We all know her for her celebrated performances in Tezaab, Hum…Aapke Hain Koun,Devdas, Beta , Dil Toh Pagal Hai and Saajan. What about those performance of Madhuri Dixit that didn’t their due recognition?
- Parinda(1989): In Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s gangsta raag, Nana Patekar’s aggressive performance hijacked all the praise—doesn’t it always?! But look closely and you will see the subtle angst of a girl caught in a primeval crossfire.Dixit’s Paro Nair(what a weird name!) expressed with subdued intensity, the pain of being part of a violent system that doesn’t nurture tender affection.The romantic song Pyar ke mod pe choroge na baahen meri was choreographed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali who decided then and there that some day he will cast the divine Dixit as Chandramukhi in Devdas . That’s another story.
- Pukar(2000): By far Madhuri Dixit’s finest performance to date. A film about obsessive unrequited love, Madhuri’s act(s) of desperation to make Anil Kapoor love her even as he preferred Namrata Shirodkar, haunted me for months. I still remember her pleading eyes begging Kapoor for a chance to prove herself. Goosebumps! As Anjali, the casualty of the worst scourge mankind has (n)ever invented, Dixit just nailed it. The pleading, cajoling, threatening…eerie! And as far as Dixit’s legendary dancing skills goes can anything she did beat her Que sera sera with Prabhudheva?
- Prem Pratiggya (1989): As the neighbourhood dabbewali Laxmi(a sort of streetwise version of Nimrat Kaur in Lunchbox) who tames the good-hearted goonda Mithun Chakraborty, Madhuri gave her first indication of histrionic greatness in this quaint love story. She later told me that every gesture in the performance was decided by the great Telugu director Bapu. But even following a director’s instruction requires a surplus of common sense and intellect.
- Khel (1992): While most filmmakers prefer to cast her in dramatic roles, Rakesh Roshan gave Madhuri that rare opportunity to a female actor to explore her funnybones. The lady’s comic timing in her scenes with her favourite co-star Anil Kapoor and Anupam Kher were priceless. Madhuri had a lot of fun playing the role, and it showed.
- Mrityudand (1997): As a rebellious Bahu in a Bihar’s feudal household Madhuri’s character fought all odds(including the director Prakash Jha who insisted on recreating Bihar in the outskirts of Mumbai). And emerged triumphant. This is the first and last time that Madhuri was pitched against the formidable Shabana Azmi. And Madhuri held her ground. Among her slew of dramatic triumphs in Beta, Devdas, the appalling Sajan and the misfired Prem Granth, Mrityudand stands tall and is a glorious testimony to how far she could stretch her wings and soar in the sky when given a chance.
- Lajja (2001): Not too many of Madhuri’s fans have seen her class act in this underrated Rajkumar Santoshi vintage drama about four gorgeous women (Manisha Koirala, Rekha, Mahima Choudhary and Madhuri Dixit) and their journey of self-discovery. Koirala and Rekha shone. But Dixit outclassed herself. She dazzled as a theatre actress who was about to become an unwed mother. Whether taking on the moral police or taking a pee at the roadside, Dixit was an unstoppable meteor. If you haven’t seen the great Madhuri Dixit Nene in Lajja or Pukar, then you ain’t seen nothing yet. You don’t really know what this superlative actress is capable of.
- Kalank(2019): So all right. The film failed. But this is the last time we saw Madhuri Dixit reach sublime heights in her performance. Playing a tawaif Bahaar Beghum Dixit delivered a dewdrop delicacy into the doomed project. She was fatally beautiful as a person and yet flawed. Just like the film.