Madhuri Dixit’s Debut Album ‘The Film Star’ On The Way
The star actor and dancer, who also found her way into content creation, recently released ‘Tu Hai Mera,’ a song dedicated to her fans
When the pandemic led several actors and celebrities to try and show their support through songs, Madhuri Dixit’s debut English song “Candle” from 2020 was among the more genuine, heartfelt tributes to frontline covers trying to fight the spread of Covid-19. It’s an entirely different matter that the track wasn’t written during the pandemic.
“Candle” as well as her latest single “Tu Hai Mera” had their origins in 2016 and 2017, when the seasoned Bollywood actor and dancer met with Indian-origin music industry veteran Sat Bisla (best known for his work in radio, A&R and music business). Dixit recalls, “He asked me to sing for him and he said, ‘Oh my god, you have a voice. You should sing.’” Further back, Dixit says her husband Shriram Nene, was among the first ones to nudge her towards singing as a means of further connecting with her fanbase.
Even as a music team was being put together – one that included rapper and songwriter Raja Kumari, well before she made it to India herself – Dixit insisted she didn’t just want to sing someone else’s previously penned songs. Now, a six-track album, called The Film Star, is expected to release song by song throughout this year. “I wanted to do something that was mine… something original.” She began taking vocal lessons from Los Angeles-based coach Ron Anderson before she went into the studio, creating music with Raja Kumari, Narinder Singh and others. “I worked hard for this. It’s not that I just suddenly decided to sing one day. There’s a lot of thought that went into it,” Dixit says.
Dixit explains that her journey with music started as early as when she was three years old. Daughter to a Hindustani classical vocalist (her mother, Snehlata Dixit) and training as a kathak dancer, Dixit was performing to thumris and bhajans from an early age. “Songs are a very integral part of my life,” she adds. At the same time, she followed English music in school and took part in singing and dance competitions through the years up to her breakout in the film industry. Dixit insists she’s always been singing but she never got time to devote to that “aspect of my personality.”
In addition to stirring earworm pop songs like “Candle” and “Tu Hai Mera,” the actress has been engaging with fans like few other veteran actors her age, being a regular content creator on Instagram as well as on YouTube. It’s a mark of an ever-creative, always-active star, who has over three decades of experience and accolades to her name, from Tezaab, Saajan and Khalnayak to Dil To Pagal Hai and Devadas. Most recently, she was lauded for her role in Netflix thriller series The Fame Game and will appear next in family movie Maja Maa on Prime Video this year.
In an interview with Rolling Stone India, Dixit speaks about the inspiration behind “Candle” and “Tu Hai Mera,” working with Raja Kumari and more. Excerpts:
Is “Tu Hai Mera” a song for your fans? Was the release around your birthday an intentional move?
Yes, it was a timed move [laughs].
This was very different from your first single “Candle,” which released during the pandemic. The video for that song was even made by you and your husband. “Tu Hai Mera” seems quite a step up that way.
We were in a better time when I shot for “Tu Hai Mera.” During “Candle,” we were completely under lockdown and Covid was creating havoc everywhere. We thought that it was a great song to release at that time, because it talked about a candle caught in a hurricane but still has to burn bright. Whatever the circumstances in your life, you have to be a beacon of light for everyone around you. And that’s what the frontline workers and the doctors and the nurses were during Covid. They were sacrificing so much. They were the beacon of light for all of us during that phase of Covid.
Now everybody is out of those two years, which were so bad for everyone and feeling happy about their life and on my birthday, I thought it would be great to release “Tu Hai Mera.” My career has spanned more than 35 years, and people have loved me through it all, through my ups and downs. They’ve always supported me, always been there for me, always encouraged me. So I thought that I wanted to sing something for them and sing about how I feel about them and what they mean to me. That’s why it’s called “Tu Hai Mera” and I thought this would be a great return gift of thoughts, a humble return from me, to my fans.
The scale of this music video was also quite different, in terms of production.
Yes, when we thought of picturizing it – Charit [Desai, director] has done it – we wanted it to be a celebration. You know, in the Nineties, we didn’t have social media. So they used to send me letters through the post. And these were actual envelopes coming in, delivered via the postman. We used to get sack-full of letters and used to go through them and write back to them saying, ‘Thank you so much for your appreciation’ and send them a picture, an autographed picture in the mail. We started with that concept and then in the end it’s all about social media and all my fans who are with me on social media, dancing with me. We kind of time traveled as well through the song and I thought the concept also came through properly with the fans participating. There was an emotional connect to the whole song.
These songs were pre-pandemic, right? It’s only now you’ve got to execute it?
Yes, absolutely. It’s part of my album called The Film Star. There are six songs. It’s all about the backstories of being a film star. The first one [“Candle”] was about when there’s any turmoil in your life; you have to forget that once you’re in front of the camera. You have to be that inspiration that people think you are, you have to give them all the happiness and you have to be that larger than life character that they are looking forward to. All this even if you’re in the darkest of hour, you have to be that shining light for them.
“Tu Hai Mera” is about another aspect of being a film star, which is when you have fans who support you. I thought of giving something back to them. So all the other four songs are also [exploring] every aspect of being behind the camera, being a film star and what goes on in your own life.
In terms of the timeline, when did you meet Sat Bisla and Raja Kumari?
Wow, the process started in 2016 and 2017. That’s when I met Sat Bisla in his office and sang for him. Then, I met Raja Kumari and everyone else and we kind of talked about it [the music project] and what we’re going to do and what we’re going to sing about. I didn’t want to sing songs, initially, at least which were penned or part of something else. I wanted to do something that was new, that was mine and original. That’s when we decided that maybe we should do this. And then the whole process began of recording songs.
Raja Kumari’s association with you came to light when you attended a show once. What was it like the first time you both met?
The first time I met her was in L.A., actually. We did my songs and she was there as a collaborator. We all got together and did these songs. That’s when I got to know her. It’s amazing, because she’s grown up in the U.S. and she’s a classical dancer. And I’m a classical dancer.
She’s also a great artist. When I met her, we just vibed. It was amazing. When we would discuss the notes, or how the voice should sound, she would show it to me in a dance form, like, ‘We need to keep it like this’ and then do a dance move. The notes should be placed like that [laughs]. So it was a lovely collaboration. I got to know her in L.A.
Then when we came back [to India], she came to India and she was establishing herself here. And at [Mumbai venue] antiSOCIAL, she was performing there for the first time. She’s said, ‘I’m performing’ and I said, ‘Okay, we’re coming!’ We were there for her show. She said, ‘Oh my god, you came!’ and I was like, ‘Yeah!’
Everybody there was like, ‘Woah, what is Madhuri Dixit doing here?’ Nobody knew at that point that we were making this album, so they were taken by surprise. They went, ‘Oh, she [Dixit] is interested in music? She’s interested in rap?’ It was amazing. My journey with her has been fabulous. She’s so talented and such a good person, and very funny also.
Did she make you rap on any of your songs? Are we going to hear you rap?
[Laughs] Wait and watch!
“Tu Hai Mera” has a mix of Hindi and English, while “Candle” was in English. You are quite clear that your songs can be in any language.
What happens is, when you’re educated in a certain language – even though I worked in Hindi movies all my life – I’m more comfortable thinking and penning things in English. So that’s why my first album is in English.
Somebody asked me that day, ‘Oh you’re from the Hindi industry.’ It’s not that I won’t sing Hindi songs. It’s just that this is my comfort zone. I want to start with that. And then of course, I can migrate to any other language anytime.
Music has no barriers, I feel. Language is not a barrier. Anybody can enjoy it. We enjoy Spanish songs today and hear so many different songs in different languages even though we don’t understand it. I think the music is what talks for itself.
What’s the release plan like for songs from The Film Star?
It’ll be singles which we’ll keep dropping throughout the year.
What else is coming up through 2022?
There are a lot of other things I will be doing, but the project right now is “Tu Hai Mera” and [the OTT movie] Maja Maa, which will come now. Everything else is in the pipeline. We’ll keep dropping hints as things move along.