If your fondest memory of Madhuri Dixit is of her antics in Aaja Nach Le, chances are that you might have been born much later than the era she ruled both the box office and the country’s hearts alike. The six-time Filmfare award winner turns 51 this Tuesday and it would only be fitting to relive the peak of her popularity in India on the occasion.

Disappointing debut

It wasn’t a bed of roses for the Mumbai-born as her early films were greeted without much fanfare, beginning from her debut in Rajshri’s 1984 project Abodh. She would go on to do close to half-a-dozen films in the next years between 1985 and 1988, only for almost each of the film to fail miserably at the box-office. 

Breakthrough

But the big break came for Madhuri as Mohini in Tezaab opposite Anil Kapoor. Yes, it was the one with the superhit song Ek Do Teen.

It was her first commercial success as the film went on to become the highest-grosser of 1989. Moreover, the film bagged Madhuri her first Filmfare award nomination as well.

The Anil Kapoor-Madhuri Dixit duo had also collaborated on-screen for the first time and would go on to replicate their new-found success in Ram Lakhan not too long after. It became the second-highest grossing film of that year.

Critical acclaim

Commercial success was followed by critical acclaim via project like Prem Pratigyaa, and paved way for the 90s that would see the unprecedented rise of the actress. Not only did she form a hit partnership with Anil Kapoor, but also paired with a young Aamir Khan, much to the delight of the audiences. After Dil, came the likes of Saajan and Beta.

Dhak Dhak Karne Laga and the rest is history.

Fight for equality

Later on in the 90s, Madhuri would conduct the show on her own. “How else would you explain a relatively forgotten film like Raja (1995) being a superhit. It did nothing for Sanjay Kapoor’s career. But it established one unassailable fact. Madhuri Dixit’s box-office power was indestructible,” according to Filmfare. 

Madhuri was reportedly charging a fee of around Rs 50 lakh at time, associated mostly with big male actors (read sexism). But no one was complaining, as all of Tridev, Khalnayak, and Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! were hitting box-office gold. FYI, the Salman Khan-starrer even went on to become Bollwyood’s most successful film ever.

Later years popularity on TV

After a hiatus after her much talked-about marriage to Dr Sriram Nene, Madhuri has been on a comeback trail since the past few years. But her television, particularly reality show, career has made her into a popular figure yet again. 

The mother-of-two has also turned philanthropist, engages in saving animals and helps secure futures of the underprivileged. She’s also set to conquer the e-generation with her online dance academy and dedicated smartphone app.

Maybe now you know the real Madhuri better, the one who was much bigger than who she is right now, and certainly the most empowered ones of her generation.