Born on September 13, 1973, in Darjeeling, Mahima Chaudhary's birth name is Ritu. The actress studied in Dow Hill in Kurseong and later moved to Loreto College in Darjeeling. (All photos courtesy: mid-day archives, Yogen Shah and Instagram)
Mahima Chaudhary is best remembered for her debut film Pardes in 1997 opposite Shah Rukh Khan. But did you know, the actress is Miss India - 1990?
Well, before her debut film Pardes, Mahima Chaudhary appeared in several TV ads, of which the most famous was for Pepsi with Aamir Khan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.
While Pardes was Mahima Chaudhary's debut, Shah Rukh Khan by then had already become a big star. Speaking about SRK, Mahima while talking to mid-day, in an old interview, said, "Subhash Ghai said Shah Rukh is coming tomorrow, but he did not come. Then he said tomorrow, he again didn't come. Every day there was panic and anxiety that he is coming but he wouldn't turn up! Finally, when he came on the 12th or 13th day, we were tired of even thinking he is coming. He suddenly arrived on the sets, and hence there was no anxiety. The first day he didn't shoot, we just chatted. When he was doing his scene, we watched him perform in awe."
The first shot of Mahima Chaudhary for Pardes was in a real temple and interestingly, it had a connection with late actor Sridevi. "My first shot for the film was the one where I am pouring milk on the Nandi cow in the yellow outfit which was actually stitched for Sridevi! It was bought for me and reconstructed. Designer Neeta Lulla was told 'bring a dress tomorrow' so she had that ready. She made it to my size, brought it and I wore it," Mahima Chaudhary said in the interview.
Subhash Ghai was the one who discovered Mahima Chaudhary. But do you know Mahima is not her real name? It is said that Subhash Ghai had perceived fascination about the letter M. So he named Ritu Chaudhary as Mahima.
On how things changed for her post 'Pardes', Mahima Chaudhary said, "Life, career, everything took off. It was the most wonderful moment. The film continues to be a part of my life."
Mahima Chaudhary went on to work in films like Daag: The Fire (1999), Kurukshtera (2000), LOC Kargil (2003), Sarhad Paar (2006).
In 2004, the world got to know about the celebrated tennis player Leander Paes' troubled relationship with Mahima Chaudhary. The duo split up when Mahima learnt about Leander's affair with Rhea Pillai in 2006.
As stated by Mahima Chaudhary to mid-day, Leander was unfaithful as he was already seeing another woman while they were still together. Later, it came to notice that Leander had moved on to dating former model Rhea Pillai.
Mahima Chaudhary doesn't mince words while talking about her ex-lover and tennis player Leander Paes. "He may be a good tennis player, but he didn't play fair with me," she said.
"It wasn't really shocking for me when I came to know that he was going around with someone else. His exit had no impact on my life. In fact, I became more mature as a person," she said, adding, "I feel he did the same thing with Rhea (Pillai) as well."
Mahima Chaudhary married architect-businessman Bobby Mukherji in 2006. The couple has a daughter, Ariana.
In the same year, Mahima Chaudhary went low career-wise, since she expressed that she was bored of her routine. She told mid-day in an exclusive interview, "I remember wrapping up the shoot for Hope And A Little Sugar and going straight to a salon to cut my hair very short. Later, I went to the US where I met my husband, Bobby Mukherji and we decided to settle down."
Mahima Chaudhary said, "After marriage, I was only concerned about raising my daughter, Ariana. I didn't want to miss her even for a second. I thought that's the best phase of my life, and I was enjoying it, far more than films."
But things didn't go the way she had planned. Mahima separated from Bobby in 2013.
However, Mahima Chaudhary hasn't considered a divorce yet. "I don't have the time. On a serious note, we haven't really given it a thought as it isn't bothering us. I will go in for a divorce if I plan to get married again."
"I was a single mother and had to earn money. With a child, it was difficult to take up films, as it would have consumed a lot of time," Mahima said.
"I started judging a few television shows, making appearances at functions or cutting ribbons because it was convenient for me. It also gave me quick and good money. Now, when I look back, I feel those assignments ruined me as an actress," Mahima Chaudhary told mid-day.
In an earlier interview with mid-day, Mahima Chaudhary spoke about motherhood and her daughter Ariana. "I had a blissful pregnancy where I just relaxed and enjoyed myself," said Mahima.
"But yes, the initial years of motherhood were quite taxing. While I was getting quite a few film offers, I couldn't take them up, as I had no physical energy left whatsoever. Nursing the baby had totally drained me out," Mahima Chaudhary told mid-day.
"Trust me, I really enjoyed being a hands-on mother. It was the best role I ever played in my life. Motherhood has made me more empathetic, compassionate, patient and selfless," Mahima said.
"Previously, I used to lose my cool whenever my staff would come late or with other such trivial things. But now, I am more adjusting. Being a mother has taught me to look inwards," said Mahima Chaudhary.
In the interview to mid-day, Mahima Chaudhary revealed that her daughter Ariana is a film buff like her.
Mahima Chaudhary told mid-day, "She goes to playschool and hardly watches television, but she's crazy about Salman Khan. She loves to sing Character Dheela Hai. For her, Salman Khan is the ultimate thing in this world. When I asked her what would she gift to her grandmom on her birthday, she promptly said, Salman Khan."
Talking about her absence from the big screen, Mahima Chaudhary says she prefers to do nothing rather than being a part of mediocre work.
"You would rather sit and not do anything than be available to do very little work," Mahima Chaudhary said. She said that there is a lack of good roles for senior female actors and that is why she decided to stay away from the camera.
"I wish people write more roles. The roles that Mr Bachchan is playing, they weren't before. People are actually writing for him," Mahima Chaudhary said.
"If they begin writing for senior actresses, something nice would come out. We are not saying we are as talented as Mr Bachchan, but it can be done, and people will connect," Mahima Chaudhary said.
On the topic of balancing work and motherhood, Mahima Chaudhary said, "Well, a lot of actresses who are mothers like Raveena Tandon, Karisma Kapoor and Kajol are doing quality work post motherhood. In fact, even yesteryear actresses like Sharmila Tagore and Rakhee Gulzar did some great films after becoming moms."
"I am glad to see that the stereotype of a Bollywood heroine is slowly fading away," said Mahima Chaudhary.
Mahima Chaudhary also spoke about her desire to do an action film. "I love comedy, romance and action films. In fact, I want to do a great action flick, as I have never experimented in that genre," she said.
On being asked which director she would like to work with, Mahima Chaudhary said, "I would love to work with directors like Vishal Bhardwaj, Dibakar Banerjee and Anurag Kashyap."
After a decade-long sabbatical, Mahima Chaudhary returned to the big screen in 2016 with Bengali thriller, Dark Chocolate, loosely based on the Sheena Bora murder case.
When Mahima Chaudhry was away from Bollywood, she was busy campaigning for Trinamool Congress for the Siliguri municipal polls in 2015.
We wish Mahima Chaudhary a very happy birthday and hope to see the actress on-screen soon!
It's Mahima Chaudhary's birthday today. It's been a while since we saw the Pardes actress on the big screen. We take a look at the 46-year-old actress' journey on professional as well as her personal life so far, with some rarely seen pictures.
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