My nine-year-old daughter is deewana over Imran Khan and Genelia D’Souza. She croons Pappu can’t dance silly (saala is strictly no-no) every time the duo pop up on the telly.
Cut to the swinging 1970s. The Jodi No 1 then were Amitabh Bachchan-Rekha or Amitabh-Jaya.. Rajesh Khanna-Sharmila Tagore or Rajesh- Mumtaz or Dharmendra-Hema Malini. I was younger than my daughter then and in awe of He-Man Dharam and Dream Girl Hema.
I grew up, became a journalist and was sent to cover the shooting of Jamai Raja. It was my first outdoors. I arrived at a Chennai studio with a bunch of news-scooping reporters and waited for Hema Malini. She descended, like a queen, down a red-carpeted studio staircase, gave us 15 minutes of her time, then with a regal “Ab bas” swept out of the mansion set. No one dared to protest. Even though she was playing Anil Kapoor’s wily saas, Hema Malini was still every inch the superstar.
The next time I met her on board a ship at Mumbai’s Ferry Warf. Still majestic, she was more approachable now. As I lounged next to her waiting for Divya Bharti to finish my interview, we got chatting.
She advised me to wear socks if I wanted to keep my feet Pakeezah jaise haseen. She shared horror stories of stunts that had gone wrong. And spoke of Dil Aashna Hai, her directorial dream.
Our third meeting took place at her Juhu bungalow. The q-and-a session was first interrupted by a group of designer friends. They left after half-an-hour without making a single sale. “Why would I want to sit around the house in a Rs 15,000 salwar suit?” she said dismissively.
Halfway through, her teenage daughter, Esha (Deol) waltzed into the room, heels clicking, handbag swinging, asking for permission to visit Shatrughan Sinha’s sons, Luv and Kush, who were home from boarding school.
Mum’s the word
Smiling indulgently, she quipped, “Look at her, all dressed up? She says ‘Mom can I go?’ But what she actually means is ‘Mom I’m going.’ ” She didn’t stop Esha. The twins were old friends who had grown up with her. Now Kush will be making his debut with Esha next year.
The conversation veered to her daughters, Esha and Ahana. I wondered who helped them with their homework. “Who else? I haven’t been so diligent about history, geography and maths in my life,” she laughed. “The night before an exam, I’m so tense while they sleep peacefully.” What about Dharamji? “Oh, he’s the indulgent papa,” she smiled.
Despite the ‘breaks’, our conversation was coursing along smoothly when abruptly, she stood up and announced, “Interview over.” Bemused, I looked at her wondering what I had said wrong.
Her eyes were trained on the front door. “Dharamji is here,” she said. I turned, he was stepping out of his car. “But the interview?” I had to ask. “We’ll finish it, call my secretary, he’ll give you another appointment,” she promised. “But you have to go now, Dharamji is here.” I left. We wrapped up the q-and-a two days later, this time without interruption.