Okay, first of all: This is not about whether they in real life were in love or a couple or had an affair or all the other fruits of the 90s' grapevine. That's their private business and doesn't matter to me. Both Sanju and Madhuri had always denied any love affair between them; they always claimed they just liked each other very much, and they obviously loved to work together. That's good enough for me.
"Sanju is a fantastic human being. He's very nice at heart and, contrary to what people think, he has a good sense of humour. He's the only guy who can keep me in splits. He doesn't play games, he is a very straight-forward", said Madhuri in 1991 about Sanju who, in return, assured in 1999: "Madhuri Dixit is a good human being and the best dancer we have. There was terrific chemistry between us on screen. No, we weren't at all like Dharmendra-Hema Malini or Amitabh Bachchan-Rekha simply because we didn't do as many films together as they did. But there was a certain magic in Saajan, Sahibaan and Khalnayak."
A certain magic, yes. I guess it was this terrific chemistry which just fuelled the rumours about their private relationship. The three films Sanju named are maybe their best-known ones, but how many did they together? And which ones? Only very few people can answer this question offhand today.
I'll reveal it: Eight films starring Sanju and Madhuri were completed and released between 1988 and 1997. Many more were planned - eg Ramesh Sippy's Zameen with the fabulous cast Sanju, Madhuri, Sridevi, Vinod Khanna and Rajnikant which, alas, never was completed. Or Prem Granth which was considered as a symbolic reunion of the legendary jodi Nargis and Raj Kapoor as it was produced by Raj's grandson Rajiv Kapoor and should star Nargis' son Sanju alongside with Madhuri. But due to date hassles, Sanju finally quit the project to avoid further delay of the film which, thereafter, was made with Rajiv's brother Rishi in Sanju's role. Sigh. I would have loved to see Sanju as Soman.
So we must content ourselves with eight Sanju-Madhuri films – out of which hardly any actually showed them as a couple in love! In Ilaaka (1989), Madhuri was Mithun Chakraborty's love interest while Sanju's girl was Amrita Singh. In Sahibaan (1993) and Khalnayak (1993) Sanju loves Madhuri in vain as her love belongs to Rishi Kapoor respectively Jackie Shroff. In Saajan (1991) they fall in love, but then Sanju decides to abandon his love in favour of his beloved friend Salman Khan, and only in the film's final scene he gets back the love of his life. In Thanedaar (1990) they are already a couple from the beginning, but more accomplices than lovers. A Sanju-Madhuri couple in love we only get, apart from Saajan, in Khatron Ke Khiladi (1988) and Kanoon Apna Apna (1989) where, however, their love story is just a subplot and not really important for the story. Even in their last joint film, the ill-fated Mahaanta (1997), their love is in the end only the cause for some terrible crimes which prompt Sanju to start an extensive violent vendetta against the villains where love doesn't stand a chance anymore.
Regarding all this, one might wonder where to look for that certain magic. But believe me, it is! It is that terrific chemistry Sanju talked about and which you can see when they are in love, when they are not in love, when they have fun, when they quarrel, when she's mad at him, when he's mad at her, when he gets her, when he loses her... There's no doubt about that they really enjoyed working together. And thorough professionals they are, they even managed to keep this magic and chemistry intact in the last scenes for Mahaanta they shot in 1997 after Sanju's agonizing 15 months as an undertrial in jail. His pain was clearly visible in his eyes, and they had, as Sanju admitted, stopped talking to each other, but on screen the old magic prevailed.
But one piece of magic concerning the Sanju-Madhuri jodi is absolutely undisputable: While working with the goddess of dance, Sanju discovered his own dancing skills. He always confessed that he has two left feet and was not really interested in dancing, but now, at Madhuri's side, Sanju started working hard and evolved into a dancer who, in those glorious 90s when he was at the top, did up to five dance numbers in his films and obviously had fun doing so. I'm sure this was also thanks to Madhuri and her good dance influence on him.
For me, Sanjay Dutt & Madhuri Dixit are a screen jodi which easily stand comparison to Raj Kapoor & Nargis. Thank you, Madhuri and Sanju, for all the beautiful and unforgettable moments you gave to me!