A million watt smile

Total Dhamaal reunites Madhuri Dixit with Anil Kapoor after 17 years but some things never change despite the passage of time, says Saimi Sattar

In a role reversal from their younger days of serenades and big love despite the odds, actors Madhuri Dixit and Anil Kapoor now play a warring couple. Yes, they are at loggerheads, on the verge of divorce and united only in their pursuit of money in their new film Total Dhamaal. The actress with the winsome smile, who has often been compared to the iconic Madhubala and is looking timeless in her latest outing, says, “Things just fell in place. Indra ji (director Indra Kumar) approached me saying that he had something interesting and narrated the script. I loved it. Then he said that he was casting Anil (Kapoor) ji. We both discussed it over the phone.” The familiarity of the set-up helped. Madhuri had last worked with Kumar in Raja opposite Anil’s brother Sanjay Kapoor. “It didn’t feel like so many years had passed. Everything just fell in place. We had a blast during the shooting. There were 12 of us and I’ve never laughed so much during a shoot.” Anil plays a Gujarati and Madhuri, his Maharashtrian wife. They are one of the four pairs in the film chasing money. The film is divided between these characters who are not necessarily girl-boy pairs. “What makes it unique is that people have always seen us as a romantic couple where we are in love or in Beta where I play his protective wife and support system,” she says. That was another reason which proved to be a clincher for her when accepting the role. While Madhuri has tried her hand at comedy in spurts, this is one of her first attempts at a film which is an out-and-out one. She clarifies, “In Indian films, there is every flavour. Even when I did Dil, there was romance, comedy and drama. In the give and take with Aruna Irani (who played her step mother-in-law) in Beta, the scenes  were more comic than dramatic. Raja, on the hand, was an over-the-top comedy.” The Total Dhamaal tagline cuts it out to be an adventure comedy and Madhuri says that it is because the scale is very huge. “Everything has been scaled up. The film ends with animals in the zoo,” she laughs. However, while this film is big in every sense of the word, the manner in which most video content is being viewed is changing drastically. Madhuri says, “Everything — the big screen, small screen and little screen — is coming together. The way content is consumed is changing as people get it easily on their phones. Of course, there will be big screens or even theatre but a change has begun,” she says and adds, “I am open to web series as well but the role should be exciting and the content should be good.” She feels that there is a variety of content on offer as “society is changing and people see a variety of stories from different parts of the world on TV and web channels like Netflix. This exposure to different ideas has made the audience more open-minded. Earlier, they would see only a certain kind of film. They are now shifting towards finding something new and different.” One way in which content has changed a lot is that women are no longer just eye candy. “There are so many different kinds of roles being written and what really makes them different is that these are unabashed about the choices that women make. Earlier, if she was dancing in a bar, there was always a back story where she had a poor, sick brother who was dying or something equally tragic. There were always excuses to paint her in the right light. That’s not done any longer. Women are treated like women. They are unapologetic. In Tumhari Sulu, she is an RJ at night because she enjoys it,” says Madhuri who also acted in films like Mrityudand (1997). So what is her heads-up process? “The script followed by the director and then the cast. You have to look at it from all angles and not just one,” she adds. Madhuri, who debuted  with Abodh in 1984, feels that while some elements have changed in the industry, some haven’t. “The people have not changed. On the other hand the whole atmosphere has transformed for the better. It is more disciplined with corporates coming in and everything is worked out from the script to what you are wearing beforehand. This makes it much easier for an actor to prepare at ease, uncluttered,” she says. Beyond films, Madhuri also likes to work on projects that concern women and children. “I worked with UNICEF in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra where we did a project called Mamta  ka Aanchal which focussed on breast feeding to bring down child mortality. It also looked at giving expectant mothers folic acid and ensuring that they are not anaemic. We told them to go to the hospital and have a baby  rather than at home which is not hygienic.” A professional kathak dancer, Madhuri’s moves were often the talking point of her many films. She has pursued the interest further with her dance academy. “I have been teaching dance to a lot of people through the academy for the past five-six years as well as on my website and DTH platforms. I try to get the best of gurus because in smaller centres, it is much more difficult to get a good teacher,” she says. Since it is something close to her heart, when she decided to transition to the small screen, it was dance-based shows that she chose. “I did Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa and So You Think You Can Dance earlier and now I am doing Dance Deewane because I enjoy teaching the art form. I really like the platform as it is an extension of acting. A lot of talent is being discovered which comes from small towns and gets a platform to shine,” she says. Up next Madhuri will be seen in Kalank, but what the film or role is about, she refuses to divulge. “Next time,” she promises and flashes that million dollar smile, once more. We can all but acquiesce. (The film releases on February 22.) Thursday, 21 February 2019 | Saimi Sattar | in Vivacity

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