Shah Rukh is not a good dancer but has charisma: Madhuri
Madhuri Dixit-Nene, 46, may not have become the surgeon she wanted to, but has become the wife of a surgeon. Her favourite God is Ganpati and she is a believer in karma. She is emotional and sensitive, but strong, stoic and stubborn. She teaches dance online to people across the world, as she wants everyone to enjoy dancing within their own private space. She knows the sensibilities of Karan Johar and has danced to a song in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, which introduces Ranbir Kapoor in the film. In a conversation with TOI, she talks about what attracted her to her husband Sriram Nene, her favourite dancing co-star Shah Rukh Khan and why Subhash Ghai will always hold a special place in her life. Excerpts:
How did you get into dance?
I was born and brought up in JB Nagar in Andheri East. I am the youngest of my four siblings. Growing up was fun and my best years were at my school Divine Child High School. My mother (Snehlata Dixit) always wanted to learn dance, but my grandparents were extremely conservative, so they did not allow her to. She went on to learn classical music, but made up her mind that she would teach her daughters dance. My sisters used to learn dance and I used to stand behind them and dance. So my guruji suggested that I also learn as I seemed interested. I started learning at the age of three and was always on stage for something or the other. My mother is proud of me and clearly my artistic bent comes from her. My dad, who is now retired, was an engineer and used to make transformers. Even though he is hard of hearing from his childhood, he enjoys watching Bollywood dance and music.
How did you get into films?
I was always on stage, be it for dramatics, elocution or dance. My family was always pro-education. I was a science student, who wanted to become a surgeon. But, I also knew I would continue dance. It just so happened that the person who worked at Rajshri Productions, Govind Munniji's daughter and my sister were friends. And through his daughter he had heard about me dancing and being on stage. They wanted a young girl for Abodh. He came to us and asked us if we were interested. We met the Barjatyas and felt comfortable with them. They made me read the back of a Hindi book to ensure that I did not have a Maharashtrian Hindi accent. My mother came back and asked her parents what they felt as they were the acid test being the most conservative in our family. To our surprise, they said, 'If she has the talent, she will make it.' So I did my first film in Class XII and while I continued to parallely study for another year, I finally had to make the choice to just be in films, as I could not do both. I then did a song in the film Karma when Subhashji saw the talent in me and said don't do small films, 'I will reintroduce you in Ram Lakhan', and he did. I then went on to doing Hum Aapke Hain Kaun with the Rajshris.
How did you meet your husband Sriram Nene?
My brother, who lives in LA, had met him and his parents and was impressed with them. He set it up for me to meet him at a party in LA without letting me know that. We hit it off really well and my brother asked me if I would like to meet him again. I did and it took off from there and we got married.
What attracted the both of you to each other?
We are alike in many ways. We are both conscientious about our work and take responsibility for whatever we do. Also, we both come from similar backgrounds and are Kokanastha brahmins and have had typical Maharashtrian upbringing that makes us culturally similar. His parents had gone to the US with nothing, but created their own life and are what they are due to their hard work and are similar to my parents. He introduced me to the fun element in my life. For instance, he made me do things like parasailing and mountain bicycling. Somewhere, we are also different. I used to find it hard to express myself in words, whereas he is more eloquent and can express himself easily.
How was your experience of staying in the US? Did you miss India there?
US was wonderful. It was idyllic and gave me a sense of freedom. I got my privacy and could bring up my kids and be with them in those crucial years, when they needed me. I would get recognised in the malls, but people would not follow me. I had my anonymity and could drive around and play with the kids in the park. I enjoyed being with my kids and also continued working in India. My parents were also there with me. So, we thought if we want to make the transition and come back to India, we would need to come back then as, if the kids grew more, they would have found it difficult to make the shift. For my parents, it's great to be back as they are in their comfort zone. My in-laws are still in the US, where they have lived for 45 years, but my husband loves Mumbai, the people and the food here. India has given me everything and so we returned. I plan to start my own dance school and my husband, his own health care thing. The only thing we miss is the good air and the open spaces and the parks for my sons Arin and Ryan.
Do they understand your stardom?
They love the informality here and the fact that they can ring bells and play all day in the building. They saw me dance in Koyla on Bum Chik Bum song and they tell me, 'Why are you so funny mom?' For them, everything is a revelation. They saw one of the promos on TV and came running saying, 'Mom you are on TV.' They don't like to see me crying on screen. I tell them I am acting and it is false blood and they understand. They love films and love comedies and are slowly beginning to understand without subtitles.
How are you as a mother?
Like my son wrote in his essay, 'She is a little strict'. I am particular about just a few things, like they should do their homework on time and they should brush twice a day which I will not let go. They are both bright and I appreciate that. They have so many questions that I quickly go on to the Internet to find out what they are asking. They enjoy dance, music and movies. When they see a movie, they will discuss it and will say, 'Mom, that dialogue is good.'
Your collaboration with Saroj Khan was special. What is her role in your life?
She is more like a guru to me and I look up to her. When I started I knew I am a good Kathak dancer, but I learnt Bollywood dancing from her. Bollywood has a different discipline and is an amalgamation of so many styles. For me, dancing to Ek Do Teen was the a-ha moment. She understands a woman extremely well and her sensibilities make you look sensuous and not vulgar. Also, her style suited me a lot and we formed a rapport where I understood her and her choreography and how to give expressions, which is so important.
Ranbir is a self-confessed fan of yours. How did you find him as a dancer?
Ranbir is extremely talented. He is such a good actor and is experimenting. What he has done is really hard. Being the son of two great actors, you have to work doubly hard to get out of their shadow. His future is absolutely bright and he will make a big name for himself, not just as a star but as an actor. He is also a good dancer and puts a lot of energy into it. He is shy and sweet and gave me a lot of respect. We had a blast on the set.
Who was your favourite dancing co-star??
Shah Rukh. Even though he is not a good dancer and he says that himself, he has charisma. He is not trained but the way he carries himself and the persona he brings into his dance and his energy is fabulous. Also, I have to say that Prabhudheva hands down is the best dancer.