38 years into her illustrious career as an actor and superstar, Madhuri Dixit is set to make her digital debut with Netflix's upcoming web-series, The Fame Game – available to stream from February 25th. In an exclusive session on FC Front Row, she talks about her character, how her acting process has changed over the years, and of course, how her ethereal dancing abilities help her with the craft of acting too.
Anupama Chopra (AC): It's wonderful to have you on-screen again as an actor. I was watching The Fame Game and thinking of how it's like a hall of mirrors. You're playing Anamika Anand, who is a Bollywood superstar and you are a Bollywood superstar too. Do you find it easier or harder when a character and her circumstances are so close to yours? Of course, Anamika's experiences are fictional, but what was it like?
Madhuri Dixit (MD): I don't know if it's harder or easier. When you start playing any character, you're always thinking of the intricacies, all the thoughts that are going on in her mind and what she's feeling. She's a star, and yes, I'm a star in my life but that's the only similarity we have. The way she has led her life is very different from mine. So, I had to get into a different psyche and imagine myself in a position where I was supposed to do something that I didn't want to. You are a daughter, a wife, a mother and you're trying to keep everything together. It's so hard for you to do that and somewhere, you feel that you're not getting what you wanted from life. You're feeling suffocated because you don't know what you want from your life. I thought that was so layered, because even when I say, 'Oh, I'm so blessed,' I actually mean it, but when she's saying it, it has different connotations. She is saying one thing but she's feeling something else. I thought those layers were beautiful.
AC: When you create and build a character, is your process very different from what it was when you began or are the basic actorly beats still the same?
MD: When you begin, there's so much enthusiasm in you. Every time you're in front of the camera, it's like you have to prove that you're good. There are so many ideas in your head about how to do a given scene. As you play different characters, as you mature, you start thinking of not just the impression of what you're going to do but also how to absorb everything. When you start, you're giving off energy all the time. Then there comes a time when you start absorbing energy from everyone around you and then create your own energy. So, I think that's the difference when you're just new and then when you are there for a long time and are still honing your art.
AC: What was interesting for me was how The Fame Game talks about some very harsh truths that exist in the film industry. There's a scene where Sanjay Kapoor, playing your husband, comments about how senior actors romance much younger actresses who are almost their daughter's age in the movies. We know this is true. How do you process it?
MD: I don't get mad at it. It's commercial film and they have to think about the box office, the commercials. They have to earn their money back. Everything is about youth today. Everybody talks about being young and bringing in the youth. They want the youngsters to see it, so they want some youngsters in the film too. Even if the plot is different, they add a youngster to it to attract the younger audiences. It's all commercial, so I don't really get flabbergasted or disturbed about it. But now, content is changing. OTT has brought with it the sensibilities where the woman is playing a character. She's not just a lover, an avenging angel or a victim. She's playing different roles. You have films being made on mathematicians who are women, sportswomen and women scientists, so I think it's going in the right direction. There will always be some things that you have to live with for some time, but the changes will happen. They'll come slowly, one step at a time, but they will.
AC: You've talked a lot about how dance is something that you see everywhere. You said that it is a part of who you are. So much of what we love about you is the incredible dancing that you have done on screen. How does being a fantastic dancer make you a better actor?
MD: I think it's the body language and the grace that comes with learning how to dance. It's about abhinaya, it's about acting and expressions. To know how to use your eyes is very important. The eyes are the windows to your soul and I really do believe so. When you're feeling something, the eyes have to show what you're feeling. The craft of dancing helps you with that. It helps you with your body language and grace, not just in front of the camera but also otherwise in life. That's how I see dance and how it transcends and comes into your acting as well.