Madhuri Dixit on Kalank, Total Dhamaal: Actors are more secure about doing multi-starrers now
As Kalank releases, Madhuri Dixit talks about working in multi-starrers, the success of Total Dhamaal, and which other co-star she would like to reunite with.
In a career spanning over three decades, mega star Madhuri Dixit who established herself as a versatile performer with films like Tezaab, Ram Lakhan, Khalnayak, Hum Aapke Hain Koun, Mrityudand, Pukar and Devdas among others, is currently having a good run in her third innings, which can probably be attributed to her penchant for staying relevant and breaking stereotypes.
After the huge success of adventure comedy Total Dhamaal, the actress’ latest outing is Karan Johar's Abhishek Varman-directed Kalank, a multi-starrer and visually grand period piece, set in pre-Independence India. Here, she re-unites with Sanjay Dutt after 22 years and also features alongside the young brigade of Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt, Sonakshi Sinha and Aditya Roy Kapur. Extremely competitive and at the top of her game in her heydays, today Dixit keeps a calm demeanour and is looked up to by the younger lot, who, at times, also get some acting tips from the star who refuses to fade away. Excerpts from a chat with the timeless diva below.
After Total Dhamaal, you immediately landed in a period drama. Considering that the character arc is so different and these films are releasing within a few months from each other, did you find it difficult to pull out from that character?
I completed Total Dhamaal and the next day, I started shooting for Kalank. It was a little difficult initially because it was a complete switch. I had a scene with Alia on the first day and there were lot of lines but mercifully, we were just sitting and saying these lines. I always thought that I am a switch on, switch off actress but I don’t know why on that day, it was a bit unsteady for me. Probably because I had just come from a film which was over- the- top and an absurd, loud comedy where I was saying dialogues like, "Aye gupp bas" (laughs heartily). Suddenly, I was saying heavy dialogues and was almost whispering. But after one or two takes, it was resolved. But yes, there was lot of contrast in both the characters and even the audience would feel so because we did so many mad things in Total Dhamaal.
What do you think about the success of Total Dhamaal?
Success is always wonderful but it was great reaching out to the new generation as even kids loved the film. Also, in Total Dhamaal, I got to do things which would be considered a bit strange at this age; for instance, getting to wear a glamorous gown, getting out of a car in style. I was working with Indra Kumar after 23 years. Our last film was Raja (1995). I have always done comedy and it was nice to revisit some absurd comedy which is in your face, but that kind of comedy is really hard to do.
You must be quite used to the grandeur, opulence, scale and setting of Kalank since you have worked with Sooraj Barjatya and Sanjay Leela Bhansali..
The set on which ‘Maar Dala’ (Devdas) was shot was bigger but the set where they recreated Hira Mandi (in Kalank), it was quite humongous with lanes and bylanes. It was done so aesthetically. It wasn’t gaudy, or too lavish. It looked genuine. There were perfumes, chandeliers, carpet shops recreated, and whenever we had free time we would just loiter around (laughs).
Tell us something about your character Bahaar Begum?
People are saying that it reminds them of Chandramukhi from Devdas but this character is far from that. Chandramukhi was very outgoing. She wore her heart on her sleeve. She falls in love with Devdas. She gives up, sacrifices everything and becomes a jogan. But Bahaar Begum is completely opposite. She is a recluse and lives in her own world. There is lot of angst and regrets in her life. She speaks less and expresses with her eyes. She is not very friendly or outgoing. She is emotionally scarred because of a past tragedy in her life.
While working on this intense drama, once you were done with the scene, who is that one person who lightened the atmosphere?
There was only one — Varun (laughs). Varun and I have a very long and difficult scene. He was so intense in that scene. I was really surprised watching him. He was completely into it. But otherwise he would be quite mischievous.
You worked with Anil Kapoor in your previous film and with Sanjay Dutt in this one. Is there any other actor from that era you would like to work with?
No, I won’t take any names because tomorrow, there would be headlines that I want to work with so and so (laughs). Depending upon the roles offered, I would take a call. But it is wonderful to work with these co-stars of past films because there is so much comfort level on the sets.
Is there anything that you learnt from the youngsters, Alia and Varun?
Yes, of course. I like the way they handle social media. Varun is a marketing genius (laughs out loud). I am an admirer of Alia. What a lovely actress she is! Highway or Udta Punjab or Raazi or Gully Boy... she becomes the character, which is amazing. She follows a lot of discipline. She is always on time and always well prepared. She carries no baggage and that is what I like about her. She reminds me of myself and how I was in those days.
Varun, with his energy and drive, always wants to please the director and I loved that. He wants the director to praise him and say, ‘Kya shot diya hai’. He would want Abhishek to give him a big smile, which was very rare. Only if he was really very happy that he would smile, otherwise he would look very dukhi (sad) on sets, so much so that we called him ‘dukhi aatma’. But of course, he is a very good director. He knows what kind of performance he wants to extract from each actor.
Do actors today feel more secure doing a multi-starrer as compared to the past?
Earlier, we wouldn’t get scripts in our hand, whereas now we have full bound scripts and you know exactly what you are doing in the movie. Today, everybody is professional. They want to do their part well, make a good movie and want to have a good release. So I think director has to be fair to everyone. For instance, in Total Dhamaal, everybody had something to do in the movie. We were four pairs and the whole film was divided between us. There are no insecurities anymore and it is wonderful to work in an ensemble cast film because it is also lot of fun.
You dominated the '90s with your performance and aura. Now, who do you think could make a mark like you?
I don’t know who can make a mark like me. I don’t want to make any comparisons. But there are whole lot of good actors, from Deepika (Padukone) to Priyanka (Chopra), to Alia, Sonakshi, Anushka (Sharma), and even Kriti (Sanon) is giving some very good performances. All of us work in the same industry so I can’t say who is the torchbearer. But it is wonderful to see this infusion of good talent. As far as men are concerned, we have Ranbir (Kapoor), Ranveer (Singh), Varun, Aditya... All these boys are so good!
Finally, how was it for you to take up the role that was written for Sridevi?
As an actor, it wasn’t difficult but emotionally, it was because something so unfortunate had happened so suddenly. I am also a mother. She had two kids, who are so young. So thinking of all that, it was really sad. And as they say that someone had to step in and at that time, it was me. So I had to accept the role.
All images from YouTube.
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