“I have been worshipping Madhuri for the last several years. Everyday I do arati for images of my goddess. For me Madhuri is like Ma Durga, and I am her bhakta [devotee].”1

Even in March 2008, the sweltering heat of Tatanagar was overwhelming. This was my second visit to the city after being here three years ago in 2005. My objective was to visit the Madhuri Dixit Temple dedicated to Bollywood film star, Madhuri Dixit, and to follow up on the second round of interviews with its owner cum “priest,” Pappu Sardar. As I stepped out of the cab, a beaming Pappu Sardar greeted me. I was still exchanging pleasantries, when out of nowhere a group of journalists armed with cameras started clicking my photographs with him. Seeing the bewilder- ment on my face, Pappu Sardar calmly said, “There are five news channels and ten newspaper journalists waiting to interview you.” Considering my humble academic background, I could not understand any reason why the press would be interested in interviewing me: except for the fact that I was conducting research on Pappu Sardar’s temple. In three years, his celebrity status and the Madhuri Dixit Temple have acquired national proportion. As I politely refused the news channels, an enthusiastic reporter from the Telegraph came and sat next to me and said, “It’s strange that you come all the way from US to do research on Pappu Sardar! To be frank, he is weird and does weird things in the name of Madhuri. In fact, he is only popular among the masses, the elite of the city think he is crazy.”

  • 1. Interview with Pappu Sardar, September 2005, Tatanagar.