Bollywood diva shines in comeback flop


MUMBAI - The comeback film of India's biggest female star of the 1990s has turned out to be a resounding failure, but no one is blaming Madhuri Dixit.

In her prime, Dixit was the undisputed queen of Bollywood, the world's largest film industry by audience size, and her popularity and fees rivaled even the biggest male stars.

Etched in the memory of millions of her fans are the nimble-footed Dixit's suggestive dance moves that filmmakers often used to titillate viewers to get around the censors.

So, when Dixit decided to stage a comeback after a six-year break that saw her getting married and having two children, anticipation ran high, especially to see if she held the same allure as when audiences would hoot and rain coins on her every time she gyrated raunchily.

In "Aaja Nachle" (Come Let's Dance), there's Dixit and there's a lot of song-and-dance, but the film fails to engage, primarily because of a poor script woven around nostalgia about the actress' comeback, critics say.

"The moment you play around the nostalgia factor you limit yourself to a certain audience type," said Anil Grover, a film critic and entertainment journalist.

"I don't think many of the young viewers would be as enthusiastic about someone who was huge in the 1990s."

Most critics and audiences agree that Dixit produces a first-rate performance, and at 42, retains much of her oomph and agility as a dancer.

Yet, according to critic Khalid Mohamed, even Dixit isn't enough to pull the film through.

"Scripted with more potholes than you could find on a post-monsoon road, Aaja Nachle is a vast disappointment," he wrote in the Hindustan Times.

"Aaja Nachle", with echoes of the hit Brazilian musical "Xuxa Requebra", is about a dancer who returns from abroad to save a theatre from being torn down to make way for a shopping mall.

Dixit quit Bollywood at the peak of her career to get married and move to the United States.

She declined many comeback offers, but eventually agreed to do "Aaja Nachle" because its story revolved around something she does best -- dancing.

While the film has not exactly set cash registers jingling, it sparked some controversy with one of its songs that pokes fun at a Hindu lower caste group.

Two Indian states banned the film, but later one of them revoked the ban after the producers tendered an apology.