It is an open secret that Akshay Kumar played the matchmaker between former actress Asin and her beau Rahul Sharma (CEO of Micromax). Asin’s career never took off in Bollywood despite successes like Bol Bachan, Ghajini, Housefull, Khiladi 786 and Ready. So, as it always happens, marriage is the safest option for an actress whose market status is waning.
The actor, who is now the proud mother of a baby girl, did the right thing at the right time! Do you know that there was one more actor who was standing at the crossroads of her career in South Indian cinema as well as Bollywood? However, unlike Asin, this actor achieved modest success in Bollywood. It is none other than Rajinikanth who helped this damsel in distress find her bearings. The actress is none other than the one with the most beautiful eyes and we all know her as “Madhavi”.
The dusky Madhavi began her career in Telugu movies. She was featured in Maro Charitra a movie made by K Balachander. The script was about the doomed romance between a Tamil boy and a Telugu girl. Madhavi played a stellar role in this 1978 release that proved to be a major hit among Telugu audiences. She was not the lead though.
When LV Prasad offered to remake the movie in Hindi, Balachander roped in Kamal Haasan, Rati Agnihotri and Madhavi. Madhavi reprised the same role that she had done with finesse in Maro Charitra. Ek Duuje Ke Liye was released in 1981 and gave Rati Agnihotri an easy entry into Bollywood. Madhavi feared being typecast as the widow yearning for a new lease of life. Luckily for her, Kamal Haasan and Rajnikanth signed a couple of movies with Madhavi as the leading actress. Madhavi was fortunate because when she made her entry in Tamil cinema, Sridevi was on her way out.
Between 1981 and 1985, Madhavi did a record number of movies with both these superstars and most of these movies achieved stupendous success at the ticket counters. Some of the memorable movies were –Thambikku Endha Ooru, Raja Parvai, Kaki Chattai and Tik Tik Tik. In the last movie that was made by veteran director Bharathi Raja, Madhavi did not flinch to appear in a two-piece bikini. This made film folks notice her immediately and she shot to fame overnight.
When the Bollywood comedy Golmal was remade by K Balachander, he cast Madhavi as the female lead. Rajinikanth who reprised Amol Palekar’s role in the original had put in a word for Madhavi. This led to a good platonic friendship between Rajinikanth and Madhavi. Madhavi became Rajini’s lucky charm. So when Rajini made his Bollywood debut with Andha Kanoon (1983) it was natural that Madhavi would get a cameo role – something that would stand out. Madhavi got the golden opportunity to play the lead opposite none other Amitabh Bachchan. In a 15-minute role, Madhavi proved her histrionic abilities as an actor of substance.
Andha Kanoon was inspired by a Tamil movie Chattam Oru Iruttarai (1981) that had featured Vijaykanth, a Madurai based businessman who wanted to become an actor. Vijaykanth had enough family wealth to sponsor his entry in movies. One has to credit Kollywood’s inclusiveness that it welcomes people like Vijaykanth with neither looks nor talent to try a career in movies. Vijaykanth later entered Tamil Nadu politics but bit the dust sooner than expected. He did show a lot of promise initially which made Jayalalitha evince interest in him as an ally.
After the success of Ek Duuje Ke Liye, offers poured in for Rati Agnihotri. Madhavi received less mileage. But South Indian cinema took care of her – be it Andhra, Karnataka or Kerala. Tamil Nadu of course welcomed her with open arms when offers were not raining in Bollywood.
Two years after Andha Kanoon, Madhavi played the lead in Geraftar (recall the famous song – “Dhoop Mein Nikla Na Karo, Roop Ki Rani”) opposite Amitabh Bachchan again. This is the period when ambition overtook Madhavi. Buoyed by the success of Sridevi, Madhavi decided to focus more on Bollywood. She agreed to do Kalyug Ki Ramayan – a B grade movie with Manoj Kumar’s brother Vishal Goswami.
Manoj Kumar made her cavort in a bikini for a song but this could not prevent the film from falling like nine pins at the box office. When producer-director Balaji decided to remake B R Chopra’s Insaf Ka Tarazu, he could only think of Madhavi in the titular role that was enacted by Zeenat Aman in the original. The Tamil movie Tarasu did not set the cash registers ringing but critics took note of Madhavi’s powerful performance. Despite deciding to focus only on Bollywood, Madhavi could not say “no” to someone like Balaji who was her ardent admirer.
Age was no longer on Madhavi’s side. Flops like Haar Jeet (with Kabir Bedi) and Agneekaal and Sheshnag (with Jeetendra) did nothing to improve matters. Madhavi had achieved what an actress of her calibre could achieve. She had reached a tipping point. As she was pondering about her next move, her knight in shining armour Rajinikanth came to her rescue. He directed her to go and meet his guru in the Himalayas. It was as though Rajinikanth was behaving like a clairvoyant.
Madhavi met the guru and achieved an “indescribable” spiritual transformation. The catharsis was unbelievable. Her guru asked her to get married to one of his devotees who was also present at the same time. It was a strange coincidence indeed.
The man in question was a successful businessman in the US. It was time for wedding bells to ring. Madhavi entered into blissful matrimony and vanished from the scene. Her guru had told her that she would not be able to return to India for the next 30 years. Madhavi did not believe this but that is what actually happened. Every time she would book a flight to India, some event would disrupt that plan.
(Image Courtesy: TV9)
Madhavi is now a proud mother of three daughters. She lives in a palatial mansion in America far removed from the glitz and glitter of Bollywood, Kollywood and Tollywood. She is a businesswoman now and has aged gracefully. When you compare Madhavi’s life with her contemporaries like Sridevi, Rati Agnihotri and Jayapradha, one has to admit that life has been far kinder to her.
Fortunately all this new-found wealth has done nothing to dent Madhavi’s humility and grace. She is still in touch with her friend and well-wisher Rajinikanth and was one of the first to wish him the best when he announced his decision to enter politics. Madhavi cannot thank Rajinikanth enough for showing her direction when she was at the crossroads and was struggling to come to terms with a career that had reached a dead end. In a world of make-believe where fickleness is the accepted norm, Rajinikanth’s gesture towards a fellow actress is worth noting, isn’t it?
(After working in the corporate world for close to two decades, Bhagyalakshmi started her second career innings as a head-hunter. She is passionate about Hindi movies and loves retro music. When her family shifted to Chennai in the 80’s, Bhagya had a taste of Tamil cinema too. In the long term, she plans a book on two of her favourite directors – Guru Dutt and K Balachander. She travels across the country on work and is based in Mysore.)