Madhuri Dixit was the leading female star of the 1990s. Born in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra, into a middle-class family — her father is an engineer and her siblings are professionals settled in the U.S. – Dixit was studying biology at Parle college, when she was offered the chance to act in the Hindi film, Abodh (Innocent; 1984). Though the film failed commercially, Dixit received other film offers, and tasted success in 1988 with N. Chandra’s Tezaab where she played the role of a dancer. The song she performed in the film, ‘ek, do, teen’ (1-2-3), became a nation-wide hit.
One of the keys to Dixit’s initial success was her combination of middle-class, girl-next-door persona and a sensuality, expressed through her dances, which in the past had been relegated to the vamp in Hindi cinema. Her reputation culminated with the controversial song “Choli ke peeche” in Subhash Ghai’s Khalnayak. Although many of Dixits early roles were those of a conventional romantic lead, she infused them with substance and character, thus making her presence felt in a film. While her dancing abilities could have easily relegated her to roles whore she appeared in song sequences and not much else, her versatility as an actress – including roles from the comic to the dramatic, the rustic village belle to the urban sophisticate, and everything in between – led Dixit to receive more substantial roles than her peers.
After the success of Hum Aapke Hain Koun!, Dixit was catapulted to mega-stardom and was regarded as the foremost female star by the media and became the highest-paid actress in the film industry. Even prior to her success in HAHK!, Dixit played strong characters such as the defiant daughter-in-law in Beta, a determined police woman in Khalnayak, and an avenging widow in Anjaam.
Afterwards, her roles became even more central (Raja, Prem Granth, Mrityudand) and films were being conceptualized with her in mind — a privilege usually enjoyed by the male stars in the industry. Her popularity in South Asia is such that a popular joke circulating in India claims that Pakistanis have said “Madhuri de do, Kashmir Ie lo” (Give us Madhuri, and you can take Kashmir) alluding to the decades-long conflict between both countries over the region of Kashmir. Renowned contemporary Indian painter, M.F. Husain, is rumored to have seen HAHK 85 times and was inspired to do a whole series of paintings, as well as make a film, Gaja Gamini, about the essence of “Indian womanhood” featuring Dixit. Although Dixit married an Indian doctor living in the U.S. in 1999, she divided her time between Los Angeles and Bombay and continued to act in select Hindi films and even briefly hosted a television show in India in 2002. In 2003, Dixit gave birth to a son and moved to Colorado – Tejaswini Ganti