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Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon! (2003)

Chutki (Antara Mali) lives in a small village community in Central India, and has developed a talent of mimicing bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit in every aspect. Her friend, Raja alias ... See full summary »

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7 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
...
Chutki
...
Rajeshwar Singh (Raja)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
...
Film director
...
Kalavati
K.D. Chandran ...
Roshini's producer
Benjamin Gilani
...
...
Sarpanch (Raja's dad)
Sunita Rajwar ...
Chutki's Friend
Raman Trikha ...
Rumi
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Storyline

Chutki (Antara Mali) lives in a small village community in Central India, and has developed a talent of mimicing bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit in every aspect. Her friend, Raja alias Rajeshwar Singh (Rajpal Yadav) is always there to encourage her. When Chutki proposes going to Bombay to meet Madhuri and be like her, she faces opposition from her parents, who are anxious to get her married. So Raja proposes marriage of convenience to her, in order to enable her to go to Bombay, which she accepts. They are married, and shortly thereafter they move to Bombay. Once there, Chutki and Raja face harsh reality, as they are virtually humiliated, and conned at every point. Then they meet talent agent, Pyarelal (Govind Namdeo) and that's when reality strikes home even more, as they learn what their real worth is. Written by rAjOo (gunwanti@hotmail.com)

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7 October 2003 (Morocco)  »

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Bollywood gets self-reflexive
22 May 2005 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

Director Chandan Arora hits gold with his debut film, Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon, an unusual, self-reflexive look at Bollywood's reality versus its public image and the dreams it fosters.

The story concerns an innocent girl named Chukti (Antara Mali), who lives in the farming village hinterlands of India and who loves the work of Bollywood star Madhuri Dixit. Most of the village turns out during their free time to watch the latest films on a makeshift screen in a makeshift theater. Chukti has a talent for mimicking Dixit, a fact she exploits by putting on public performances of her own--dancing on a small stage to Dixit songs playing on a boom-box.

Chukti dreams of moving to Mumbai and becoming a film heroine. Of course her parents are traditional, so they won't hear anything of it. When they realize she's serious enough to consider running away, they plan to marry her off as soon as possible.

Enter Rajeshwar Singh (Rajpal Yadav). He's the only person in the village who sincerely believes in Chukti, and he's also in love with her, although she seems oblivious to it--she only cares about becoming a star. He suggests that if he can talk his father into arranging a marriage between them (which they'll keep secretly platonic), he'll take her to Mumbai as his wife. There, they can pursue Chukti's dream.

The bulk of the film is about Chukti trying to make it in Bollywood. The dramatic hinge is the clash of her dreams with the realities of the film business and big city life.

This is a unique film in that it forgoes many of the staples of the Bollywood genre. Yes, there are songs, there is a romance of sorts, and there is even a kind of love triangle, but these are all very unusually incorporated. The songs are exclusively present for realistic, dramatic purposes. Songs only appear when characters are engaging in stage performances, "celebrations" with music, film performances, and so on. Arora always has the music at a level of remove--we're watching people watching or engaging in performances.

The romance aspect is almost exclusively implicit. There is something of a resolution to it in the end, but the resolution is extremely subtle--it basically amounts to a character putting on a piece of jewelry, and the action easily enables multiple interpretations.

The "love triangle" takes place between the party who "secretly" loves Chutki and a party who is only trying to manipulate her dreams to take advantage of her. It is resolved in an incredibly powerful dramatic moment that in a lesser film would be followed up with a clichéd vengeance subplot. Here, it's not brought up again--this says much more than the stereotype would.

"Incredible dramatic power" is apt for much of the film, even though there are extended comedic segments, as well. Most of Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon is constructed more like a tragedy with brief comic relief. All of the plot developments are very realistic. And as such, the theme of the film is often a "necessary medicine" disillusioning from unrealistic dreams.

Some might think it is a flaw that most characters are slightly caricatured in the film. However, it is not as if there aren't people in the real world like this. There is no shortage of the relatively naïve, coming from the heartland to Los Angeles, New York City, and presumably Mumbai, hoping to make it big in a stroke, yet having very little knowledge of how the arts and entertainment industries work. For another example, it's certainly not the case only in fiction that some parents are bilked out of money via funding requests from their offspring for non-existent projects and studies.

That the film is so unique should be expected once one realizes that it was produced by Ram Gopal Varma. Varma is well known for advocating breaks from various Bollywood traditions that have become clichéd. He's made films completely void of musical numbers. He's made films without romance elements. He's made films with vastly different pacing and plot structures than the typical Bollywood film. There's nothing wrong with the traditional Bollywood formula, except that variety is necessary. Varma is doing much to set the Indian film industry on the right road in that regard.

So it's fitting that Varma is behind this well-acted, well-directed, well-photographed, etc. film that looks at Bollywood with a critical eye. It is just as intriguing for its insights into the real world of film-making as it is for its plot about Chukti and Raja. Varma and Arora show us that often, a director is more someone who merely tries to keep a lid on burgeoning chaos, partially emerging from underlings who'll make stupid decisions in an attempt to please, and partially from "grunts" who don't know what the heck they're doing. They show us the complicated world of agents who mean well, but who have to be shysters a bit because it's in the job description. They show us how catty and competitive other entertainers can be. They show us the realities of working one's way up. They show us the difference between image, such as the idea that Bollywood, or even Hollywood, is some kind of glamorous, unified entity, and the scattered, somewhat grungy reality--Chukti and Raja have to live in a rat-hole, next door to someone who has been involved with over 50 films, and some participants don't even live in the same country. They show us how important it is to learn to take rejection. They show us a transparent look at studio guards and security. They show us that manipulative/exploitative fraud isn't limited to the entertainment industry. And so on.

Whether you just want a unique, humorous, powerful and moving film about charming characters, or an "inside" look at the film industry, or a bit of both, Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon fits the bill.


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