Madhuri Dixit Nene: Female-centric films aren’t just about a woman taking revenge or being a victim

Bollywood Entertainment

Madhuri Dixit Nene started working in Bollywood (debut with Abodh; 1984) when there were only a handful of filmmakers making movies centered around women, and only a few writers came up with scripts that had a fleshed out part for its heroine. Switch to 2022, and the actor says it’s a “great time and era for women in films”.

She elaborates, “Today, when you say a female-centric film, it’s no longer just about a woman who’s taking revenge or is a victim and in the end, she rises above all odds. Now, women are characters in movies. They’re everyday people and aren’t being seeing through glasses of who’s a male or who’s a female. They’re portraying what women today actually do — go to work, be housewives, taking up different professions, shining in sports and so on. And it’s wonderful because then you get a variety of roles to portray, and women have so much more to do onscreen.”

Set to make her OTT debut with the Netflix series The Fame Game, Madhuri notes that the digital medium has a big role to play in bringing women stories to fore. She also attributes a lot of this change in mindset to the evolving audience’s sensibilities.

“When OTT came in, people started to see women being portrayed differently on screen than what they had seen in films. In these web series, women have such well-written and well-developed characters. Writers are writing scripts with modern sensibilities, not driven by patriarchal mindset,” says the 54-year-old, adding, “So even audiences have matured and they want to see women in more important roles, and not just someone who is going to dance or say a few dialogues. They want more from the women onscreen which is wonderful for everyone.”

While the portrayal of women on screen has undergone a drastic change over the decades, what Madhuri feels absolutely thrilled about is the fact that women are taking charge even behind the scenes.

“It’s wonderful to see women not just in front of the camera, but even in other departments on a film set,” says Madhuri, and recounts, “I remember I had started working and used to go on the sets, the only females would be me, other co-stars and the hairdresser. That’s it. There was no female in any other department. But today, when I go to a set, females are everywhere — assistant directors, camerapersons, writers, director and photographers. Earlier, there was this hirearchy that only men can do makeup and the women will only do hair, all that is broken and things have changed now.”

In fact, her web debut, too, is centered around a female superstar, Anamika Anand, whose disappearance unravels a lot of dark secrets about her glamourous life. Talking about what made her take the plunge into OTT space, Madhuri says she finds the long-format storytelling quite intriguing.

“When you start watching a series, it becomes your world, and you’re curious to see what happens with every character, as you’re living their life in that moment. A movie says everything in two to three hours, but with this long-format content, you have a lot of time to tell your stories and back stories of each character. It has many sub stories running with the main plot, so you get to see a whole universe. That makes all the characters interesting, and you kind of get sucked in that world,” she explains.

Asked if she found any similarities between her character and her real self and the actor is quick to add, “She’s a big star, huge name in Bollywood and has managed to keep her position intact… That’s the similarity and that’s where it ends. The kind of life Anamika had is very different from the kind of life I [Madhuri Dixit] had. Her family dynamics are very different from mine. She has seen the hard side of life and that’s how she has grown up. My mom and dad have always rallied around me and supported me but Anamika has not been protected. So, a lot differs from real to reel.”

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