There’s a telling scene in ‘The Fame Game’ where Anamika Anand’s husband privately berates her, calling her a ‘flop actress’ that is almost reminiscent of the lynching mob Madhuri Dixit suffered in the mid-90s. .
With her Bollywood career chart plateauing after a series of unsuccessful films such as “Yaraana”, “Prem Granth” and “Rajkumar”, the actress has been subjected to aging comments from several critics, some of them the called “too old” to be a star. Lady.
And then came 1997’s ‘Dil To Pagal Hai’, which swept awards season that year, winning Dixit the Best Actress trophy which she in turn dedicated to those same critics who had suggested her to pack up and leave Bollywood.
Such is the natural grace that Dixit brings to Anamika Anand in such moments that it sometimes becomes hard to tell where the real actress ends and where the reel takes over in “The Fame Game”, the new Netflix series she directed.
Dixit acknowledges that there are some parallels between the two, but these are perhaps limited to the moments on the red carpet and the portraits hanging on the wall, when his life is not a skeleton waiting to fall out of a closet. dark.
“Someone used the term Metaverse,” Dixit reveals in a chat with Gulf News a week after “The Fame Game” was released on Netflix, while climbing straight into the top 10 in UAE audiences. “It’s a bit confusing because they [makers] used some of my real life images like the photographs on the wall and created this image for Anamika.
But the metaverse, as she calls it, isn’t just about images. There is another scene in the series where his character launches into an impromptu jig to “Channe Ke Khet Mein”, often considered one of Dixit’s most iconic tunes from the 1994 film “Anjaam”, choreographed by the late Saroj Khan.
Dixit just laughs when you bring up such moments on the show, saying, “I think they did that because they wanted to create that image of me. The show opens by showing that Anamika is a huge star. So to create this image of a huge star, they just used my huge star status. They use these things just to establish that, but after that, everything that happens to Anamika is its own story.
Yet surely with a career spanning 38 years and countless movies in her kitty, there must have been some Dixit reality that seeped into Anamika Anand’s character, perhaps the glamorous takes or the fiercely mother protective raising her children away from the public eye.
“I think everything that was written by Sri Rao was very relevant to the story. I mean, nothing was forced or introduced just for fun,” the 54-year-old star explains. even though it was Anamika’s story, while playing, I brought some of the stories that I had heard and some of the things that I had experienced into the different scenes that I did. But I think everything she goes through and goes through in her life is very different from mine. So we had that demarcation, but yeah, there’s a lot of stuff that I had heard or picked up or believed in that was used for the performance.
And that performance unfolds over eight episodes like a pot that would put Bollywood to shame, with seasoning of an unrequited love story, a troubled marriage, film industry tropes and tongue-in-cheek rhetoric about the trappings of love. ‘a star in India today, which sometimes takes precedence over the ability to act itself.
In fact, one particular scene where Anamika roasts a young star who makes an ageist comment sparked a viral meme on social media, with her character’s wild response even prompting filmmaker Karan Johar, whose series Dharmatic Entertainment co-produced, to quiz. Pretty much the same thing.
In this particular scene, when a young star asks for Anamika’s blessings, she responds by saying, “You don’t really need my blessings. Young stars these days have PR, stylists, trainers, you have it all. In fact, you don’t even need talent, let alone my blessing.
Screenshots of this scene were shared online and many praised the commentary made on the younger generation of actors. However, Dixit, who excels in political correctness, can never imagine saying such a thing in real life. In fact, she even told Johar that she was far too secure in her real life to resort to such statements.
Yes, the series has just about every Bollywood cliche in it, but it somehow works, thanks in large part to Dixit’s stellar performance and a few nifty twists that keep viewers guessing until at the very end.
“We are, of course, very happy with the final product because it was our baby and everyone worked very, very hard on it,” says Dixit, alluding to the production hurdles they encountered during the pandemic and the corresponding lockdown in India which saw three days of filming completely scrapped before the crew moved to the town of Nasik and started afresh, protected in a bio-bubble.
“So we were filming at very strange times. But, you know, when we saw the final product and how it turned out, we were all very happy with it. Of course, there is always apprehension, but the series is trending in so many countries,” she continues.
“The Fame Game,” which marks Dixit’s debut in a web series, was billed as something of a casting stunt. The actress herself has revealed that she and writer Sri Rao were originally supposed to collaborate on another project, but that show fell in her lap.
“Sri Rao had the script with him and he came to me saying, you know, this is what I want to do. And he just gave me a stunt double, saying it was a huge star with a perfect family who suddenly disappears one day,” Dixit reveals, adding that as the show progresses, the course of the investigation changes from “where is Anamika? to ‘who is Anamika?’.
“I liked the idea of a thriller and when I heard the script I thought it was great. And then of course Netflix got involved, and I thought they could give it that fit and that quality and that feel and that’s why I decided to do this project.
Without giving away the acting, the series also allows Dixit to dabble in a bit of gray, as her character isn’t as straightforward as some of her Bollywood roles. Ask her about it and she reveals that may have been what got her the part, exploring that bit of negativity.
“I mean, here you think someone is a certain way and then you find out everything is grey. And when you go back and see it again, you realize that Anamika is not who she appears. She has shades of insecurity within her that don’t even spare her daughter,” Dixit says.
Having worked in Bollywood in the 80s and 90s, when streaming platforms were just a spark in the eyes of behemoths such as Netflix, Dixit acknowledges that perhaps 20 years ago she might not have ever had the opportunity to headline such a show.
“I think early in my career, films aimed at women meant either revenge dramas or victims. These were the only mandates given that created a very stereotypical genre of female-focused films. But I think we’ve come a long way from there,” Dixit says.
The actress continues, “I think in my career I’ve been very lucky to get very strong female roles, whether it’s in ‘Beta’, ‘Raja’, ‘Mrityudand’ or ‘Khalnayak’. I think I was lucky to have written roles that were powerful in their own way, but now I think the sensibilities are changing.
Dixit adds that there was a time when she walked on a set and the only women in the room were the actress herself, the hairdressers and the supporting actors. “But now when I walk in, the cameramen, the cinematographer, the directors, the costumers, the set designers, are all women, which is amazing to me,” she says.
Does this mean that Dixit the actress might one day find her calling Dixit the filmmaker? Ask the veteran and she didn’t put it down. “Well, I’ve already produced two films in Marathi with the second one ready for release, so yeah, I’ve been behind the cameras so to speak. But as a director, who knows? I mean, right now I’m having a great time on camera, maybe someday, you know.
What is “The Fame Game” about?
Anamika Anand (Madhuri Dixit) is a famous Bollywood star who seems to have the perfect family, with her doting husband Nikhil More (Sanjay Kapoor) and two teenage boys, plus her mother, forming the perfect unit. With some sort of Bollywood comeback in the works, which reunites her with superstar Mukesh Khanna (Manav Kaul), Anamika suddenly disappears one night and leaves her family and fans in despair. As the police investigate her disappearance, skeletons slowly emerge from the closet, which calls into question everything that Anamika stood for.
Don’t miss it!
‘The Fame Game’ is streaming on Neftlix