Marathi cinema

‘Madhuri Dixit acts with calculated spontaneity’: Tejas Deoskar on his ‘Bucket List’ star

Madhuri Dixit rehearses a lot and then adds her own magic touches to the role, her director reveals.

Mumbai native Madhuri Dixit has over 34 years of experience as an actress, but she has never starred in a Marathi film up until now.

In Tejas Prabha Vijay Deoskar’s Bucket List, Dixit plays a Maharashtrian housewife from Pune who transforms herself into a feisty woman and goes on to tick off a long wishlist, including learning to whistle, drinking alcohol and riding a motorbike.

“The biggest challenge was to deglamourise Madhuri Dixit for the role,” Deoskar told Scroll.in. “But after the release of the teaser, people are still commenting on her beauty. It is beauty that shines through because of her performance and how well she is carrying the personality of her character.”

Nagpur-born Deoskar has directed a number of shorts and two Marathi features, Ajinkya (2012), a sports drama, and Premsutra (2013), a romantic film. Bucket List has been written by Deoskar and Devashree Shivadekar, and also stars Renuka Shahane, Sumeet Raghavan and Shubha Khote. The movie will be released on May 25.

How did the story of ‘Bucket List’ come to you?
The inspiration came from an article I read on the internet sometime in 2013 or 2014. It was a five-line story about a small event. It kept haunting me. I kept thinking what it would be like if something such as this happened to someone in India? It’s difficult to get into the details of the story now.

Around late 2016, I had developed it into a story. Right from the beginning, I had Madhuri ma’m in mind. I did not even know if she would do the film because she had not done a Marathi film before. But I knew that the lead character was an author-backed role, so most actors would choose it. I approached her manager with my story, and within three days, I was giving her a narration.

It was a big boost for me because an actress of her stature said she liked it. But she asked me to come back with a ready screenplay. I knew this was my last chance to make the movie. For six weeks, we [Devashree Shivadekar and Tejas Deoskar] sat day and night and produced up to five drafts.

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Bucket List.

How would you describe the theme of ‘Bucket List’?
Bucket List is a slice-of-life coming-of-age film. It is a journey of self-realisation of a woman who is a housewife – a common character we see every day, be it our mothers, sisters or wives. Rather, it is the story of self-realisation of a person who happens to be a housewife.

And through doing the things she has on her bucket list, she discovers her identity that is lying dormant inside her. She realises that she has the right to enjoy life as well. We are often brought up in a way that we think of certain things in life as luxuries, when they are not. They are our birthright. We ignore them and move on. Bucket List shows that people have the right to live lives the way they want to, and there is nothing wrong in that.

A bucket list is usually made by people about to die. Does your film involve death?
A bucket list is not just for someone who is dying. You can die tomorrow or quite late, but everyone dies. And everyone has some things they would like to do in life – a bucket list.

My film is an inspiration for those who haven’t written a bucket list yet as well as for those who have written one but are not trying hard enough to complete it. Life is so unpredictable, you can die any day. What we are trying to do with Bucket List is to show people that instead of keeping death in mind, you can think of life, and try and complete what you wish to do.

What made Madhuri Dixit apt for the role?
I grew up watching Madhuri Dixit’s films. I always thought that beyond the glamour, she was a fantastic actress. In both her hits and flops, regardless of how bad her role or the scene was, you could see her acting abilities. She gives 100 per cent to each role. Her sincerity comes across, even in some of the films you wouldn’t watch even if you were paid to do so. For a small song in Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (1998), she comes as just a guest star, but is still so good, and she is at par with one of the best comedic actors [Govinda].

I cast her not only for her beauty or glamour, but to exploit her dramatic skills. Sometimes, when you have a story in mind, and you keep thinking about the character, a name or a face fits into it like a jigsaw puzzle. That is how Madhuri Dixit happened to Bucket List.

What does Madhuri Dixit bring to the character of a Maharashtrian housewife?
Everything. She ticks all the boxes. Remember that Madhuri Dixit is also someone’s wife, mother and daughter. That way, she is living the character daily in her life. It is not like we gave her a character she has never dealt with. But she is such a fantastic actress, she brings her own nuances to it.

Growing up as a Marathi boy, I always wanted to see her [Madhuri Dixit] in a Marathi film. But we should step out of the mentality of slamming her or holding it against her that she did not do a film in her mother tongue. As an actress, she would only work in the best possible environment and go for the best possible opportunities. Maybe, she did not get great roles. She told me that she had received quite a few Marathi film offers, but she did not find them worthy enough. I don’t think she let them go because she was a Hindi film actress.

Is Madhuri Dixit a spontaneous performer or does she come to the sets prepared?
She rehearses a lot. When she would come to the set, she would know the script by heart, and then while shooting, she would add her own touch to a scene.

I give my actors a free hand. I let them understand a character and allow them to reproduce it in their own way. So she came prepared but she added her own little things – you could call it calculated spontaneity.

How has she evolved for audiences over time?
Over the years, Madhuri Dixit has been this huge diva who has been looked up to as a glamour icon. But she is more than that. She is a great actress. Her roles in, say, Lajja (2001) or Devdas (2002), required acting of the highest order, and she delivered. It’s not like she was a glamour icon before, and she is changing to character-driven roles now. Even in her most commercial films, she was a strong performer.

She is doing another film now, Total Dhamaal, a full commercial venture, and, mark my words, even there, she will put in more than 100 percent. Her sincerity will show. It’s amazing how dedicated she is after working for 35 years.

Will she dance in ‘Bucket List’?
Do you think Madhuri Dixit would not dance in a film? All will be revealed in due time.

Tejas Prabha Vijay Deoskar and Madhuri Dixit.
Tejas Prabha Vijay Deoskar and Madhuri Dixit.
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