Mee Marathi, Madhuri, The Fearless One
I was living in a place which was marked out by two different convent schools, the Holy Family School for boys and the Divine Child High School for girls. There were every day complaints about the girls being teased by the boys from their school which was only a kilometre away. But I still remember how come of the boys were very scared of two sisters from the girl’s school, one called Roopa and the other very beautiful sister who was called Madhuri. Their elder sister Bharati also used to study in the Divine Child High School and their only brother, Ajit studied at the Holy Family High School. Bharati and Ajit went on to go to America where they studied medicine and established themselves as doctors. Roopa was interested in being an interior designer and fulfilled her wish and also settled down in America. Madhuri was left alone to fight her own battle both in school and the Parle College where she was studying for her degree in Microbiology and soon destiny took her into the world of films. She was clever enough to know that it was not going to be easy for her, a girl who belonged to a middle-class Maharashtrian family which had nothing to do with films…
And she saw proof of things not going to be easy for her when she got her first break in Sudarshan Rattan’s “Manav Hatya”. Her parents and her siblings were against her doing the film as it was a story of gruesome rape of which she was the victim. Madhuri showed the first signs of being a fearless girl when she agreed to do the film. I remember one particular day when she was shooting for “Manav Hatya”. She and her mother were made to sit on stones in the heat of the sun. Madhuri asked a spot boy to get her a glass of water and he looked at her as if she was a piece of dust and I still remember his words which were “tere ko paani pilane k sivayee mereko koi kaam nahi hai kya”? And he walked away. The young Madhuri wanted to show her anger, but her mother, Mrs Snehalata Dixit asked her to take it easy as she believed this could be the way the industry worked till you had made a name. That could perhaps be the evening when both mother and daughter decided to fight their own battles till Madhuri was accepted as a star!
Madhuri took one big step after another and finally made it as the leading female star of the country. But whatever she achieved was on her own terms. And she had decided that she would not take “nonsense” from anyone, however big, that she would charge her price which she felt she deserved and that she would not bow before any of her male or female colleagues.
I remember some of the incidents in which she proved how fearless she was . At the peak of career I had a brain wave to bring out an entire issue of “Screen” in black and white at a time when colour was ruling. We had taken a unanimous decision to have Madhuri on the cover. I had to make special arrangements to shoot her cover page photo Mr J.H Thakkar who was the last of the old school photographers who took classic pictures of the stars with his hundred year old box camera. Thakkar who was in his late eighties and had started losing interest in photography, was excited when I told him that I wanted him to “shoot” Madhuri. He said it was a very grand climax to his career.
Madhuri was equally excited and we, together with her very reliable manager Rikku (also known as Rakesh Nath) drove to Parel where Thakkar had his own studio for fifty years. It was like a picnic and it was also like going back into the past. Madhuri spent the first one hour going around the studio and asking Thakkar questions about his cameras he used and the stars he had shot. Madhuri was very happy to know that Thakkar was introduced to a new actor by his son, Hemant, who no one was interested in and whose photograph he had taken without charging him any money. That new actor grew up to be Mithun Chakraborty who has never forgotten the studio, Mr. Thakkar and his son who became a very good friend of Mithun. Mithun’s photograph was placed as a display at the entrance of Thakkar’s Studio….
It was time to start the shoot, but there was sudden panic all over the city. A young and popular BJP MLA, Ramdas Nayak was shot dead in broad daylight, at 10:30 in the morning outside his office Bandra West. Shutters came down and traffic came to a still in different parts of the city…
Mr Thakkar was panic-stricken and wanted to call off the shoot, but the fearless Madhuri would have nothing of it. She asked Mr Thakkar to pull down the shutters from the front and continue shooting her pictures inside. We were all a bundle of mixed feelings, but Madhuri was as professional as she would have been at any other time. Mr Thakkar finished the shoot by three-thirty but no one had to go hungry because Madhuri who loved good food had packed enough food for a team of ten people. When we were getting out of the studio, the panic in Mumbai had subsided and we drove home to Madhuri’s Iris Park apartment and she was her usual fearless self and had forgotten all about the shooting incident…
She didn’t have to have any security guards or bouncers with her. Her manager, Rikku and Madhuri herself could take on any kind of rowdy crowd whether it was in Mumbai, Jaipur or even in the unruly crowds of Delhi. There were times when Madhuri and Rikku even used the trophies and awards as their weapons to keep the crowd away from touching Madhuri.
It was our first “Screen Awards” which was being conducted at the Film City on a specially erected set built under the supervision of Subhash Ghai. I had played an important part in organising the whole show. Madhuri had not arrived till it was ten pm. There were no mobiles those days and I kept calling Madhuri at her residence. She finally arrived straight from a shooting in an ordinary every day dress and sat next to me on the stage, in one of the green rooms, when suddenly a huge wooden beam fell and Madhuri was saved from what could have been sure death. She was as calm as ever and asked me and all those around me not to create a noise about what had happened as it could spoil the show. Madhuri got a prize for her courageous real-life performance when she walked away with the seeds
Award for the best actress for her performance in “Him Aapke Hai Koun” “.
She has attended many of the functions in which I was involved. My friend, Rikku played a very important part in arranging and adjusting the time. Madhuri was invited to a big function organised by the well-known astrological magazine, “Kaal Nirnay” which was a part of every Maharashtrian household. We had hardly crossed Andheri when her car had a puncture. Any other star would have found a very good excuse to get out of the function. But Madhuri said once a commitment had been made it would have to be kept because she was aware of the thousands of people waiting for her…
She will be fifty-two on May 15 and she continues to be the free and fearless spirit she had always been and now hopes to pass on the same spirit to her sons, Arin and Ryan.
Happy birthday, fearless and beautiful woman. You will always be one of my reasons to be happy to have been a part of your growing up from that school girl in Andheri to an icon of not only the country but also the world.
P.S:-Everyone still talks about her beauty, but I have seen her at a beautiful best when she is without makeup and her hair is being oiled by her mother as she hums a Marathi song and plans to go for lunch to her Mama’s(uncle) house in a distant suburb.
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