Madhuri Dixit: "Visiting Kolkata has always been special for me!"
ver since she stepped into the film industry, she’s been the undisputed Dancing Diva. Luring people with her mystic charm and enticing all with her million dollar smile, Madhuri Dixit is a legend who has always found a place in all our lives. With a successful critical film like Dedh Ishqiya behind her, Madhuri hopes to repeat box office success with her next, as she strolled down the city and painted it all gulaabi.
Raising a toast to womanhood and women empowerment, Tollywood Dhamaka caught up with the dancing diva for a chirpy chat!
Kolkata has always been an integral part of your life, right from your first film ‘Abodh’. Tell us something about your bong connection.
Well, Kolkata is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to. There is this charm of the city which attracts you towards it. I haven’t been to Kolkata in almost over twenty years, and now that I am here for my film, I would also say, like you pointed out, I have a lot of Bong connection. My first co-star was a Bengali, Mr. Tapas Pal. I debuted with him in Abodh and then I also went on to do a film called 100 days which was directed by a Bengali again, Partho Ghosh and he kind of taught me a lot of Bengali words that you guys regularly use. Of course Kamon achho and ami tomader bhalobashi is known to all, but he would teach me other things as well. So yes, Kolkata has always been an integral part of my life.
There was a time in Bollywood when films were usually made for male characters. However now there has come a change in the industry where films are being written down for strong women characters as well. What is your take on this change that is taking place in the industry?
First of all I won’t agree that women were always arm candy. There were also films made from the beginning like Mother India, Saheb Biwi Aur Gulaam or Bandini which had everything to do with heroines. I think there was a time when it changed a little bit but in my time I feel I was a little fortunate that I got to do different roles within the commercial format, like films such as a Beta or a Dil or a Fiza which were written down for powerful women. But today I think times have changed in the sense that when I see cinema I remember I had never seen assistant directors as women and today there are so many assistant directors who are women. I have never seen a woman handling a film camera and today I see that. Lot of women are writing scripts and directing movies. So I think the women have not only been relegated to those jobs which were considered to be women jobs such as a hair dresser or an actress. I think these were the only two jobs where you could see women on the sets. But today we see a lot of them and that is what is heartening and of course new directors like Soumik who writes films for women, who have that respect in a different way of looking at women and we are fortunate to have such directors to write scripts for us and I think it is a great time for women and films in general.
After you left post your marriage, you came back with a film called Aaja Nachle and then again you went and you again came back and then you did a film called Dedh Ishqiya which did really well and now you have done a film called Gulaab Gang. So you have been playing string women characters. Is it a conscious decision on your part to play such roles now?
It is an unconscious decision because those are the kind of roles I like playing but I am a baby of commercial film. I had done a film called Raja which was a like a completely mad comedy and I am not averse to that. If I am offered a film like that and I if I like the script, then of course I will be open to do that and would like to do completely off the roof kind of comedy.
You are an icon in the Bollywood Industry. Can you shed us some light about your experience of working with Soumik Sen?
It was wonderful working with him. First of all, the script was wonderfully written. I never imagined a movie with both the good and the evil roles, both being played by women and I think that is wonderful about this film. Of course it is so relevant in today’s time because if you look around you would see what is happening in Delhi or Mumbai about women’s safety. There are so many issues that have come to light about how women are treated in the society and I thought this was the right time for a film like this to be made because it talks about women empowerment and it talks about educating women and all of this have been written by a man and I think that is wonderful. I am very optimistic that there will be a time that the way a man looks at women will change because it is already happening.
Before this you have tried to make women self-dependent in the film Lajja. What is different in this film?
I was a victim in the film Lajja and there that character stands up and decides not to be a victim anymore. But in this film she is already empowered. She is Rajjo who helps other women. She is a crusader for other women. She is not a victim. She is helping them to give them voice. She is helping them to become independent and to become educated. She is helping not just women but all the injustices in society in general. I think it is much ahead than all those roles that I have played. Of course when it is required, she won’t even hesitate to lift a lathi and literally fight for rights.
What did you have to go through in order to become Rajjo in this film?
Well I hadn’t have to work very hard towards it because there are lot of things you read about, and there are a lot of stories you hear and I think everybody feels that anger because of what is happening in the society. All I had to do is just direct that anger and channelize it and say Ok this is what Rajjo stands for, this is what should happen in the country and this is what I want to see happening with the women here. I just channelize my energies and Rajjo is born because a lot of her beliefs are my beliefs. So it was pretty easy. But I think the most difficult thing was the actual hand to hand combat or the actual action sequences which we worked on. Fortunately for me I had learnt Taiquando when I was in Denver with my kids. And that came as a help for me because I had that experience. Then there was Tanish who came on the sets. He is a Shaolin trained master and he trains commandos. So he came in and showed us hand to hand combat, how weapons are used and how lathis are used. There was also a fight master on the set who was the choreographer and he choreographed the fights. I think we really worked hard at it and I think we did a good job.
You and Juhi Chawla were previously strong competitors in the industry. How was the experience sharing the screen space with her?
I would not say we were competitors. We were contemporaries. It was wonderful working with it because finally we both got a film which was worthwhile. I had something different to do in the film and she had something different to do and we had a great time.
Do you think after watching this film, girls should be taught self-defence? What would be your message to all the girls?
Absolutely! Girls should be taught self-defence right from when they are in school. I feel all schools should have that. They should also have fire drills. They should be made aware of what to do when they have to face certain unforeseen circumstances. We never have these kinds of things in school. We are never taught what to do when a fire breaks out or when a stranger grabs you. I think schools should try and incorporate these in their curriculum. It is very important that a woman knows self-defence not because she can fight 5 men at the same time, but because she can do those little things that can give her those precious 40 seconds, or 1 minute when she can run somewhere and try to get help. She should know what she should be doing in that situation. We are not taught that. We just panic and we just lose our cool. So I feel we should be taught all that.
Pictures by: Akash Goswami