Born on May 15, 1967, in Mumbai to Shankar and Snehalata Dixit, Madhuri attended Divine Child High School and later on pursued Microbiology from Mumbai University. Madhuri was trained in the classical Indian dance form Kathak since an early age. She has two elder sisters Rupa and Bharati, and an elder brother, Ajit.
Madhuri was reported to have dated married Sanjay Dutt in the early 1990s. However, she distanced herself from him after he was accused of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act ( TADA). She later married Dr. Sriram Madhav Nene, a cardiovascular surgeon based in the USA, on October 17, 1999, and moved to Denver, Colorado, USA. She has two sons with Dr. Nene, Arin born in 2003 and Rayaan born in March 2005. She returned to India in 2011 to make a comeback in Hindi films.
This dancing diva of Bollywood, who aspired to be a microbiologist, claims to have gotten her first movie role in Abodh, just by fluke. Her active involvement in dance performances and dramas while in school caught the attention of her friend’s father, who used to work for Rajshri Productions. He found her to be the perfect young innocent fresh face for the movie. She found luck in this 1984 film, which bombed at the box office. The actress went on to do a few more films until she hit gold with Tezaab (1988). The Anil Kapoor starrer, directed by N. Chandra, not only made Madhuri an overnight star but also earned her, her first Best Actress nomination at the Filmfare Awards. Her dancing skills in the popular song “Ek do teen” caught the attention of audiences, with her fans drooling over her moves in the song even today. Saroj Khan, who choreographed Madhuri in the song, won the Filmfare Award for Best Choreography, while Alka Yagnik, who lent her voice for the song, won Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback Singer.
The year 1989 gave Madhuri two hits: Tridev (1989), in which she starred as part of an ensemble cast including Naseeruddin Shah, Jackie Shroff, Sangeeta Bijlani and Sunny Deol. Subhash Ghai’s Ram Lakhan was her other major hit in the year. This family-drama, which took on the clichéd plot of two sons fighting for revenge, saw Madhuri star alongside Jackie Shroff, Anil Kapoor, Dimple Kapadia, Rakhee, Amrish Puri and Anupam Kher. It was the biggest blockbuster of the year. In the same year, Madhuri was seen in a small role in Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Parinda for which her work was much appreciated.
Dil (1990) a romantic comedy opposite Aamir Khan, was again a superhit. Directed by Indra Kumar, this film which dealt with an inter-class relationship, was the biggest box-office success of the year and earned Madhuri her first Filmfare Award for Best Actress. The actress then went on to win her next Filmfare Award for Best Actress for her performance in the family drama Beta (1992), which again got her to pair with Anil Kapoor. Her sensuous dance number, ‘Dhak dhak karne laga’ in Beta is one of the most popular Hindi songs of the 20th century. She followed this song with the controversial ‘Choli ke Peeche Kya Hai’ number from Subhash Ghai’s crime thriller Khalnayak (1993), in which her acting was also much appreciated. The film which appeared in the top 100 film rankings of world cinema by film magazine Sight and Sound, courted two controversies: an obscenity case slapped on the above-mentioned song and the arrest of Dutt under TADA. Nonetheless, the film was a commercial success. However, it was in the following year that gave Madhuri one of her biggest hits, the Bollywood blockbuster, Sooraj Barjatya’s magnum opus family drama: Hum Aapke Hai Koun…! The film grossed INR 1.35 billion worldwide. She played the role of Nisha, a young Indian woman who decides to choose family obligations over the love of her life.
In the year 1997, Madhuri won accolades and awards for two very different roles. She won a Filmfare Award for Best Actress for the Yash Raj directed Dil To Pagal Hai (1997), in which she starred alongside Shah Rukh Khan, Karishma Kapoor and Akshay Kumar. The film won four National Awards and eight Filmfare Awards. In the same year, she received critical acclaim for her performance in Mrityudand, which was directed by Prakash Jha. Based in the heartland of Bihar, the plot engages with issues of gender, social justice, and class-based oppression. The film won the Special Jury Award, Best Feature Film, Cinéma Tout Ecran in Geneva (1998), and also fetched Madhuri the Best Actress Award at the Sansui Awards and the Screen Awards.
Between 1997 and 2002, there was a lull in Madhuri’s career, as her films Mohabbat (1997), Wajood (1998) and Aarzoo (1999) failed to perform well at the box office. This rough phase came to an end with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas (2002), an adaptation of Sharath Chandra Chattopadhyay’s 1917 novel. Madhuri was cast as Chandramukhi, a courtesan in the romantic drama, who falls in love with the protagonist Devdas (Shah Rukh Khan), who in turn wallowing in his lost lover Paro (Aishwarya Rai). The film, which grossed INR 530 million (US$7.9 million) was screened at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Best Film Not In The English Language Category at the BAFTA Awards. It also made it to the list of the 10 best films of the millennium by Time magazine in 2002.
Madhuri took a break from films for a while, during which she set up her home in Denver with her husband. In 2007, she returned to the silver screen with the dance-based film Aaja Nachle, which bombed at the box office but won praises from critics for her work. She even made a special appearance in the box office hit Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013) in the very popular song Ghagra. Then after a hiatus of seven years, Madhuri made a comeback with Abhishek Chaubey’s Dedh Ishqiya in 2014, which fetched her, her 14th Filmfare nomination. The film, which starred Naseeruddin Shah, Arshad Warsi, and Huma Qureshi, saw Madhuri play the role of a cunning woman who cons men to usurp their wealth. She was also seen in the 2014 film Gulaab Gang, in which she recorded the song Rangi Saari Gulaabi.
Madhuri first appeared on television as Neena in the first episode of Paying Guest in 1985, a television show by Rajshri Productions. She then appeared in a special episode of Kaun Banega Crorepati in 2001. She made another appearance in 2010 for KBC Season 4’s Grand Finale. In the year 2002, she hosted the matchmaking show Kahina Kahi Koi Hai on Sony Entertainment. Madhuri has also been a judge on Jhalak Dikhla Jaa, a dance-reality show, for multiple seasons, alongside director Karan Johar and choreographer Remo D’souza. She made her debut on the show in 2011 for the fourth season and has since returned for season five, six and seven in the years 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively. She was also the judge for So You Think You Can Dance (India) (2016) that aired on &TV.