The arc lights, once again

FIERY AND FORTHRIGHT: Madhoo in Soundharavalli

FIERY AND FORTHRIGHT: Madhoo in Soundharavalli  

COMEBACK After a hiatus, Madhoo returns to acting, with the mega serial ‘Soundharavalli.' MALATHI RANGARAJAN

S o what if it was more than a decade ago? Her mischievous charm in K. Balachander's ‘Azhagan,' her crest-fallen look in Shankar's ‘Gentleman' and guileless steadfastness in Mani Ratnam's ‘Roja' run afresh in my mind as I begin talking to Madhoo. The lady is now back as the protagonist of Prabhu Nepal's soap ‘Soundharavalli' that has opened amidst much hype on Jaya TV this week.

Before we get down to brass tacks, I'm curious in the change in her name and spelling. Wasn't she Madhubala? “I'm Madhoo,” she emphasises. When she was told that it's a man's name in this part of the country and director KB suggested ‘Madhubala' [probably adding the Bala in his name] she accepted it. “But now I'm back to being Madhoo,” she smiles.

Why the hiatus and what has triggered the return? “It was self-imposed,” she laughs. Marriage and children kept me busy. But now that my daughters are a little older, I thought I can afford to be away from home now and then.”

Though she had plans of returning to acting, she never envisaged a Tamil soap as her re-launch vehicle. A character in cousin and actor Hemamalini's yet-to-be-released Hindi production, ‘Tell Me O Khuda' that has Esha Deol as the heroine, was the first assignment she took up. “I never plan anything in life. I believe there's someone above taking care of things for me. As for actors, the characters choose them and not vice versa,” she laughs. Even ‘Tell me …' happened during a casual cousins' meet. “Why don't you do a role in my film,” suggested Hemamalini and Madhoo felt, ‘Why not?'

“Today my daughters, Ameyaa and Keia are nine and seven. Soon they'll be 10 and eight. They are very artistic. And Ameyaa loves dancing,” the mom's voice swells with pride. Madhoo is a dancer too. Married into a Gujarati family, Madhoo says, “I have solid home support. The idea of returning came to me only because I stay with my parents in law. I'm just testing the waters.”

Around 52 films, of which 24 have been in Hindi and the rest in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada and yet she didn't think twice about giving it all up! “It was my father who kept count. I never did. I've just moved with the tide.”

She has worked with the best makers and has made some wrong choices too. And now, love for the grease paint has brought her back. “Sure, it has,” she agrees.

Perseverance pays

Over the years Madhoo has been receiving offers but she kept declining them. Now she's signed on the dotted line for a mega that could require her to shuttle for quite a while, between Mumbai, where she lives, and Chennai, where she's now working! “Whenever I said ‘no,' the person would leave it at that. But Prabhu Nepal refused to. He kept calling me up. Once I said ‘I haven't even seen you. How do you expect me to accept a role in your serial?' ‘Is that the hitch,' he asked, and the next thing I knew he landed in Mumbai along with story writer Menakah. ‘I'm the person. Give me an ear and then we'll discuss,' he said.” She heard him out and was so bowled over by the role.

Yet she told Prabhu about the practical difficulties. The commitment could be taxing, she argued. But he insisted that he would work things out in such a way that there would be no room for procrastination or delays. “And till date he has stuck to his promise.”

Madhoo plays a woman from the Devadasi community who takes on an insular and conservative society. “I like fighting for a cause and Soundharavalli will do just that,” she smiles.

She's worked with the best filmmakers in the country – KB, Ratnam and Shankar. How does she find the scenario now? “I've always felt that the makers here are very organised. I see it on the sets of ‘Soundharavalli' too. I'm in Chennai for five to seven days in a month. It's hectic, but I'm happy with my role and the way the serial is shaping up,” she says.

Madhoo has also signed a Hindi film with Rajshri Pictures. “Again it's a good character. If I'm able to balance work and home I may do more. As I said, I don't plan much,” she shrugs.

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