Why is Madhuri Dixit-Nene’s Dedh Ishqiya not working?

Everyone seemed eager to watch the dhak-dhak queen’s comeback to Hindi movies. But nobody is watching her first film after a seven-year break. What is the problem?

When we first heard that Abhishek Choubey was making Dedh Ishqiya with Madhuri Dixit-Nene in the lead, we were pretty thrilled about it. And then when we heard that various leading ladies were rejecting the role of Munia – finally played by Huma Qureshi – we were even more curious about it. Then the shoots began, as did the stories of how the various actors were delighted with their experience. Lots of fluffy stories came off the sets about how working with the gorgeous Madhuri was such a dream come true, what a fabulous film Dedh Ishqiya was, and more of the same thing over and over. While we agree with everything everyone has said about the film, and endorse the rave reviews that so many other critics have given it, we are practical. The film did not work. Theatres were not full – except perhaps in Pakistan, as reports tell us – and people preferred to watch the more popcorn-teenybopper Yaariyaan instead.

Why? Has Madhuri lost her magic? Does the combo of Arshad Warsi and Naseeruddin Shah, which worked so well in Ishqiya, not make the right moves in this follow-up? Has Huma, who grabbed applause in Gangs of Wasseypur, lost her charm? What went wrong? Actually, nothing. This one is a pretty perfect film in many ways, with humour, wickedness, music, acting, story…everything and more than so many recent, far more commercially successful films have had in the past year or so. But this one loses out because it is not comprehendible by most of the movie-going public, sadly enough. There is way too much Urdu used in the dialogue, for one. And for another, it is set in an ambiance not many today understand – the tehzeeb, the poetic courting, the scheming, even the costumes. And, of course, Madhuri – she was luminous, beautiful, a dream…unfortunately, an old-fashioned one that cannot make sense now, when people want mini-skirts, fast-paced item songs, blood and gore and something hatke, with no hangover from Devdas.

Will Mads do that with Gulaab Gang? We sure hope so. After all, nobody wants her to run back to Denver with hubby Sriram Nene and sons Arin and Ryaan, hai na?