Even at 67, veteran Bollywood actor and Member of Parliament (MP) Hema Malini, leaves you mesmerised with her beauty and charm. When we caught up with her at her Juhu residence, she spoke about a dance show that she is organising in the memory of her mother, late Jaya Chakravarthy, on November 15. With the concert, Hema wants “to promote young classical dancers”. Here, she talks about her B-Town journey, why she thinks every artiste should venture into politics, dancing with her daughters — Esha Deol and Ahana Deol, husband, Dharmendra, her aspirations as an artiste, and more.
How do you look back at your journey in Bollywood?
I have done a lot, and I feel very happy about it. My journey has been without any struggles. I got married at the right time, had children… so everything happened at the right time. But now, people ask me, “Why don’t you act?” I tell them, “How do I act?” I do advertisements. This means that I still look okay, and people are ready to watch me. Though I would love to do a film, there are no makers [that I want to work with]. Film-making is different today. There is too much money involved. Within two days of a film’s release, it makes multiple crores at the box office. All this was not there earlier. There were also parallel films before, like the ones made by Gulzar saab or Hrishikesh Mukherjee (director). I used to feel great that I could do various kinds of films. But today, there are no buyers for parallel cinema.
What is your opinion of the industry today?
The industry is good, and many nice films are still being made, like Bajrangi Bhaijaan. Things have advanced technically. Making films today has become so expensive; we are no less than Hollywood, and we feel proud of it. But, at the same time, there is no place for someone who would want to make a beautiful, low-budget film.
The world addresses you as ‘Dream Girl’. How do you feel about that?
It feels nice. I am able to maintain my looks because of dance. Since I know I have to perform on the stage, I exercise, do yoga, etc. I always have something to look forward to. That keeps me going.
What are the greatest things that you have learnt from Bollywood?
Discipline is one of the most important things that I have learnt. Since I was young, when I entered the industry, I learnt how to respect people across age groups.
How has life changed since you became a politician?
My role as an MP is very demanding. I am glad I am learning so much. Politics has been a good transition for me. It’s important for every artiste to get into politics. People say, “Oh, politics is bad, etc.” This kind of approach is not right. When you are out there, you learn so much about your country. Even now, I don’t know anything about politics. So, even when I address people, I speak as an artiste. I like to serve people.
Both your daughters are dancers. Are they as passionate about the art as you are?
No, they are not. I wish they were (laughs). They just got married, and started a family. So, they are still busy settling down.
How does it feel to perform with them on the stage?
It’s a beautiful feeling. I always tell Esha and Ahana that I really miss the three of us performing together. Hopefully, that will happen soon.
You have become a grandmother now…
Bahut accha lagta hai (It feels great). Ahana’s son is just four months old. I am very fond of children, but spending time with your own grandson is a very different feeling altogether. I behave like a kid when I am with him (laughs).
Do you and Dharmendra ever reminisce about the time when you worked together in films?
Unfortunately, I don’t get the time to think about anything. But it feels so good when he emails some of my old photos to me (smiles). After sending them, he calls, and says, “Dekha tumne? Abhi dekho (Did you see them? Look at them right now).”
Among all the songs that were picturised on you, which are your favourites?
There are so many. ‘Mere naina sawan bhadon’ (Mehbooba; 1976), ‘Humein tumse pyar kitna’ (Kudrat; 1981), ‘Naam gum jayega’ (Kinara; 1977) and ‘Ae dil-e-nadaan’ (Razia Sultan; 1983) are some of them.
Who have been your idols and best friends in the industry?
Since I started my career when I was very young, every director was my guru. Mahesh Kaul, the director of my first film, Sapno Ka Saudagar (1968), taught me so much. I also learnt a lot from my Abhinetri (1970) director, Subodh Mukherjee. People like Lekh Tandon, [late] Asit Sen, Sushil Majumdar, Gulzar saab, Vijay Anand and Ramesh Sippy have also been my teachers. Also, working with actors like Raj Kapoor saab, Shammi Kapoor etc. was a great learning experience. Then, Dharamji (Dharmendra), Manoj Kumar, Rajesh Khanna, Jeetendra, and Shashi Kapoor were the next generation. Whenever Jeetendra and I bump into each other even now, it feels great. It feels like we had a conversation recently, but, there would actually be a gap of a few years since we last met. So, aisa lagta hi nahi hai ki itne dinon baad mil rahe hain (It doesn’t feel that we are meeting after so many years).
As an artiste, do you have any aspirations that are yet to be fulfilled?
I want to open a classical dance institution. That will give me immense satisfaction. It will offer certification to artistes. I am planning to open it in Mumbai, near Versova.