LEGENDARY leading lady Hema Malini rose up from humble beginnings to become the undisputed queen of Hindi cinema during a definitive decade for the industry.
She also established herself as a gifted actress and starred in a series of record-breaking releases that remain popular today. The multitalented superstar later launched a successful production house and career in politics all while becoming a powerful role model.
Malini has also had a great family life and an amazing career as a dancer. These and many other chapters from her life are contained in Ram Kamal Mukherjee’s acclaimed authorised biography Hema Malini: Beyond The Dream Girl.
Eastern Eye caught up with her at a plush hotel in central London to talk about her life, the
new book and more…
Was it an easy decision to get Ram Kamal Mukherjee to write a detailed book about your life and make it public?
Well, he had already written a coffee table book about me which he surprised me with. This
time he wanted to go beyond what had been written before. I said: ‘You have already written about me, why do you want to do it again?’
He pointed out that a lot of interesting things had happened since, like my political work
and my children getting married. He thought it would be nice if we talked about it, so I said okay. I never hesitated at all because my life is an open book to everyone.
How do you look back on your amazing journey in cinema?
It has been nice and a very good journey. I miss it now because I am doing something else. I have many fond memories and they remain with you.
Did you ever imagine reaching such great heights and becoming the queen of Bollywood when you started?
I never imagined I would, and whatever I achieved was a blessing. I didn’t realise at that time I had reached such a great height because I was working.
People would say: ‘You are number one’, but I was working hard and didn’t feel it as a burden. I was busy with my film shooting and with dance, so never had time to think I am number one and had to be a particular way because of it or grab certain films.
For me, your greatest achievement was giving the Hindi film heroine power; was that a conscious decision?
I didn’t set out to do that or anything resembling this. I feel automatically everything just happened and I am thankful for that. I just did my job.
You did so many memorable roles, is there any one film closest to your heart?
Honestly, every film is challenging in its own way. When you are doing a different role, you do get very excited and wonder how am I going to perform and involve myself into that role.
When the shooting is happening, you realise how good or bad a film is being made. You as an artist can immediately make it out because it totally depends on the director. If the director is doing a good job, all the artists are happy.
Can you recall when you got that feeling?
When I was doing Kinara and also Khushboo. With Khushboo I was playing a simple village
woman from Bengal, so I wanted to do that role. I knew the director was taking out the correct work and I enjoyed doing that so much. It doesn’t happen in every film.
Some directors are not so good and can spoil something great. They can narrate something
and then add some unnecessary scenes which has nothing to do with it and not relevant at all.
You have always been a versatile actress, but which genre did you enjoy most when you were the queen of Hindi cinema?
(Laughs) Comedy naturally! Everyone likes doing comedy and audiences enjoy watching it. I think any artist loves doing the genre, which is challenging. People love it and I am no different. If the role is correctly designed, it becomes even better.
You still look like a goddess; what is your secret?
(Smiles) Nothing Asjad, there is no secret. I guess it is the dancing and meditation. That
You are a powerful role model as a movie star and politician, but what advice would you give young girls starting out on their journey?
Keep doing your work. Keep concentrating on what you are doing. So many obstacles will come but have faith in yourself to overcome them.
Don’t get caught up in what others are saying. You know what you are going to do and what you ultimately want to achieve. You will achieve it!
You are now making a difference to people’s lives as a politician; which causes are closest to your heart?
I have been an artist and people have given me so much love. I believe you have to give back to society. So that is what I am trying to do as the MP for Mathura. There are many deep-rooted villages there where people are really suffering. I am trying to help them out as there is so much suffering.
Inside, you feel very nice about it because the position of an MP is such that you are supposed to help people. It is your duty! I try my best to do as much as possible. Sometimes it’s not in my hands and I will be honest about that and tell them.
You are a movie icon, but do you get time to watch films?
No, not at all! I feel very bad that I am not getting time to watch films. Travelling between Mathura and Delhi takes up so much time that I am not even able to work in any films, even though that artistic desire is still very much there.
I want to do some good films. So if any nice films come up I will definitely do it. I want want people to know Hema is still an actress even though she is an MP. She is doing dance, politics and cinema.
What do you think of the new generation of leading ladies in Bollywood?
They are very nice and so talented. Alia Bhatt is so sweet and Deepika Padukone is so nice. They are all getting good roles and performing so well.
They are so dedicated and that is great to see. Sometime back I really liked the work Aishwarya (Rai Bachchan) was doing.
Did you learn anything new about yourself when looking back at your varied life?
That is a good question, Asjad. (Laughs) I think I need to read the book and learn. Then I will tell you.
Why do you love cinema?
The first thing is you are going to see yourself on the big screen and get a kick out of it. That is very exciting for any human being, to portray a role and watch it. Then portraying what? Different characters which you are not!
I am Hema Malini and living my life, but as an artist working in cinema I have been able to do so many roles that I am not and have had to make them believable. That is a beautiful part of cinema.
Indian cinema is even more beautiful because of the lovely songs, wonderful lyrics and beautiful dances we have. Such talented people in our industry create all those things and give them to us artists so we can pass it onto audiences.
Can you give a message to your fans?
First of all, I love you all. Through social media like Twitter, I am able to know how many people still have that love and craze for me. I say keep loving me and I will definitely come back and keep doing films just for you.
Hema Malini: Beyond The Dream Girl by Ram Kamal Mukherjee is out now.