What is common among divalicious Piggy Chops (we mean the Bollywood heartthrob Priyanka Chopra), sizzling size zero Kareena Kapoor and the sexy showstopper Katrina Kaif? No, we are not going to discuss the handsome hunks in their lives – be it Shahid Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan or the shirt-ripping Salman who may soon hit the Guinness World Records for that specific feat. Instead, we want to discuss their pay cheques that amount to Rs five crore or more – quite a neat sum, you may feel. But how would you feel if a forty plus woman wanted to run with the pack and demand as much as they earn? It’s a shocker, no doubt, but one Indian actress is breaking all stereotypes. Meet Madhuri Dixit Nene, the evergreen dazzler who is seriously considering a comeback on the silver screen and wants to pick up where she left off.
They say if you are married and have kids, it’s time for a quiet fade-out. Or play second fiddle to lead characters and be content with earning a small pittance. But that doesn’t hold true for Madhuri and she has broken that mould in every sense. Unlike other comeback actresses, the former B’wood queen doesn’t want to play sister or mother. Neither will she take a pay cut just because she has been married and away from the traditional filmi turf for some time now. According to media reports, the Ek-Do-Teen girl has quoted the princely sum of Rs five crore to at least four filmmakers who approach ed her with scripts. “We feel she is definitely worth the price. She is a superstar with an enviable fan following even today. So, why shouldn’t she ask for what she deserves?” her manager Rikku has been quoted as saying.
A trained Kathak dancer and a beautiful actress, Madhuri must have broken millions of hearts when she tied the knot in 2002 with Shriram Madhav Nene, a doctor based in Denver, USA. But the Bollywood diva, who ruled the box office when in her prime, has not lost her touch. Not even when at 43, she is a mother of two and spends much of her time being a homemaker in the USA.
So, what has Madhuri done to prove her mettle at this time of life? Judging by her most recent and fabulous performance on the small screen, it can be safely assumed that Madhuri is as popular as before. King Khan’s Zor Ka Jhatka was simply dazzled by her jhalak. Braveheart Sallu kept away from her even after his most successful stints on Dus Ka Dum and Bigg Boss. Even the Big B of the Bollywood Empire could not build it in a day when he hosted Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), one of the most hyped TV reality shows. But trust the original dhak dhak girl to steal hearts and TRP and she could do it, without breaking a sweat.
Being a judge on a popular TV show is no easy task, though. Unlike the big screen, the telly calls for a complete role reinvention and an extremely down-to-earth approach. As the legendary Amitabh once said on KBC, television is much more demanding as one interacts with real people, in real time and not everything can be scripted. Yet, Madhuri in her new avatar won the TRP war for Sony Entertainment Television as she judged Jhalak Dikhla Jaa (Season 4) with ease and grace. While the glitzy celebrity dancing show recorded a 5.6 per cent viewership on Day 1, KBC 4 opened with 5.4 per cent, Salman Khan’s Bigg Boss 4 recorded 3.6 and Zor Ka Jhatka could only manage a poor 2.6 per cent.
Also, Jhalak is not a one-person show like the other three where the star host is destined to gain eyeballs. Co-judges were present and justifiably so, since more than one expert is required to evaluate the technical aspects and aesthetic appeal of ‘perfect’ dancing. Of course, Malaika Arora Khan and Remo D’Souza went through their paces with poise and excellence. But it was Madhuri’s magic – her sweet cooing, fair verdicts and million-dollar smile – that kept us spellbound till the very end. Viewers immediately succumbed to her charm and the ‘celebrity’ contestants soon followed suit.
But stunning looks and enchanting words may not always win you the laurels. The love affair often goes awry if subtle chemistry is missing. So how did Madhuri make it to the top, without the thrill of KBC, the high drama of Bigg Boss or the nail-biting suspense of Zor Ka Jhatka? “Well, for one thing, she is an exquisite dancer who understands the finesse and speaks her mind quite honestly,” says Ratika Wahal, a danseuse and a die-hard Madhuri fan. “But what I liked most is the way she brought the best out of everyone – praised their skills and helped them overcome the grey patches.”
“I watch loads of dance shows and I found Madhuri quite humane in her comments and attitude,” adds Robin Mehra who wants to be a professional choreographer. “She kind of bonds with everyone – contestants, hosts, celeb guests, viewers. She respects everyone because everyone is unique in a way.”
“I felt the same about Madhuri as I felt when I saw Akki (Akshay Kumar) on Khatron ki Khiladi,” says Joyeeta Vashisht, another Jhalak fan. “She is no outsider, doing lip service just for the heck of it.
She was sincere and sensitive and supportive… It’s a very fresh approach and even those who are not ‘natural’ dancers (champion Chang included) felt it.” Judging by her audience’s response, it’s obvious that Madhuri had put in a lot of time and effort before taking up the challenge. “Since dance is my passion and this show is associated with that, I thought of taking it up. But it took me some time to say yes. After I went to Los Angeles and saw how Dancing With The Stars was being shot, I was finally convinced about accepting this offer,” said Madhuri at the launch of the Sony show.
Yeh dil maange more?
So, what’s next for Mrs. Nene? A second season with Jhalak is very much on the cards and the channel producers are confident about the show being a smash hit once again. But the question remains: Can she hit it off on the big screen now? Will there be roles written especially for her that will do justice to her talent? It is done for Big B, of course, but you must remember that Bollywood is a male bastion with little consideration for gender equality. For instance, none of the ‘Khans’ (Aamir, Shah Rukh and Salman) fails to amass the ‘crores’ just because they are on the wrong side of 40. And male stars don’t ‘fade out’ just because they are married with families.
Most of the industry insiders feel that her comeback trail may hit a roadblock if Madhuri sticks to her high price while looking for all-too-flattering storylines. For one, her comeback film Aaja Nachle (2007) was anything but a box office bumper. This is quite a dampener, especially when one compares the debacle with Kajol’s post-marriage comeback in popular movies like Fanaa and We Are Family. Moreover, the Bollywood top league attract similar sums and one would naturally opt for the younger alternatives. Madhuri, may need a reality check before taking a final call on pay cheques or scripts. Yet, in our heart of hearts we don’t want this gorgeous diva to take up the sedate and stereotype role of an ageing woman. After all, the Madhuri magic always makes us feel young and alive whether we are 18 or 80. And we eagerly await her comeback to showbiz, lit up by her dazzling smile and undying charm.