Madhuri Dixit, one of the greatest leading ladies in the history of Indian cinema, will be turning a year older on Friday (15). To mark the acting icon’s 48th birthday, Eastern Eye went through her remarkable career to present an alphabetical guide to her life and work.
A is for Abodh: Madhuri had an appreciation for the arts when she was growing up in Mumbai. Her mother was trained in classical music, while Madhuri learnt classical Indian dance. Despite that, she was more interested in studying biology and didn’t really have an interest in cinema. After much persuasion, the 16-year-old agreed to make her debut in low-budget film Abodh (1984).
B is for Banned: The dynamite dancer has performed a number of eye-catching numbers in Bollywood, but Choli Ke Peeche from Khalnayak (1993) courted the most controversy, and was banned initially because of the seemingly obscene title. Thankfully the song remained in the movie, became a cult classic and won the Filmfare Best Choreography award.
C is for Charity: The big-hearted actress has done a lot of work for charitable causes over the years and also used her star power to raise social awareness of important issues. In the first season of Kaun Banega Crorepati, she donated her winnings to victims of an earthquake in Gujarat and an orphanage in Pune. Charities connected to children and elephants have been close to her heart, and are ones she has worked for.
D is for Dance: Widely regarded as the greatest dancer in Bollywood history, Madhuri has been trained in Kathak since she was a child, and used that ability to mesmerise audiences in a massive number of successful songs. Her award-winning Tezaab (1988) song Ek Do Teen was so good that it was credited with reintroducing the item number into Bollywood in a big way. Despite being in her late 40s, the Dhak Dhak girl remains in demand to perform dance numbers on the big screen and the live circuit.
E is for Endorsements: The actress has accumulated a large portion of her immense wealth from endorsement deals. Her million-dollar smile has been used to promote everything from jewellery to beauty products to everyday food items. Recently, a major player in the water purification systems market signed Madhuri and her husband Shriram Nene as brand ambassadors in a multi-million pound deal.
F is for Filmfare awards: Madhuri has received a record-breaking 16 Filmfare award nominations and won six times, including four Best Actress prizes and one for Best Supporting Actress. In 2011, Madhuri was awarded the Filmfare Special Award for completing 25 years in the Indian film industry. She also holds the record for most consecutive Best Actress nominations.
G is for Greatest: Madhuri has been consistently ranked as the highest-placed leading lady whenever a list of the all-time greatest Bollywood stars is compiled. That includes Eastern Eye’s 100 Greatest Bollywood Stars countdown, which was released to commemorate 100 years of Indian cinema in 2013, where she was the highest-ranked leading lady and fourth in the overall standings.
H is for Hum Aapke Hain Kaun: When the musical romance was released in 1994, it became the biggest grossing film in the history of Bollywood and smashed the long-standing record held by Sholay (1975). The family friendly film won a massive number of honours, including Filmfare awards for Best Director, Film and Actress, which Madhuri, of course, won.
I is for Inspiration: A number of leading ladies from the modern era have cited Madhuri as their greatest inspiration and reason for wanting to be an actress. They include Vidya Balan, Rani Mukerji, Karishma Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Richa Chadda. There was even a 2003 film titled Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon (I Want To Become Madhuri Dixit), which revolves around an aspiring actress who wants to emulate her.
J is for Judge: A master of her craft, Madhuri has been a judge on various TV shows, most notably dance reality series Jhalak Dikhhla Ja, for the past four seasons. She has also appeared as a guest judge on other shows including Nach Baliye and India’s Got Talent.
K is for Kids: A proud mother, Madhuri walked away from Bollywood at the height of her fame so she could bring up her two sons, Arin and Rayaan, away from the glare of the spotlight in the US.
L is for Live: The actress continues to be one of the highest-paid live performers in Bollywood and has danced in a number of high-profile shows across the world in the past few years. She has also lit up award ceremonies with her dance routines.
M is for Madhubala: She may be an inspiration to many millions, but Madhuri’s idol is late great legend Madhubala, who she regards as the most beautiful and talented leading lady of all time. At the height of her fame in the 1990s, Madhuri was often compared to Madhubala and is seen by many as a modern incarnation of the legendary actress.
N is for No: Being hugely in-demand in the 1990s meant that Madhuri had to turn down a number of high-profile projects because she didn’t have available dates. Some notable hit films that the actress said no to have included Darr (1993), Damini (1993), 1942: A Love Story (1994), Khamoshi (1996), Ishq (1997), and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999).
O is for Online: Although the actress has a formidable presence on social media with over 18 million fans on Facebook, her greatest online achievement has been setting up the Dance With Madhuri portal. The online academy is accessible in 172 countries and has leading exponents teaching different forms of dance.
Madhuri has also taught one-on-one special classes showing students some of her most memorable dance numbers and techniques.
P is for Painter: Leading ladies and film-makers aren’t the only ones who have been inspired by Madhuri. She became a muse to India’s greatest artist MF Husain, who was so enamoured by her that he watched Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (1994) 67 times and did a collection of paintings inspired by her. Husain also directed Gaja Gamini (2000) with Madhuri in the lead role, which was a tribute to the actress.
Q is for Queen: At the height of her fame in the 1990s, Madhuri dethroned Sridevi to become the undisputed queen of Bollywood and the only leading lady who was getting paid the same amount as the men. In fact, such was her star power that filmmakers often wrote scripts for her.
R is for Return: Madhuri quit Bollywood after her hit film Devdas (2002) and then enjoyed a brief comeback with Aaja Nachle (2007) before making a full-fledged return in 2014 with Dedh Ishqiya and Gulaab Gang. Even though she is still getting a massive number of offers, Madhuri is concentrating on quality projects over quantity.
S is for Sanjay Dutt: The highest-profile romantic link-up the actress had before she was married was with actor Dutt, whom she starred opposite in hit film Saajan (1990). The relationship reportedly ended soon after Dutt was arrested under terror-related charges in 1993.
T is for Tezaab: After a slow start to her career, the big turning point for Madhuri was a starring role in Tezaab (1988). The biggest grossing movie of that year turned her into a superstar and had the biggest filmmakers lining up to sign her. The movie also kick-started a dream team pairing with leading man Anil Kapoor.
U is for the US: The actress surprised everyone by marrying Indian-American cardiovascular surgeon Dr Shriram Madhav Nene on October 17, 1999. She moved to Denver soon after and lived a normal life as a housewife and mother-of-two. The family moved back to India in 2011.
V is for Victory: Not surprisingly, the actress has won a huge number of awards during her glittering career. These honours include the Padma Shri, which is the fourth highest civilian award given by the Indian government.
W is for Waxwork: In 2012, Madhuri got a waxwork in Madame Tussauds in London. The sculpture remains a popular attraction today, standing alongside statues of Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif.
X is for X-Factor: Madhuri has been described by countless contemporaries down the years, including late great legend Ashok Kumar, as the most complete actress India has ever produced.
Y is for Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani: Madhuri gave a glimpse of what fans had been missing since her time away with a stunning dance number opposite Ranbir Kapoor in hit romance Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013). Ranbir said: “The first woman I fell in love with was Madhuri Dixit. The first woman who gave me heartbreak was Madhuri Dixit when she got married. Just the fact that I got an opportunity to dance with her and to see her on the sets was just amazing.”
Z is for Zodiac sign: Madhuri’s star sign is Taurus, and peole born under that sign are said to be strong-willed with creativity and great determination. She has used all this and more to conquer Bollywood and the hearts of many millions.