15th May 1967 was the day when a daughter was born to Shankar Dixit and his wife Snehlata, a Maharastrian couple living in Mumbai. They already had three children - son Ajit and two daughters Bharati and Rupa, so the baby named Madhuri - “Sweet maiden”, was their fourth and the youngest child. The family belonged to a Chitpavan Brahmin family, and according to historical recordsthe Chitpavans “…are about the middle size, fair, and their women are gracefull.”
The childhood spent in Mumbai´s western suburb Andheri, was peaceful and happy, and it gave her a solid background for the future, as well as it instilled strong middle-class family values. She attended nerby Divine Child High School and later Mumbai University, where she studied microbiology. She was a fairly good student, but did not spent most of her time over the scientific books. Her passions laid elsewhere.
Since the fragile age of three Madhuri, accompanied by her sisters, started to learn Kathak. It is one of the eight forms of Indian classical dances, which originates from the nomadic bards of ancient northern India, known as Kathaks, or storytellers. These bards, performing in village squares and temple courtyards, mostly specialized in recounting mythological and moral tales from the scriptures, and embellished their recitals with hand gestures and facial expressions. It was more of a theatrical act than a dance, often accompanied by singing. Dancing and singing - those were Madhuri´s greatest passions, and often sitting by herself she was daydreaming of performing on stage for a big audience. True enough - she won many school contests and made the headmaster and teachers, who were extremely fond of her, very proud, even got a national scholarship for kathak, but in the end of the day she would return to her studies, left with her big dreams veiled within an uncertain future.
She was barely fifteen when she was first noticed for her dancing by a producer, but her parents rejected an offer for her to make a dance number for a movie, convinced that their daughter has to study.
Some time later a friend of Madhuri´s elder sister, who was in contact with the Barjatiya family, a respected clan in the film industry, knew that they were scouting around for a very young girl, a fresh face, for their forthcoming production. As Madhuri herself described it: “One day, another friend of the Barjatiyas saw me with my sister and this friend of hers. He knew me when I was little but was surprised to see that I had grown up and looked different. They suggested I try for the role…. Off I went for the screen test. I cleared it but the catch was that my Higher Secondary Board exams were round the corner and I was determined not to miss them for anything in my life. The Barjatiyas waited for me to finish the exams and my vacations began with the shooting of Abodh. My results arrived while I was on the sets, in June. I remember being very nervous, very shaky about the results. But I scored more than 80%. I was always a good student. Shooting over, I went back to college to do B.Sc. with microbiology. But Abodh was released by then and the offers began to pour in.”
So the name “Madhuri Dixit” appeared on the screen for the first time. Greatly inexperienced girl of seventeen quickly overcame the first shock of being thrown into the industry and fell in love with acting. The movie called “Abodh”, starring a Bengali actor Tapas Paul, saw Madhuri as innocent and childish Gauri. It was far from being successful, but it gave Madhuri a great deal of experience. But having no big illusions she was hoping for doing little side roles and keeping up with her biological studies at the same time. So she made a brief appearances in movies like Swati, Awara Baap and Mohre.
“I did a lot of classical dancing from my school days and was good at it they say,” remembers Madhuri. “But it never occurred to me to make a career out of dancing. Before films, I had no clear idea of what I wanted to do with my life…. I underwent several phases of mutation till Life decided the future course of action. Never ever in my life did I even dream of becoming a star, an actress. Even when I was well into this profession, I did not expect this kind of fame and popularity. But once I was inside the field, I deliberately and consciously worked towards this goal. Nothing was handed down to me on a golden platter, no. I am really glad I had to work hard, very hard for it because working towards success and attaining it after the hard work has made me respect my profession all the more.”
The change of her life came when she got a female lead role in a “violent love story” movie Tezaab (1989) opposite Anil Kapoor, already an established popular actor. This chance really proved to be one. The story of Munna, turned by society injustice from a honest boy to vengeful outcast, and his beloved Mohini, rich girl made to dance and sing for big money by her father, became a great hit. The movie was in the theatres for more than 50 weeks and the whole nation fell under the spell of catchy “Ek Do Teen” song, performed on screen by no one else than 20-years-old Madhuri. The lively, energetic dancing together with perfect expressions were the common success of both Madhuri and choreographer Saroj Khan. Together these two women would leave an unforgettable trace in Indian cinema in years to come. Tezaab made Madhuri a sensation practically over-night, and her acting was also appreciated by the critics - for the role of Mohini the young girl was nominated for the first time for the Best Actress Filmfare Award. Her star was rising rapidly…..
Madhuri did not let the sudden success go to her head and more than ever before was determined to work hard, true to her belief, that “If you are a good actress, you can also be a star but it does not work the other way round. You must be able to deliver the goods.” After Tezaab came very successul Ram Lakhan and also highly appreciated Parina, as well as several others. Very often during the first five years Madhuri would be paired with Anil Kapoor, with whom she felt very comfortable working with.
But Anil was not the only famous name she ended up on the screen. In 1990 a superhit movie “Dil” released with Madhuri by the side of young Aamir Khan, and their on-screen romance proved once again that Madhuri is not just a pretty doll, but also a powerful actress. For her role in Dil she received her first Best Actress Filmfare Award. Other nominations and awards followed, practically every year, and Madhuri became the real India´s sweetheart. It was with the movie “Beta” in 1992, for which she received her second Best Acress Filmfare award, and her sensual “Dhak Dhak” dance number, that she was noted as the new Queen of Bollywood, replacing the star of the 80´s Sridevi. “Ek Do Teen” girl became a “Dhak Dhak girl” and under this nickname she is known till this day.
The greatest hit Madhuri has ever delivered in the view of box office was “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun” opposite Salman Khan. This movie, which became one of the biggest grossers ever in the history of Hindi cinema, went on to collect over Rs. 650 million in India and over Rs. 150 million overseas. Musical story of a loving family won Madhuri her third Filmfare Best Actress Award - and in the same year she was also nominated in the same category for her performance in Anjaam. In it she was first paired with Shahrukh Khan, who became one of her greatest admirers and closest friends in the industry. By 1995 Madhuri began to be known as “female Amitabh Bachchan”. Not only she had a power of completely overshadowing her co-stars, but her movie “Raja” became a great hit for the sole reason of her being in the lead.
Years 1995-1996 however were rather uneventful in Madhuri´s career. Her movies from this period were largely ignored. “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun set standarts terribly high,” she explained. “After that everybody was expecting something of the same standart or higher. Not every film of yours is going to be a hit.” She did not retreat to lick her wounds and with dignified silence also withstood the attacks of the press complaining about her “old” look. Once an actress in India is not fit to play a naive virgin anymore, she´s finished. That was the rule to which the “Dhak Dhak” girl was supposed to bow to. But Madhuri did no such thing.
In 1997 movie “Dil To Pagal Hai” was released, starring Madhuri alongside with Shahrukh and Karisma Kapoor, and it catapulted Madhuri back to the heights of glory. The movie was applauded to by both the public and the critics and Madhuri, holding her fourth Best Actress Filmfare award dedicated it with a smile to “all my critics”.
What is a movie star without a scandal? Scandal, which would give the journalists their bread for several months at least? And for a Madhuri Dixit scandal everybody was waiting as for a salvation. Yet she refused to give them one. She was not addicted, had no plastic surgery, did not make scenes to the directors. She did not date her co-stars, though allegedly had a brief relationship with Sanjay Dutt. Of these reports she was aware and when he was arrested for the illegal possession of arms she clearly stated: “I´m not in love with Sanjay Dutt” and never once did she said otherwise.
The only family life Madhuri had during the years of her greatest glory was the relationship with her parents, who would often accompany her to the sets and spend most of the time with their youngest daughter. But toungues will wag and the press, desperate from the lack of any Madhuri affairs, began to make ones. Pracitclly every year they married her off to somebody, or at least “confirmed” her engagement, usually to her secretary Rikku Rakeshnath, regardless fo the fact that he already was married. Such rumours were so common, that when the announcement of the real Madhuri´s marriage was made, many could hardly believe it at first.
It was Madhuri´s brother Ajit, living and working in the U.S.A., who cleverly arranged a meeting of his ggod friend, heart surgeon Dr. Sriram “Ram” Mahdav Nene and his youngest sister in 1998. To his great joy they liked each other, and completely unaware of any previous arrengement, they slowly but surely fell in love. Dr. Nene knew his love interest is an actress in India, but not in his wildest dreams he could imagine the scale of Madhuri´s popularity. That was naturally one of the things Madhuri found very refreshing after her fish-bowl life in India, where everybody knew her face. Finally in autumn on 1999 Madhuri and Ram got married in a traditional Vedic ceremony attended by only close family and several friends. Only abotu a month later did Madhuri make an announcement, pleased with this little victory over the press.
To all the pessimistic premonitions of the public she would only say: “I never thought marriage ends anyones career!” And as always true to her words she did not retreat from the film scene, even though her traveling between India and US made things more difficult for her. No longer she would be doing five movie a year, she began to choose scripts which seemed interesting or challenging, and so the movies like Pukar and Lajja saw the light of day. In 2000 she also starred in a movie “Gaja Gamini”, which was specially dedicated to her. It was a tribute paid to her by one of her most ardent admirers, famous “Indian Picasso” M.F. Hussain. Another tribute to her was asmall-budget movie “Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahri Hoon!”, in which a young girl craves to become a new Madhuri Dixit.
In 2002 Madhuri amazed everyone with her performance as a courtesan Chandramukhi in Sanjay Leela Bhansali´s magnus opus “Devdas”, for which she received Best Supporting Actress Filmfare award. Devdas was to be the last movie for years to come to the great sadness of all her fans - but to her own personal happiness. In March 2003 Madhuri gave birth to a healthy baby boy Arin in Denver, and became the most dedicated mother. Two years later Arin was joined in the nursery by baby Ryan, and these “two homeproductions” kept Madhuri busy ever since. She never regretted her withdrawal from the public eye, she was living her dream of having her own family. “Twenty five years from now people may not remember me,” she stated. “My legacy is going to be my sons.”
“Madhuri is never gone, because she is in the heart.”
Such was the statement of legendary Shahrukh Khan, when he was asked if he wished Madhuri would come back to the industry. Not just him, but all were excited, when in 2006 the news spread that the unforgettable “Dhak Dhak girl” after whom the public was still craving is likely to return to Bollywood. Madhuri would only laugh she never quit, so how come she is “going back”? True, her husband and family will always hold the greatest importance for her, but tehre is still enough room in her heart for her craft - acting and dancing. So on 25th February 2006 she performed on stage for the first time in six years at the Filmfare Awards. Saroj Khan made a choreography for her to the songs of Devdas and let herself be heard that choreographing for Madhuri is “like coming to life again.” The Diva Dixit became the golden peak of the evening, easily overshadowing even the performance of Aishwarya Rai.
In late 2006 Madhuri returned to her native city of mumbai together with her sons to start filming for a new movie entitled Aaja Nachle. The story of a divorced single mother Diya however proved a bit too tough for the traditional Indians and did not become a hit. Even so Madhuri proved that even a married woman over 40 can do interesting roles, is not bound only to the characters of main hero´s mothers, and so she opened a new dimension for Indian cinema. Despite all the criticism the movie received, Madhuri was applauded for her stunning performance and again she set thousands of heart to go dhak-dhak! She even received a nomination to another Best Actres award. In 2008 Madhuri joined the Hindi stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai and Preity Zinta on the American leg of the mesmerizing “Unforgettable tour” and became the greatest attraction of the American shows.
Since then offers are pouring to her home in Denver again. And we all ardently hope, hat this stunning, unique woman will make us all proud once again, for that certainly is in her power still. After all, in 2007 she was voted the Best Bollywood Actress ever (followed by Madhubala and Nargis) by server reddif.com, the same title she received from BBC. In 2008 she was given a tribute by Indian film festival in Los Angeles and finally in March 2010 The Economic Times named her in the list of the “33 women who made India proud.” The award which made Madhuri proudest of all was Padma Sri - an award given by the Governmnet of India to Indian citizens to recognize their distinguished contribution in various spheres of activity, Madhuri belonging to the Arts. It stands fourth in the hierarchy of civilian award.
In winter 2010/2011 Madhuri made an appearance as a judge on the show Jhalak Dihkla Ja 4 and thanks to her presence it became a great success, surpassing all other TV shows hosted by celebrities, be it Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan or Priyanka Chopra. The same winter Madhuri was awarded a special Filmfare award for completing 25 years of successful career in the industry.
“My best is yet to come,” she had said. “I have reached a stage where I do not have to do too many films. There was a time when I did two to three shifts a day. Now I am in a position where I can pick and choose if I wish to. Two dream roles I would love to do are the role of a court dancer like the one Meena Kumari played in Pakeeza that would take me back to my kathak days and the role of a schizophrenic, a woman with a dual personality, along the lines of the one Nargis did in Raat Aur Din. I am looking for a complex character with different shades to it, a character filled with self-doubts…
I have decided that I will remain as normal as I was before I became Madhuri Dixit, the star. It does not matter whether I am at the top or at the bottom. I will not allow myself to create walls of loneliness around myself. Had I not been an actress, I would probably have been peering through a microscope at some invisible organism, zooming into their lives, trying to unravel their secrets. I do realise the need for marriage and motherhood because these are essentials in a person’s life. But within marriage too I will create my own space of work instead of juggling time between home and work. I may not do what I am doing now or will keep doing what I am doing but the bottom line is – I will continue to work. I do not have any regrets for being in films.”
In the fall 2011 Madhuri gave her fans the best present possible. After some thinking she and her husband decided it was the time for them to shift permanently to India.
“We had been toying with the idea for quite some time. We think maybe this is the right time. The kids need to discover their roots. India is growing into a formidable power. It’s become the new land of opportunities. My husband and I felt there’s so much we can do back home. Whether it’s in our profession or on a humanitarian level, we feel there’s a lot that we can contribute to our own lives and to society.”
Now the countdown begins - for the official announcement that Madhuri Dixit, loved by nation and beyond till this day with the same devotion, is coming back to what she does best - acting and bringing joy to viewers!