The star says it's been heartening to see the industry evolve, especially in how it projects women on screen.
It is perhaps fitting that for its very first Indian Original movie, Prime Video has roped in Madhuri Dixit. Maja Ma sees the peerless Ms Dixit play a Gujarati homemaker. But while the trailer depicts her as the ideal wife and mother, the actress herself is quick to shun such adjectives.
“Perfection is just an illusion. Everybody has ups and downs. Yes, you want to be and try to be perfect but perfection is a thought… it's an idea, not real,” she says. Instead, she chooses to describe her role as Pallavi Patel in Maja Ma as “beautiful, layered” and one she thoroughly enjoyed playing.
Maja Ma is Madhuri’s second OTT project, the first being Netflix’s Fame Game. It’s the next act in the career of an actress who has taken breaks from the movie industry at various times since 1999, when she married the Denver-based surgeon Dr Shriram Nene, only to return in an evolved avatar, ready to try on new challenges.
“I couldn’t have asked for more,” she says, of this creative phase. “What is heartening is the kind of scripts being written now for women… where they are not caricatures; neither are they just ‘victims’ or ‘avengers’. I think finally women [in our movies and shows] are people, they are human, and that is what is wonderful about the new generation of writers. It’s a great time to be a woman in films.”
Even as she took sporadic sabbaticals from cinema, Madhuri continued to remain a radiant presence on screen, courtesy celebrity judge stints on shows like Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa and Dance Deewane. Kalank (2019) was her last film, which Maja Ma follows three years later. Not every change in the industry has been one she’s seamlessly adapted to, she admits.
“When I started… as an actor, all I had to do was work on my films, do a little promotion, and then we used to have a premiere night and that was about it,” the actress notes. “But now there are so many avenues you are exploring: you have to be on Instagram, you have to be on Twitter, and then you have to do this and that… There are so many different things that stars are doing today, so in that sense, life is a little more difficult today than it was.”
Madhuri says that in her most prolific era (the late ‘80s and the entirety of the ‘90s) the difficulties posed were more due to the disorganised nature of the film industry at the time. Now it is highly structured and organised, but there’s so much more an actor is expected to do. However, the greater variety of subjects and characters now being experimented with compensates to quite some extent.
Amid this professionally fulfilling time, is there anything she misses from her former life in the US? Madhuri mulls over the question, then responds: “When I was here [in India], I was working all the time. I would do 2-3 shifts every day, and that went for 10 years. Even when I was travelling for shoots, we would go there, and do our work, and come back. So when I got married, I actually lived my life away from work. My husband loves to travel, so I got to see and walk around many different places and learn the history, try different foods and all those kinds of things. So I actually lived for the first time [when I moved to the US], instead of just working all the time.”
“I had my life there, while here it was my work life.”
Maja Ma streams from October 6 on Prime Video India.