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I, a Long-Time PR Professional Myself, Had Kept Madhuri Dixit Waiting!

My liking for her as an actor and Bollywood heroine got exacerbated by her sheer generosity of spirit.

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(This article was first published on 7 May 2023. It has been reposted from The Quint's archives in light of Bollywood actor and dancer Madhuri Dixit's 56th birthday on 15 May 2023.)

Who in their right frame of mind would keep the reigning queen of Bollywood waiting? Millions queue up for hours just to catch a glimpse of the cine stars. But I did. And instead, the Queen Bee was all apologetic about it!

Since I had been working as a freelance journalist right from my college days, I had enjoyed several opportunities to hobnob with the rich and famous.

Then, in my years at the Australian High Commission, I was put into proximity with them. So, one would work closely with well-known singers, historians, cricketers, authors, and filmmakers on any given day.

I entered the world of glamour in the late 90s when I stepped into the glitzy portals of the Hyatt in Delhi as their Marketing Communications Manager (MCM). Having led the media team of Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and Education Minister on their India visits in my previous stint, I had been nicely baked and prepared to handle celebrities of any stature.

With this well-honed outlook, I met India’s most famous and glamorous heroine of her time. The dhak-dhak girl, as she came to be known, was in those days riding the pinnacle in every male’s heart and was as liked and admired by the women.

Meeting the OG Bollywood Diva

The day started a bit rough and a lot busy as compared to other days. There was a document I had to prepare for one of the owners that he had to send to the Ministry of Tourism.

Besides the sky-scraping pile of work that was usually present on my table, there was the document that had to be readied for Mr G Harry, an abominable colleague, was breathing heavily down my neck, stepping in and out of my office umpteen times, and behaving more as an impediment than an inspiring force.

But Karma is a bitch, and it can never be deluded. Another time I will tell you the story of how Harry’s machinations were stumped by fate and factuality.

It must have been around 11 AM when MK called me—the chief photographer with Delhi Times who also used to moonlight for us. Also, he was the best-known paparazzo in the Capital City even before India got fully acquainted with the idea of paparazzi pursuits.

MK told me that he was going to be taking pictures of Madhuri Dixit at our hotel and asked me if I would like to meet her. Only the hopelessly feather-brained would ever decline such an opportunity, and so I answered in the affirmative. He confirmed after a little while that she had agreed to meet with me at around 1 PM in her suite.

In the winter of 1996, when I met her, she was certainly on top of her game. In spite of the handful of duds she had acted in the past two years or so, Madhuri Dixit was still a big name to reckon with in Bollywood.

Such was her appeal and her box office success that the film writers would be heard saying that her 1992 film ‘Beta’ should have been titled “Beti” and ‘Raja’ that came out in 1995, should have been more appropriately christened “Rani.”

They were not off the mark, for Dixit was the Bollywood bombshell who came with the full package— one of the sexiest heroines of her time, with sound acting skills, a great dancer, a million-dollar smile that reminded people of Madhubala, and a pair of sturdy shoulders over a svelte frame that could carry the weight of a film all by themselves.

Few Embarrassing Moments Later..

About three weeks before I was to meet Madhuri, I had suffered a fall and was now nursing a fractured ankle. My movement was hugely curtailed, and lamentably, I was more desk-bound than what my work entailed. Imagine getting to meet a hotshot heroine when you are not quite looking and feeling your best! Still, I was not going to miss my chance.

As I found myself embroiled in mounting deadline pressure, MK called to remind me about meeting the cine star, impressing upon me that Mr Rikku Rakesh Nath, Madhuri Dixit’s secretary in those years, had requested that I be on time. By the time I wrapped up, I got his third call, telling me that I should hurry up as Dixit had to leave for another engagement.

I pushed back my chair, drew myself away from my large desk, and took careful, limping steps to the elevator. The trudge seemed even more painful and slower than what it was. And the hideous light weight fracture shoe felt as if it weighed a ton.

It seemed that I would take forever to reach the floor Madhuri Dixit’s suite was on. My heart pounded mercilessly as the fear of not getting to meet an actor whose work I had liked began to grow in size within me.

I snailed my steps towards the suite, but halfway through, in the corridor, I saw the VIP entourage coming in my direction. MK was showing the way to the reigning queen in the most obsequious fashion. Indian paparazzi are, in any case, known to behave in a servile manner with the film stars. Still, MK is an all-around pleasant and polite man, so he was very well within his form.

Upon seeing me, the contingent comprising the actress and her parents halted midway. MK made the introduction between Madhuri and me. Madhuri was clearly miffed, I noticed.

She was dressed simply yet ethereally in an all-white ensemble—the crocheted kurta had a long slit in the centre and was worn over straight, loose palazzos. The wispy chiffon chunni had mini pompoms on the edges. She had a big black bag slung on one shoulder, and her black, high wedges made her appear taller. Madhuri wore her slickly pulled-back hair in a ponytail and had a pair of gold-rimmed aviators perched on top. She had minimal makeup on, with kohl lining only her upper lids and a rich burgundy lip colour headlining her famous mouth.

Yet, she looked ravishing. While she wore her huge stardom lightly on her petite yet well-squared shoulders, the aura around her of being one of our brightest stars was unmistakably pronounced.

Obviously, Madhuri Dixit was not used to being kept waiting. It was almost sacrilege in our cinema-loving world where there was always a mile-long queue of people just waiting to catch a glimpse of her.

And here was I, a non-famous, common person who had kept the star drumming her manicured fingertips on the bespoke marble top of the ornately carved table in her suite for at least 15-20 minutes. The whole thing was so preposterous and so befitting reproach.

Therefore, the fact that Dixit was all red across her face was not out of place. But then, her eyes fell on my abnormal gait. They travelled a little down towards the way the formal skirt I was wearing fell oddly at the helm. And then she saw the grotesque brown shoe on my injured foot. The shoe that I felt like a cross on my shoulder through the time the fracture took to heal proved to be the saving grace for me and made the big Star let go of any irritation she had felt towards me.

An Epitome Of True Grace

From curt, guarded behaviour to compassion, from being agitated to becoming affable, the change in Madhuri’s stance happened in brief minutes. She showed concern, exchanged a few friendly words, and expressed her inability for spending more time with me.

“Oh! That looks nasty,” she said, looking at my ankle. “I hope you get well fast.”

“I am sorry that I was late, that you had to wait for me,” I offered.

“No, no, I am sorry that I have to rush. I wish we could have had some more time together,” Dixit said in a soft, caring tone.

‘She was S.O.R.R.Y!’ I said to myself. It was I who was the most apologetic for being tardy and slow for whatever reasons, for not getting to spend adequate time with her, and for having kept her waiting. I was sorry, and I was extremely embarrassed.

I saw the most angelic and thoughtful expression take over her face.

“Do take care of that. I have to get to a function, otherwise… ” Madhuri was solacing me. “There is this public event I must excuse myself for,” she said and flashed her famous smile.

“Ma’am, ma’am, can we take a picture of you two,” chimed in MK. I made a mental note of thanking him adequately for his quick thinking. I felt so obliged for his masterly intervention.

Madhuri Dixit had a picture taken with me. And then she quickened her steps.

I fell behind and matched my pace with her mother and father, who were such a delight to meet as well. Both her parents were so normal, so untouched by the kind of fame and following their daughter was enjoying. Clad in the simplest of clothes and with an attitude that was completely shorn off any pretense or hubris, they seemed to be such fine, grounded people who had their own principles in place and who had instilled the right set of virtues in their actor laureate daughter.

When I look back at how Madhuri has conducted herself and how she comes across even now, I let a thought go back to how her parents were– simple folk with strong middle-class values and a nature of genuine niceness.

The Star sailed ahead in swift steps so as to reach her next appointment in time. But not before making a brief halt in the foyer to get herself photographed graciously by MK for the Hotel’s use. I was grateful that she made time in spite of being rushed. A less kind and compassionate celebrity would have been far less accommodating and would have refused to indulge us.

In the short elevator ride down to the lobby, Madhuri Dixit was quiet, and so were the rest of us. Upon reaching our level, I thanked her once again and said goodbye to all three of them.

Rikku Rakesh Nath appeared from somewhere, greeted me, and expressed his gratitude to me for the way the hotel had looked after the actress. Before rushing to manage the business around the megastar, he said to me, “Madhuri ji was very keen to meet you. Sorry that we could not stay on for long.”

I wobbled to one side and saw Madhuri take center stage. The moment she reached the heart of the Lobby, I noticed one of the briskest transformations. The aviators were shielding her eyes now. Madhuri had put on her brightest, megawatt smile and was waving to the tame crowd that was present inside the Hyatt. She interacted briefly with her fans before being escorted to the waiting car.

Later that day, MK walked into my office to show me the pictures he had taken of Dixit. I got to know that he had built me up substantially to the Star. “Our MCM is this, and our MCM is that,” I was told he had gushed. The stage, it seems, was set to have a neat and nice, freewheeling chat with the Superstar. But fate had different plans.

The ‘Person’ Madhuri Dixit

After that D-day of my half-meet with Madhuri, she went on to star in several blockbusters, then get married and relocate to the US, only to return and make some more good films.

I have always liked her as an actor and as a heroine but getting a little peek into the kind of person she is, has made me like her so much more.

It is not easy to take light steps with the weight of mammoth fame that can colour your vision, cloud your outlook, change you as a person and create a veil of make-believe about yourself. Not many famous people can stay true to their real selves and stay steadfast and moored.

But Madhuri Dixit did. And Madhuri Dixit Nene has!

(L Aruna Dhir is an International Hospitality Writer and Author Memoirist and Communications Specialist.)

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