Indian cinema has evolved, women are no more just eye candy: Madhuri Dixit

Mumbai, Jan 1 (IANS) Bollywood diva Madhuri Dixit is set to make a comeback on the screen in a never-seen-before avatar in ready-to-release "Dedh Ishqiya", a hinterland based thriller-drama, and thanks Indian cinema for evolving and making way for strong female characters.

"The more depth in the character the more fun you get to perform," Madhuri said when asked how comfortable she was with the bold role in "Dedh Ishqiya", which brings her out of her comfort zone.

"I am so thankful that our cinema has come a long way, and I am happy that women are portrayed as characters and not just eye candy in the films. (Women are) very beautifully portrayed on the screen," the actress told IANS in an interview.

With the lethal combination of oomph and talent, Madhuri rose on the film firmament in the late 1980s and 1990s with blockbusters like "Tezaab", "Ram Lakhan", "Dil", "Beta" and "Saajan".

She is also known for her acting prowess in off beat films "Prahaar" and "Mrityudand", which saw her in a non-glamorous avatar.

After ruling the roost for years, Madhuri shifted base to Denver when she married US-based doctor Sriram Nene in 1999. Her last big hit was "Devdas".

In 2007, she attempted a comeback with "Aaja Nachle", which bombed at the box office, and she went back. Four years later, the actress returned to India for good and she hasn't had to hunt for work.

First, she got busy as one of the judges with the fourth and the fifth seasons of the dance reality show "Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa" and then two films - "Dedh Ishqiya" and "Gulaab Gang" - fell into her lap. Interestingly, in both the films, female characters are central to the story lines.

In between, she made a special appearance in the "Ghaghra" song in "Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani".

Her role in "Dedh Ishqiya" is certainly a giant leap for the actress. Director Abhishek Chaubey is presenting her as a widow looking for a husband and she organises a poetry competition in her house every year where prospective grooms come and try to woo her.

"For women, it's a great time to be in the industry. When they narrated the script to me, I was very excited. It's a role that appealed to me," said Madhuri who has some bold scenes with Naseeruddin Shah in the film, which also stars Arshad Warsi.

"Begum Para is a beautiful character written by Abhishek. She is a poetic woman. She is a widow and her late husband's wish was that if she ever marries again, she should marry a poet.

"So every year she organises a swayamvar for her. She has been completely unimpressed for two years, but in the third year Babban (Arshad) comes," she said.

Begum Para in "Dedh Ishqiya" marks her second innings in filmdom post marriage and when asked how important is the film for her, she said: "Everybody wants to see me after a gap. Begum is a strong character. She has many multi-layered kind of a woman. How the film does is very important."

"Dedh Ishqiya" is a sequel to "Ishqiya", a film that made its lead actress Vidya Balan a name to reckon with.

Co-produced by Vishal Bhardwaj and Raman Maroo, "Dedh Ishqiya" will release Jan 10.

Is she getting cold feet?

"I am not nervous, I am very excited about it. The script is very good and I think it's a complete entertainer," said a confident Madhuri.

(Uma Ramasubramanian can be contacted at umasagit@gmail.com)

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