doesn’t. My movie career is far from Ram and my production house RnM. That’s my area of expertise and the decisions are made by me. His management is restricted within our production house. Dance With Madhuri is our big project together and this is where Ram takes care of the technology and I take care of the artistic side. I go to our office for a few hours as all decisions are made there. But he is my husband and I discuss everything about my life with him.

Actress Madhuri Dixit
Do you find Ranbir charming, naughty or shy?
He is all this and much more. He can be very charming and I heard that he is naughty on the sets. But I felt that he was very shy. When I was on the sets I didn’t hear a sound from him. He was always in the background, either watching the shots or rehearsing the dance.

You’ve been looking younger and stunning of late. What’s your secret?
I’m suddenly dancing a lot. My new endeavour, Dance With Madhuri, requires me to wear my dancing shoes almost every day. I’ve started doing my Kathak and I rehearse every day. Also, I’m eating right and keeping in shape. I’m a non-smoker and non-drinker and essentially a happy person. That’s what counts the most. Your well-being is reflected in your personality.

'There’s a great amount of professional growth in this city for Ram and me'

Now that you’ve permanently moved to Mumbai from Denver which according to you provides a more quality life?
They are two different kind of lives, so a comparison would be unfair, but I would say there is thrill here and serenity
out there. Mumbai is like Manhattan. There’s a certain pace, a social life and the thrill of a professional life. Given our background, there’s a great amount of professional growth in this city for both Ram and me. We have our roots in India, in this city and an infrastructure in place to kick-start something in a big way. So naturally I see much more opportunity here than in Denver. In Denver, I was a homebody, and that’s a life I’d chosen with great happiness.

I wanted that break from the arch lights and focus on building a lovely home, have some fun, look after my kids and do things that I had missed out on while pursuing my dream. But I miss Denver, especially the mountains, the cool air and the sprawling space.

Like what?
Out there I had enrolled myself into a guitar class, I learnt driving and cooking, and I would go shopping to the neighbourhood vegetable market. We built a gourmet kitchen in our house in Denver. And I even had the time to indulge in small talk with my neighbours. At hindsight, it was so much fun! I guess life offers you opportunities to live your dream. We just have to accept what comes our way and live those moments completely. You will not get back this time again, so live every moment you get.

You must have seen Ranbir Kapoor as a teenager?
I don’t know how old or young he was then! I have a great amount of respect and admiration for him as an actor. He is such a fine actor! To have stepped out of the shadows of his famous parents (Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh) who are fabulous actors themselves, and create his own identity so early in life truly is commendable. He is very professional and inspiring for his co-stars and directors. Having actors like him encourages filmmakers to make different kind of cinema. He is a fearless actor in every sense.
Actress Madhuri Dixit with husband Sri Ram Nene

Who is your personal favourite amongst the young actors today?
It’ll be very unfair to comment on that as I haven’t seen everyone’s work. I have seen most of Ranbir’s work, like Rockstar (2011), Wake Up Sid (2009), Rocket Singh (2009) and Barfi! (2012). I have seen Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor’s work in Jab We Met (2007) and they were fabulous. So were Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra in Ishaqzaade (2012). I’m yet to see Varun Dhawan or Siddhart Malhotra’s acting and I don’t know what their capacity is.

So what are your plans now?
I have a long and exciting road ahead. Right now, I am busy with my upcoming film Gulab Gang’s post production work, and in a few more days my next film Dedh Ishqiya will be complete. I’m shooting for Jhalak every day and I’ve signed few more new endorsements. And of course, there is my new undertaking — my passion project — an online dance academy website which enables you to be a dancer. You can learn from the video uploaded on the website, shoot yourself dancing and then put up the video on the website too.

We didn’t know you were interested in the tech world.
Actually my husband (Ram) had his own software company before he did medicine, so he has experience in this field. I am a very passionate dancer. So we clubbed our expertise and decided that the digital space would be the best place. I want to take this art form to every house. This is my way of giving something back to my fans.

So finally you’ve realised your dream?
I’ve just embarked on it. I can only say, Inshallah! I want my website to be like Wikipedia. I’ll try and teach every form of dance. Be it freestyle, salsa, hip hop, Bollywood dance or Indian classical — you name it and it’s all going to be available under one umbrella. I’m getting Mahagurus, the best in their field of dance, to teach online. I recently had Pt. Birju Maharaj share his dancing experiences online.

No monetising plan?
At some point we would get into the revenue generating mode, though we haven’t fleshed out how and when. Even if we do, it’ll be
affordable. And whatever is earned from it, a part of it will go back into the project, while the rest will go to charity. Right now, I am treating it as a passion and trying to reach out to as many as people I can.

Is this also another step towards film production?
There’re bigger plans, but right now we’re on the digital platform and want to expand. I believe all the screens, be it digital or TV, are going to be one soon. And with 4G coming in, digital is clearly the future. About producing a film, we would love to do that at some point. When we hear some good script, we will get some good actors together.

Will you remain an actor forever?
Right now, I don’t see myself giving up acting as this is an interesting time in cinema. Hindi cinema is celebrating actors of all age groups and giving opportunities to explore their talent in full splendour. However, it’s interesting to see that I’m enacting diverse roles and exploring many dimensions of my professional life. I’m an actor and a judge, and I am teaching dance, so in a sense I am a Guru to my pupils and there is other stuff. It’s an exciting time for me. So, yes, I don’t see myself as an uni-dimensional professional.

Give us a sneak peek into Gulab Gang and Dedh Ishqiya.
I play a strong woman in Gulab Gang. The movie is about women empowerment and women education. Basically, it’s about a group of vigilantes who solve problems existing in society which are not particularly pertaining to women. Whereas in Dedh Ishqiya, my role is very vulnerable, of a very soft and different kind of a woman.

You said you have no problem doing intimate scenes in movies?
Oh, that was said in the context to Dedh Ishqiya. You’ll have to watch the movie to understand what I meant when I said it. Having said this, I don’t mind doing romantic scenes provided the treatment is aesthetic. And everything would depend on what the subject is and the sensibilities of the director. If I feel squeamish about doing a romantic scene, I’ll not do it.

Your co-stars like Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn and Aamir Khan are ruling Bollywood today, whereas their female counterparts aren’t as prominent as them.
It’s great to see them up there. All of them have worked hard. I still remember when I was working with Akshay, he wasn’t that big, but was getting there. And all of sudden he has come up. He deserves the success. Look at the phenomenal rise of Salman. He deserves every bit, especially because he never bothered about slots and positions in spite of working very hard. That’s the best part about him. People ask me if I want to work with these co-stars. Why wouldn’t I if a suitable role comes my way?

Do you want to share your diet plan with our readers?
Sure. I have five small meals throughout the day. My morning starts with a small breakfast that consists of oatmeal or three egg whites and toast, followed by tea. I’m a tea drinker and I need minimum two cups a day. And then I have a mid-meal
comprising nuts or curd with half a fruit. Lunch is usually a piece of chicken, some vegetables and carbs (I prefer roti to rice and bajre ki roti is my choice). A little amount of carb is necessary during the day as we’re involved in physical activity. In the evening, I have an egg-white and a cup of tea or some form of protein. I have an early dinner which is by 7.30 pm and it includes a bowl of salad, grilled fish or chicken and vegetables.

I want to act with

Salman Khan
In a nice commercial potboiler, something like Hum Aapke Hai Kaun part 2.

Shah Rukh Khan
In a nice romantic film, with a perfect romantic setup and beautiful music.

Akshay Kumar
In a good action thriller or maybe a spy film.

Aamir Khan
In a nice social drama, based on relationships. In short, in a meaningful and popular film.

Ranbir Kapoor
In a crime thriller! There has to be some unspoken electricity between us, more on the lines of partners- in-crime where one is constantly trying to outdo the other. It’ll be good fun.

madhuriramnene.jpg