May 15 marked 50 years since Madhuri Dixit descended on Earth, which is very hard to believe for her legions of admirers who have followed her fleet movements and luminous smile.
Dixit is selective about her film appearances – her last movies were Dedh Ishqiya and Gulaab Gang in 2014 – but her legacy lives on in the form of videos of her greatest Hindi film dance numbers.
Dixit made her debut with Abodh (1984) and hit gold after a series of flops with Tezaab (1988). Ek Do Teen from Tezaab is counted as one of the most popular songs in Hindi cinema, and it proved to be a sign of things to come for Dixit.
In 1990, Dixit was the face of several hit numbers. Humko Aaj Kal Hai is the most memorable aspect of Sailaab. Dixit’s character is rescued from a fishnet and revived by a village healer, who unleashes her dancing abilities in the process. Saroj Khan won a Filmfare award for her choreography, and the two professionals embarked on an alliance that defined the decade.
Dixit’s dance-off with Aamir Khan in Dil has its fans, but it’s not easy to shimmy to. Aapko Dekh Ke, from Kishen Kanhaiya (1990), is more dancing shoe-friendly.
Dixit’s box office magnet status was sealed with Beta (1992). Her steamy, breast-thrusting number Dhak Dhak Karne Laga is one of her greatest hits. She was paired with Anil Kapoor in numerous films, including Khel (1992). Ek Baat Maan Lo Tum from Khel (1992), better known as the Idlo Doo song, is Madhuri Dixit’s version of Sridevi’s Hawa Hawaai from Mr India (1987).
The following year, the suggestive Choli Ke Peeche became one of the biggest talking points of Khalnayak (1993) opposite her frequent co-star, Sanjay Dutt.
Dixit’s other chartbusting numbers from the decade include the Saroj Khan-choreographed Chane Ke Khet Mein from the vendetta thriller Anjaam (1994).
The only thing anybody remembers about Raja (1995), co-starring Anil Kapoor’s brother Sanjay Kapoor, is Dixit’s unbelievable hip movements in the song Akhiyaan Milaoon.
The period costume drama Rajkumar (1996) is another one of those movies that didn’t do much at the box office, but is remembered for its elaborate dance sequences.
Despite her undisputed ability to hold the camera’s attention, Dixit was a generous dancer, allowing her co-stars enough room to shine. Here she is in Koi Ladki Hai from the musical Dil To Pagal Hai, dancing in a contemporary style to Shiamak Davar’s choreography with Shah Rukh Khan.
Who’s a better dancer than Michael Jackson imitator Prabhudeva? Madhuri Dixit, the original.
In Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas (2002), Madhuri plays Chandramukhi, the courtesan who falls for the titular alcoholic. Maar Dala and Dola Re Dola Re are showcases of Dixit’s classical training and testaments to Saroj Khan’s imagination.
Madhuri Dixit made the first of many comebacks for Devdas. She had married American surgeon Shriram Nene in 1999 and had moved to Denver. She returned for Anil Mehta’s dance-themed Aaja Nachle in 2007. The film flopped, but Madhuri’s dancing abilities were a hit.
Saroj Khan returned too to choreograph Dixit in Gulaab Gang, calling her a “choreographer’s delight”. Dixit’s poise and grace in Hamari Atariya from Dedh Ishqiya earned her praise from the song’s choreographer Birju Maharaj. It was a “memorable experience”, said the kathak maestro since Dixit is a “fantastic dancer”.