Mesmerising, charming, talented and beautiful are just some of the adjectives that are used to describe Madhuri Dixit-Nene. The actress, who has started a new chapter in her career by making her Marathi film debut with Bucket List, talks to Bhakti Mehta about what makes this film special
With Bucket List, you make your Marathi acting debut in your long and illustrious career. Why did it take so long? What is so special about this film?
It is not about timing. I thought the script was very relatable. I could relate to that character very beautifully because I am also a mother, a wife, a daughter and a daughter-in-law. I play all these roles in real life as well. And I can truly say that you can get lost somewhere down the line. You lose yourself. There is no me anymore.
You are not the centre of the universe and the world does not revolve around you. It revolves around your children, your husband and your family. They are the centre and you are revolving around them. Somewhere, in the middle of all this, I think you lose your identity. This is a story about a woman who goes through this and how she eventually finds her identity. It is a slice-of-life kind of film. It is a complete entertainer. The journey of this woman is very entertaining. The moment I heard the story, I fell in love with it.
Tell us something about the mindset of your character in this film.
There is a huge emotional graph in the film, in the sense of how she is grappling with everything that is going on in her life at that point. And then how she gets a hold of this bucket list which she then tries to complete. She is doing this because even though nobody has really confined her, she has confined herself. She has limited herself, like, these are my roles and I cannot move beyond them.
The film encourages people to do something outside their regular lives, something for themselves as well. They should be a little a selfish because that is okay, as long as you do not harm or inconvenience anyone. You are doing it on your own time but you do need to do that and create an identity. How my character in the movie does that and how the perception of the people around her changes is very interesting.
When I spoke to Renuka Shahane, she said that one of the reasons she agreed to do this film was because you had signed on as the lead actress. How was it to work with her after 24 years?
It was just so wonderful! I had worked with her in Hum Aapke Hain Koun! and there was this bond that was formed during that film. There were just so many Maharashtrians on the set and we would just blabber in Marathi all the time. We thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company and were fond of each other.
Over the years, we kind of kept in touch with each other. She was also on the dance reality show Jhalak Dikhla Jaa, which I was judging at that point. Apart from that, we used to call up each other once in a while and if I was in Mumbai, I would give her a ring and ask what’s going on.
When this particular part came up for the film and our director Tejas (Vijay Deoskar) said he wanted Renuka Shahane to play this role, I said she is the most appropriate person for it. So, I just picked up the phone, called her and asked her if she was doing this movie, and she said she was. (Laughs). It was so nice working with her again and she is such a talented actress. In the trailer, when she just says those few lines, you can feel what she is saying. You can feel that connect with her. The connection between the women is also so beautiful.
It is great that regional cinema is booming with so much women-oriented content now.
I think it’s great that there are these new sensibilities and women are being presented in a new way. We are breaking stereotypes. When you said ‘women-oriented’ before, it would be like she was a daaku taking revenge or a victim all the way through, after which she changes when a miracle happens and so on and so forth. It is not like that any more. Women have been written and treated as women, as the different roles they have in society today. And this is wonderful to see. She doesn’t have to be just one thing. She can be feisty, she can be a little sexy, she can be full of life and vibrant, just the way she should be.
Is it difficult to tread the thin line between a slice-of-life film and one with a message?
That’s the director’s art, the way he presents it and the way it has been written. The way we are showing it, it is not preachy at all. In fact, it is entertaining. All the adventures that she goes through are entertaining. It’s not like taking yourself so seriously and preaching to someone about life. It just shows whatever happened.
How much fun did you have on the adventures you did in the film?
Oh my God! It was so much fun. Every single adventure was amazing. A lot of fun things happened and you will have to watch the film to find out.
Do you have your own bucket list?
Yes, of course. One of the things on my list was to do a Marathi film and that has been checked off now. I also wanted to produce at some point and now I am producing a Marathi film called 15th August. I keep challenging myself and keep adding to my bucket list. It’s very dynamic and it keeps growing with time. As it should be.
Do you look into the logistics behind the camera now that you have become a producer?
Well, I guess I will have to now. Right now I am at the point where the post-production is being done and the dubbing is finished along with the music. We are making decisions, like what kind of songs should be added and all that. Till now, I have always been in front of the camera. I was just an actor. Once my work was done, I would just go home and the producer did everything else.
Now that I am the producer, it’s like the actors are having fun and I am the one who is working. (Laughs). The shift from being an actor to a producer has been really wonderful. You get to learn a lot of new things. You are surprised and shocked at times that acha, aisa hota hai?
As an actor, is it necessary for you to connect with and relate to the characters you play?
I think that depends on the story and the role you have. I have done a few roles where I did not really relate to my character at all. Like when I did the film Anjaam with Shah Rukh Khan, my character goes on this violent spree. That is something which is not relatable to me at all. As an actor, you have to do those kinds of roles as well. You give these roles your own intonations, your own perspective, and you do it in that way. Then, again, some roles are very relatable because you have also been through it.
You have been working in Bollywood since the ’80s. What is the difference between the roles that were offered to you then and the ones offered to you now?
You know, I have always been fortunate to get good roles even then. I did movies like Beta, Raja, Dil, Mrityudand and Dil To Pagal Hai. I have played all kinds of roles in my career. I guess what I am trying to say is that, though we worked in those days too, it was a little indisciplined. It was very erratic. We used to work in a lot of films simultaneously. Then, there were times where we would shoot for two shifts a day.
But, in Bollywood today, it is all very organised. There are scripts that are given to you in advance. Your look, your make-up and the other physical elements of your character are properly worked out. Sometimes, we even do rehearsals for the scripts before we actually start the shoot. I think it is great for an actor today.
As a producer and as an actress, where do you think the Marathi film industry stands today?
I feel that content is king. Technically, Marathi cinema is at par with any other Bollywood movie. What I really like about the Marathi movie industry is that the budgets are still in control. They can make a film in a given budget while also making it look beautiful and technically sound too.
We have so many films like Fandry, Quila, Katyar Kaljat Ghusli, Natsamrat and Sairat which have broken all the records there were in the Marathi film industry. These movies are just a few of the many which are so realistic and yet so interesting. All these films are very different and it is great that the audience is accepting this kind of content today. They are coming to theatres to watch these films. The Marathi industry is booming right now and that’s wonderful.