Madhuri Dixit Nene
Madhuri Dixit Nene Image Credit: Supplied

Ask fans of Madhuri Dixit-Nene what could be the reasons behind her stupendous success in a career spanning over three decades, and they are very likely to list not just her talent but also her dedication, drive and discipline. But the Bollywood star suggests there could be another factor: setting goals. ‘There is no mantra for success,’ she says, in an exclusive interview with Friday. ‘But one should always have some goals in life. That combined with discipline is what will help you reach your goals.’

Madhuri clearly has her eyes fixed on her goals even as she puts her heart and soul into her work.

The Mumbai-born actor and the star of blockbuster hits such as Tezaab, Beta, Saajan, Khalnayak, Hum Aapke Hain Koun, Dil To Pagal Hai, Devdas to name a few, has also managed to stay relevant and continues to rule hearts decades after she made her Bollywood debut with Abodh in 1984.

Taking over from Sridevi as the numero uno heroine of Bollywood, following the thumping success of Beta in 1992, Madhuri ruled Hindi filmdom for the rest of the decade wearing her mantle of superstar with grace and elan. ‘Some people have this dream of becoming an actor but I didn’t have any,’ she says, recalling her early days in the industry. ‘I learnt dance and would give a lot of performances on stage while in school.’

She was keen to complete her post-graduation and work – ‘I was doing microbiology for my undergraduation’ – when she received an offer to act in 
Abodh. ‘But after my debut film I was hooked to cinema. I felt becoming an actor is my life, my destiny,’ she says, flashing her dazzling smile.

After a successful run starring in numerous blockbuster movies, she got married in 1999 and moved with her husband to the US. Two children later, the call of Bollywood was too hard to ignore.

Returning to India in 2011 after spending a decade away from Bollywood, she quickly immersed herself in acting, bagging exciting projects such 
as Gulaab Gang and Dedh Isqiya followed 
by Total Dhamaal and Kalank. Her finger clearly on the pulse of the present, 
she quickly made her presence felt on the 
small screen too, turning judge for a dance show on television. In the midst of it all, she also donned the role of a film producer in real life.

As enthusiastic and driven about her work as she was when she started shooting her very first film, the mother of two clearly invests herself totally in any project that she undertakes.

After doing multi-starrers like Total Dhamaal and Kalank (both 2019 releases), Madhuri decided to break stereotypes and took her craft to streaming platforms. Her role as Anamika Anand on Netflix’s The Fame Game earlier this year drew on almost all aspects of her persona – she plays a superstar who is often enveloped by mass hysteria. There is dancing, a hint of domestic life, elements of thrill and suspense with the series also touching upon the flipside of fame.

Her performance elicited rave reviews: If NDTV asked ‘Who else but Madhuri Dixit could have played an enduring movie star of the kind who is at the centre of The Fame Game?’ The Times of India did not hesitate to say ‘She looks resplendent and as natural in her histrionics as she was in her heydays. She single-handedly carries the show and does it with aplomb.’

‘A perfect mother’

In her new film Maja Ma that released on Amazon Prime, she plays the ‘perfect mother, a doting wife’. ‘In Fame Game, my character carries a lot of baggage because she is a star; she has a career so nobody can take her for granted,’ says Madhuri. ‘But in Maja Ma, she is a homemaker. She is not a professional, she is this everyday relatable kind of woman and it is her story. These are two very different characters but again it is a story of a woman and her struggles with inner turmoil.’

Madhuri is enjoying creating content that is now finding a new platform to reach viewers – OTT platforms. ‘[On streaming platforms] you get a lot of time to develop all the characters around you. Everybody has a backstory. And when you react with those people, they can create a complete world of their own,’ she says.

A still from the film Parinda Image Credit: Supplied

The Padma Shri award-winning star believes that the needs and expectations of the audience are fast changing. ‘They are maturing because they are watching some of the best movies and series from all around the world. So their expectations are rising.’ Having seen the scope and potential reach of OTT platforms, she is excited about the new medium and is keen to explore it further.

‘When you are making something for OTT, you are not bound by commercial constraints. In cinema though, there are many constraints. It needs to appeal to all kinds of audiences. Then, there is the issue of funds. In digital, you can reach out to the maximum number of people as a show drops globally.’

Female-centric roles

Another thing that gives her great joy is that thanks to the new platforms, ‘female actors now get the opportunity of carrying the whole series on their shoulders. You don’t need to be a certain age to do that. It is a wonderful time for women to be in this industry,’ says the actress, who firmly believes that actors need to reinvent themselves to increase their career lifespan.

How does she continue to be still so invested in and enthusiastic about her work after so many years in an industry that is known to be fickle?

‘That is because I love what I do,’ says the actor whose list of awards stretches more than two pages. ‘I am fortunate that I am getting these roles. I am enjoying this journey of mine. People who feel tired of working are those who are forced to. But actors who are excited about playing different characters and do something still better, look forward to it every day.’

The actor says she is always thinking about ‘what new things I can bring to the table. Even today when I get up and I have to go on a shooting set I am as excited as I was when I did my first film’.

She is sure that excitement will always remain. ‘I want to do good stuff, good roles, show my craft, it doesn’t matter if it is big screen, small screen, OTT or iPad. Today people are consuming content in whichever way that is convenient to them.’

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Bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit poses for a picture during the special screening for her Netflix series 'The Fame Game', in Mumbai Image Credit: Sunil Khandare

Is she nervous on the eve of the launch of a new show or film?

‘No, I don’t feel nervous. If anything I’m excited. It’s quite like how your mom would try a new dish and wait in anticipation to see if her family would like it or not.’

She is optimistic about her new projects. ‘We have put our best foot forward for Maja Ma. I hope the audience loves it. It is about women empowerment and I love to do such roles.’

She mentions how she enjoys essaying strong, powerful characters. ‘Even in my earlier films like Dil, Raja, Beta, Mrityudand, or Anjaam among others, I’ve played strong, powerful women characters. I often try to take up something progressive. Doing that gives an actor a longer life in their career.’

A still from Tezaab Image Credit: Supplied

Apart from all of this she underscores the importance being consistent. ‘This is equally important,’ she says.

One of the stars who believes it is extremely important to keep up with the times, she has quickly got a firm grip on many of the social media platforms.

‘Initially, when we promoted films, there were just a handful of magazines and newspapers. But today especially because of social media, you go crazy managing so many different platforms. It feels like there is a whole village behind a star,’ she says, with a laugh.

‘But all this is part of life now. In fact, 
I enjoy doing those Insta reels; it is fun. Then, there are paparazzi chasing you everywhere, there is constant chatter 
about the star’s ‘airport look’ but I 
don’t feel the pressure because I don’t 
take that pressure. Maybe some days 
I am badly dressed which is okay, who cares?’ she says, flashing her cheerful dazzling smile.