Long innings of a winsome performer
In the wake of Madhuri Dixit's marriage much is being discussed about the future of a heroine's career who opts for matrimony even when she is riding the wave of success. GIRIJA RAJENDRAN writes...
MADHURI DIXIT'S recent marriage to Dr. Shriram Nene, an NRI based in the U.S., has predictably given rise to two schools of opinion in the Hindi film industry. One group says that this superstar has been wise to make the right personal move at the right time; while the dissenting set avers that, now that she is married Madhuri could well lose her abiding reservoir of fans in mainstream cinema.
It is true that Madhuri had ruled the roost for well over a decade, though there were threats. Like when first Meenakshi Seshadri and then Juhi Chawla challenged Madhuri Dixit's privileged position. But not even Sridevi - who so successfully held on to her top position with solid performances and returns at the box-office - could ward off the Madhuri challenge for an indefinite period of time. Significantly, it was as Sridevi chose matrimony (before her position at the helm had come to an absolute end) that Madhuri took over with an aura and charisma all her own.
Not that Madhuri herself did not later face a threat to her career - in the mid-90s. Yet this was the precise hour in which Sooraj Barjatya's ``Hum Aapke Hain Koun'' came along to reinstate her, in the midst of a string of flops (in which Madhuri's performances had stood out none the less).
In fact, not until very recently, when younger girls like Karisma Kapoor, Kajol and Tabu came prominently on the scene, did the Madhuri factor cease to matter.
For all that, the super actress in Madhuri ensured that the winsome performer held on to her citadel for the longest time possible in the circumstances.
In this light, it could be said that Madhuri timed her marriage just right. Not all her films, even when she was at the zenith, were grossers. But the advent of movies like Rajshri's ``Hum Aapke Hain Koun'' and Yash Chopra's ``Dil To Pagal Hai'' put Madhuri back, centrestage, with a bang.
Is that bang really down to a whimper at the star-turn of the century? Well, lately, Madhuri has had the satisfaction of working in artistically stimulating ventures like Prakash Jha's ``Mrityudand'' a show in which she stood out among a group of towering talents like Shabana Azmi, Mohan Agashe, Om Puri and Mohan Joshi.
Nowhere did Madhuri's glamorous image intrude upon her realistic performance in ``Mrityudand.'' And Madhuri now has another testing film on the anvil in M. F. Husain's ``Gaj Gamini.'' Regardless of how this movie fares, Madhuri would, here, have essayed a very different kind of character on the screen.
Take, for instance, Madhuri's contemporary and competitor, Juhi Chawla. This otherwise hit heroine could never really match Madhuri's range. Juhi, for her part, took her own time, publicly to announce, what was a foregone conclusion of a marriage with her long-time friend, Jai Mehta, hoping that her simulated single status would restore her to the elusive top ranks.
Let us here go back to the original Dream Girl: Hema Malini. This lone female superstar of her time was so hugely successful, commercially speaking, that only impending motherhood could bring out the confession that Hema had indeed tied the knot with Dharmendra. But such was her sway, that despite fears about her career, Hema managed to hold on to her superstardom without much damage even after she had had her first child. It was only the belated rise of Sridevi in her second Hindi film (after ``Solwa Saawan''), followed by the advance of newcomers like Madhuri and Juhi, that forced a still ravishingly trim and beautiful Hema Malini to seek other avenues of self-expression like direction and dance.
Both Jaya Bhaduri and Raakhee got married at almost the same time. Jaya gradually and graciously slid into domesticity. Raakhee went on to do some meaningful and successful roles on her comeback trail. This is true of Dimple Kapadia too. It is arguable that, had Raakhee and Dimple opted not to marry when they did, they could rewardingly have stretched their careers as glamour heroines.
Rekha, who represented the glamour end of the marquee to Hema's contrasting star personality, progressively, became a sensitive heroine (Umrao Jaan).
Times have certainly changed now for the glamour girls of the Hindi screen. Most of the new brigade of female stars see no rational reason to hide their romantic links. Kajol, for one, was right at the pinnacle of her career, following the stupendous success of Aditya Chopra's ``Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge'' and Karan Johar's ``Kuch Kuch Hota Hai'' - not to speak of lesser hits of hers like ``Hum Aap Ke Dil Mein Rehte Hain,'' ``Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya'' and ``Pyar To Hona Hi Tha.''
Yet Kajol, characteristically, was not one to change her wedding plans to suit the spot dictates of the box-office. She went right ahead and married Ajay Devgan. How the scene has changed should be manifest from the fact that Kajol's first film after marriage, ``Dil Kya Kare'' has been faring rather well.
The reason for this, perhaps, is that the cinegoing public, too, is becoming more performance conscious than personality conscious.
So, when Madhuri Dixit next hits the screen as Mrs. Nene, will this still comparatively young lady be able to evoke mass hysteria she did as Madhuri Dixit?
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