Madhuri Dixit ruled the roost in the 90s. The versatile diva wowed us with that charismatic smile that lit up the screen, making us count the minutes until we saw her again. She made the nation’s collective heart go ‘dhak-dhak’ as she shimmied seductively in Beta. But there’s more to Madhuri Dixit than dance — the talented actress amazed us with her power-packed performances in out-and-out commercial films, giving more to her films than the roles offered to her. She was nominated for the Filmfare Awards a record 16 times — 14 for best actress and twice for best supporting actress. She also holds the record for the most nominations in a row — 10 nominations from 1988 to 1995.
Proving that you can’t keep a good performer away from the arc lights, Madhuri is set to wow us again in the upcoming Kalank. Let’s take you on a virtual tour of her best performances.
Who can forget the tiny slip of a girl who made a nation sit up and chant ‘Ek do teen’? This N Chandra vehicle made Madhuri Dixit an overnight star. Madhuri made critics take notice of her feisty performance as a young girl who was willing to stand up to an abusive father who sells her to a gangster, for the sake of her love for an innocent man wrongly outlawed.
Madhuri teamed up with Anil Kapoor again in a full-scale melodrama that allowed her to showcase a range of emotions. As Saraswati, the educated wife of an uneducated villager (Anil Kapoor), trying to protect her husband from his scheming stepmother, Madhuri matched Aruna Irani in the battle of wits. Beta was a resounding success and Madhuri collared a second ‘best actress’ trophy at the Filmfare Awards that year.
As the widowed Shivani Chopra, Madhuri assayed a character with grey shades. Paired for the first time opposite Shah Rukh Khan, who played an obsessive lover, Madhuri got to not only dance Channe ke khet mein, but also turn from a woman teetering under tragedy to one who stops being a victim. Her nuanced, controlled performance as she sets out on a personal vendetta netted her critical acclaim and a Filmfare nomination.
This is the film which changed Madhuri’s image from that of the ‘dhak-dhak’ girl to that of the nation’s sweetheart. In this sweet-as-honey confection directed by Sooraj Barjatya, Madhuri’s Nisha is a strong, independent girl who chooses to sacrifice her love for her family’s happiness. The exhilarating combination of Salman Khan, portraying the character Prem, Tuffy the pomeranian and Madhuri’s Nisha made sure that Hum Aapke Hain Kaun became a blockbuster. Audience affection for the witty, carefree, sassy Nisha gave Madhuri her third Filmfare trophy.
Set in the hinterlands, Mrityudand was Madhuri’s film all the way. From the beginning when Ketki, a self-assured young bride, steps into her conservative in-laws’ home, Madhuri owns the movie. It’s her unwillingness to stay quiet in the face of injustice that empowers other women to stand up for their rights. Ketki was a powerful character, and Madhuri gave it her all.
Rajkumar Santoshi’s Pukar saw Madhuri essay Anjali, a young woman so in love with her childhood sweetheart that she commits treason in order to break up his engagement to another woman. The song Que sera,choreographed by Prabhu Deva, was the highlight of this film that earned Madhuri another Filmfare nomination.
Madhuri reunited with Santoshi to be a part of Lajja – Santoshi’s multi-story take on women’s issues. As Janaki, the outspoken theatre artiste, Madhuri made a strong case against societal double standards that were binding on women. Her bravura performance won her yet another Filmfare nomination; this time, for best supporting actress.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s operatic take of Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s famous novel saw Madhuri step into the role of Chandramukhi. Her unrequited love for the heartbroken Devdas (Shah Rukh Khan), her confrontation scenes with the proud, aristocratic Paro (Aiswarya Rai) and her scintillating adas in Kaahe chhed mohe, Maar daala and Dola re dola won her a best supporting actress trophy.
Proving that age cannot wither her nor custom stale her infinite variety, Madhuri stepped in to play the mysterious Begum Para in Abhishek Choubey’s Dedh Ishqiya. Matching wits with Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi is not for the faint-hearted, but Madhuri more than held her own as a dangerous femme fatale, moving with grace to Pandit Birju Maharaj’s choreography and shouldering the weight of flowery Urdu dialogues on her slim shoulders.
In this story of women’s empowerment based on a true story, Madhuri played Rajjo, the head of an all-women vigilante group. Clad in pink saris, the women bring about an unprecedented revolution as they fight for women’s rights. Cast opposite her was Juhi Chawla, in a negative role of a conniving politician. Watch it for powerhouse performances from both leads.