Madhuri Dixit Birthday Special: 7 most underrated performances
If you haven’t seen the great Madhuri Dixit in 'Lajja' or 'Pukar', you haven’t seen anything yet
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 performances of Madhuri Dixit that didn’t get their due recognition?
1. 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 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 someday he will cast the divine Dixit as Chandramukhi in Devdas.
2. Pukar (2000): This is 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 go, can anything she did beat her Que sera sera with Prabhu Deva?
3. Prem Pratiggya (1989): As the neighbourhood dabbewali Laxmi (a sort of streetwise version of Nimrat Kaur in The Lunchbox) who tames the good-hearted goonda Mithun Chakraborty, Dixit 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.
4. Khel (1992): While most filmmakers prefer to cast her in dramatic roles, Rakesh Roshan gave Dixit that rare opportunity to a female actor to explore her funny side. Her comic timing in her scenes with her favourite co-star Anil Kapoor and Anupam Kher were priceless. Dixit had a lot of fun playing the role, and it showed.
5. Mrityudand (1997): As a rebellious bahu in a feudal Bihari household, Dixit’s character fought all odds (including director Prakash Jha, who insisted on recreating Bihar in the outskirts of Mumbai). And she 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, it is Mrityudand that stands tall and is a glorious testimony to how far she could stretch her wings and soar in the sky when given a chance.
6. 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 piss by the roadside, Dixit was an unstoppable meteor. If you haven’t seen the great Madhuri Dixit Nene in Lajja or Pukar, you haven’t seen anything yet. You don’t really know what this superlative actress is capable of.
7. 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 (concubine) 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.
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