SWEETNESS AND LIGHT
Madhuri Dixit had grown into a major star with just two films, “Tezaab” and “Ram Lakhan”, both with Anil Kapoor as her hero. She had a very insignificant start with a film called “Maanav Hatya” which exploited her young body and had an unknown actor called Shekhar Suman as her hero. The film was directed by an assistant of filmmakers who generally made films laced with sex. Luckily for Madhuri the film could not be completed due to lack of funds and was released in its incomplete form on one of the most unknown channels after midnight.
The success of Madhuri who was my neighbour ever since she was born gave me a new high and I thought of an idea. I asked her if she was game to go back to her days when she was just an ordinary girl called Madhuri Dixit. She immediately agreed and arranged for a second hand black Fiat to go around her favourite places. We started our day in the one room flat of the Dixit in a building called “Krishna Kunj” in J.B Nagar, Andheri East. Her mother had prepared two of her popular dishes for breakfast, “Pohe” and “Upma”. We had our fill, drowned two steel glasses of tea and she was all excited and asked me, “From where should we start?” And answered her question herself. She said, she would like to first stop at “Choice Centre” her family favourite department store.
She seemed to be a favourite of all the men working there. They were thrilled to see “hamari Madhuri” who had now become such a big star but had not forgotten them. Madhuri knew all of them by their names and asked them about their welfare and also about their families. The owner of the “Centre” was so happy that he called all his friends from the neighbouring shops and said, “Dekho, dekho hamaari Madhuri humko bhooli nahi hain, humko dekhne aayee hain, itni badi star hone ke baad bhi.” Madhuri spent more than half an hour going around the “Centre” and showed me her favourite place, the chocolate centre. “It was a luxury for my family and we could indulge in them only during our birthdays and on feast days like Diwali and even Christmas and Easter. I studied in a convent school where it was a custom to distribute sweets on your birthday and you were looked down upon if you didn’t and were called kanjoos without knowing the reality of your economic situation, Madhuri said before she wished all the men in the different shops good bye and we left in her black Fiat of which she was very proud. On our way she told me that her father was once a very big engineer but had fallen on bad days because he was cheated by his own people and that is how he had landed in that one room flat for which had to pay hundred rupees a month as rent.
She forgot her seriousness when the Fiat approached her school which was just a few kilometers away from her house. Her two older sisters, Bharati and Roopa had also studied in the same school known as Divine Child High School. She asked the driver to take the car inside the compound and was welcomed by the watchman and the driversof the school buses and other servants working for the school. She headed for the cabin of the Principal, Sr. Geneveive who was her principal and was still the principal of the school. Sr. Geneveive was overjoyed when she saw Madhuri and called all the nuns and teachers and told them about what she had said about Madhuri when she was in school. She had predicted a very bright future for Madhuri who was the best student of the school for several years because she was outstanding in her studies, was a very good athlete and the best dancer the school had ever seen. Madhuri made it a point to meet all the female caretakers who had taken very good care of her from the time she was in the KG class. They were thrilled and were doubly excited when my photographer, the late Mr. Vinayak Gokhale asked them all to stand with Madhuri and clicked their picture which was published in “Screen” and I made it a point to show the published photograph to them when the issue of “Screen” was out. She showed me one particular corner under a mango tree which she said was the popular gossip centre of all the girls when they had grown up and had seen and experienced the world. “Gossip was a very important part of our lives in school and our favourite subject were our friends and sometimes even the teachers, the nuns and even the principal”, Madhuri said.
She then wanted to go to her college, Parle College where her sisters and her brother who were all well established in America now also studied. She was in two minds before entering the college because she said she would be mobbed by the boys of the college who were good at studies because Parle College was known as a college for scholars “but scholars could also be mischievous and naughty” (Madhuri’s opinion about them), she finally decided to skip college and decided to go and spend time at the favourite meeting place of the students, the nearby Shiv Sagar Hotel. She got the kind of welcome which only big stars and VIPs got when they visited the hotel which was the first in a chain of Shiv Sagar Hotels. She sat in what she called her favourite seat and ordered her favourite dish “Pav Bhaaji” and I asked for a cup of tea and watched her eating her “Pav Bhaaji” like a little girl finishing the dish and wiping the plate clean with her fingers and then licking them with the same fingers. She said she could never forget the atmosphere asat Shiv Sagar and the taste of “Pav Bhaaji” available there. She was given a warm send off by one and all. She was mobbed; she was no longer a student, but a big star.
It was getting late and she remembered her mother telling her to come home early because they had to go for dinner to her “Mausi’s” (Aunt) place in Mulund which was far away from their home but Madhuri was very keen that I should see the only theatre where her parents took her once in a way to watch films which were devotionals or mythologicals. The only other films she remembered seeing were the films of Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand because her mother was a very big fan of both the legends. The theatre was known as Usha Talkies those days and now turned to Pinky, a mod theatre with an air- conditioned hall. She vividly remembered the potato chips and the cup of Quality ice-cream during the interval. It was nearing six but she was not in a mood to go home and wanted to spend time in a public garden where she and her younger sisters spent most of their time. We finally returned to “Krishna Kunj”, her house and her mother had prepared a dish of “Shrikhand Puri” which was a popular dish among all Maharashtrians. Madhuri still remembers that one day because she has never had the chance of visiting those places after that memorable day in her life.
By:- BY M.S IYER