What a start to 2014 for Bollywood legend Madhuri Dixit as she makes her long-awaited return to the industry after a self-imposed hiatus.
'Dedh Ishqiya', one of two big Madhuri releases planned for 2014, has got critics raving ahead of the film's general release on Friday, 10 January.
The picture is the follow-up to the 2010 black comedy 'Ishqiya', starring Vidya Balan as well as Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi who play conmen 'Khalujan' and 'Babban'.
Shah and Warsi return for the sequel, still conning their way through the north Indian hinterland before deciding to give up their thieving ways and "settle down". But these being hardened conmen, "going straight" invariably involves another con.
They devise that the best way to disappear and evade their former boss is to finagle their way into a palatial nawabi palace occupied by the outlandishly rich Begum Para (Madhuri Dixit) and her companion Munniya (Huma Qureshi).
Cue plenty of laughs and double, triple and even quadruple crosses and critics were unusually effusive with their praise for the film.
Firstpost.com called the film "the most hilarious thriller Bollywood has ever produced", describing the humour as "deliciously ironic".
Saibal Chatterjee of NDTV called 'Dedh Ishqiya' "appreciably more enthralling" than 'Ishqiya' with a screenplay "laced with acidic wit" and "marvelously modulated" on-screen performances that "entertain but does so in a manner that does not trifle with the intelligence of the audience".
The film, Chatterjee added, is a "triumph of measured craftsmanship and storytelling finesse".
In an age obsessed with mega-blockbusters and two, three and now four-hundred crore paydays, India Today critic Suhani Singh described 'Dedh Ishqiya' as "totally worth the moolah" even though the chances of the film crossing the "coveted" 100-crore are slim.
The dialogues by acclaimed writer-director Vishal Bhardwaj came in for particular praise with Firstpost reviewer Deepanjana Pal applauding Bhardwaj's ability to deliver "dark and nuanced humour with confidence".
All eyes however, were on Madhuri Dixit (or Madhuri Dixit-Nene as she calls herself following her marriage to Colorado-based medic Shriram Madhav Nene).
Chatterjee described Dixit-Nene as "still-incandescent" adding that he found it difficult to keep his eyes off the 46-year-old beauty whenever she appears on screen.
Pal said Dixit-Nene remains "luminous" and "still capable of keeping an audience glued to their seats".
The Bollywood veteran, who mesmerized audiences with her voluptuous beauty and fabulous dance moves throughout the 1980's and 1990's, has made a carefully put-together return to the silver screen and if 'Dedh Ishqiya' is anything to go by, 2014 is set to become the year of Madhuri.
'Dedh Ishqiya' is in UK cinemas Friday 10 January.Read More »