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Wannabe Madhuri Dixit?

`Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon,' says Antara Mali, the `Mast' girl charting her own `Road'



Antara Mali is always on the look out for new things — Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

MAIN MADHURI Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon. Who doesn't it? Ask any new girl in Bollywood. She may not say as much but in the heart of hearts she wants to be nothing but the Dhak Dhak girl. If she allows herself a moment's confession, she might even concede softly, Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon. Little wonder then that Antara Mali, a pint-sized girl with dreams of her own to nurture, to cherish, just said yes when Makrand Deshpande gave her the idea to play M.F. Husain's dream girl. She just could not help saying yes. Wish fulfilment maybe but since then life has not been the same for this talented artiste. Almost everyday for months on end, she had to step into the shoes of "mainstream cinema's last female superstar". Everyday brought in "fresh challenges"; every dusk saw "something accomplished at the end of the day". And she now stands poised to be a star herself as she seeks to carry Chandan Arora's Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon on her shapely, if slender, shoulders. Who knows if in Ramgopal Varma's latest production, where she plays Chutki, a village girl, who lands up in Bombay with celluloid dreams, reel and real might just marry.

"It has been a fantastic, huge challenge. It was also a matter of honour to be in her (Madhuri Dixit) shoes. She was a huge star, last star of the commercial cinema. It was not easy to play her in a film because everybody knows about the original in this case; everybody has seen the songs, the dances.

I had to enact five songs, ranging from Ek Do Teen and Dhak Dhak to Mar Dala, and each brought in a fresh challenge."

The little girl with a face so pleasant that you would excuse any garnished truth and a demeanour so natural that you would feel she is just the proverbial girl next door, does not want to be Madhuri Dixit. Surprised? She has her take on that.

"No, I don't wannabe Madhuri Dixit. The kind of films I am doing is different. With them I don't think I can ever aspire to that kind of star status she had. Times have changed now. Script is the king. My intention is always to do something different. At times it works, at times it does not. The kind of films I am comfortable doing can be loosely called crossover cinema but even these movies have to have a soul. However, even if I ever do a running around the trees kind of role, I am sure I will do it with dignity and do something to make it slightly unusual."

Clearly, Antara Mali is as much at ease with the spoken word as the flashing camera lights. "The path my career has taken is different. It was deliberate. I don't believe in herd mentality. I don't want to do the same thing again. I am always on the look out for new things. That is why you will find space between my movies. I prefer to choose my films even though I have been offered many films. But after every hit, they want you to do the same thing. Yes, the human temptation is there to accept the films. The kind of money offered is unbelievable. But money does not compensate for creative satisfaction."

Has not she limited her avenues for "creative satisfaction" by being a mascot of Ramgopal Varma Corporation?

"Well, his corporation offers better scripts, best roles. So far the best roles in my career have come from Ramgopal Varma Corporation. I have been able to experiment with the banner. In Road I was aggressive, in Mast I was the girl next door."

And in Main Madhuri... she plays the girl next village. "No, contrary to what people say, there was no wish fulfilment with the film. I took up the film as a challenge of a lifetime to enact the role of a superstar actress."

ZIYA US SALAM

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