Hema Malini and Shobhaa de reveal why Sexy at 60 is making way for Sizzling at 70!
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Hema Malini and Shobhaa de reveal why Sexy at 60 is making way for Sizzling at 70!

They have always lived life on their own terms and as they enter the 7th decade of their lives, they are as young and as bold as ever

brunch Updated: Dec 02, 2017 23:53 IST
Ananya Ghosh
Ananya Ghosh
Hindustan Times
Hema Malini,Shobhaa de,Sizzling at 70
They are the bold and the beautiful, and as they turn 70, instead of slowing down, they are stepping up in style. ( Hema Malini’s make-up and hair is by Narendra Jadhav and Jaya M Surve and Shobhaa De’s is by Racinda Martis and Ronella Baptista. Hema Malini wears a sari by Neeta Lulla; Shobhaa De wears a sari from Roliana (Varanasi). Location Courtesy: JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu.)(Prabhat Shetty)

Hema Malini, Bollywood diva-turned-Parliamentarian, claims she’s a bit scared of author and columnist Shobhaa De’s sharp columns. Yet, when the two gorgeous women and old friends meet for a special chat and photo shoot for HT Brunch at the JW Marriott, Mumbai, they get on like a house on fire.

“When I was young I thought, if I live to be 80, I’d be wrinkled and shrivelled. But I don’t feel like that woman from my nightmare!”- Hema Malini

They already have something in common: both women, the epitomes of glam, and divas of doing exactly what they want to do, are facing their 70s with glee, each with a book about her life. Shobhaa’s book, 70 And To Hell With It, reflects her feisty attitude to everything. But Hema, one of Bollywood’s most commercially successful heroines, had to be coaxed into telling her story by film journalist and critic Ram Kamal Mukherjee and finally agreed to do Hema Malini: Beyond the Dream Girl only so that people like us stop begging her for interviews.

Read on as India’s most badass women choke with laughter at the concept of turning into ‘harmless old ladies’, and promise to keep us on our toes as they leap into their 70s.

Sizzling at 70

Because...sizzling at 70 is the new black! (Prabhat Shetty)

Shobhaa De (SD): Sexy at 60? Puhleez – that’s so passé. Sizzling at 70 is the new black! At 70, one reaches that fantastic stage when all the unimportant things in life magically melt away and you finally come into your own. At 70, I have finally sprouted wings and I am ready to fly...explore any and every fresh opportunity and adventure. It’s too late to qualify as a nuclear scientist. But I am up for other creative options and avenues. However, I will draw the line at bungee jumping. But let’s not kid ourselves – 70 is 70! I definitely don’t think of it as the neo-50.

Hema Malini (HM): These days, I have to take approval from Esha and Ahana for the smallest of things! They are like my mini mummy!

(She giggles)

“At 70, I have finally spouted wings and am ready to fly… I can’t become a nuclear scientist, but I could still bungee jump! ” - Shobhaa De

SD: I call mine my in-house censor board. Anything I do, say, write, eat or wear is analysed and advice is given whether I ask for it or not. The chief of this in-house censor board is my husband Dilip. I am very proud of him – at the age of 77 he found his new love – painting! In fact, he is now a prolific artist with a new exhibition coming up next January. But it is strange how much we both have in common, Hemaji! We are the same age and so are our daughters. And we are both becoming naanis again at almost the same time!

HM: My daughters say I am over protective about them. Maybe I am!

SD: My children also complain that I am over-involved in their lives. I say, darlings, be glad! It isfar better to be over-involved than indifferent. Perhaps, one day you will thank me for this. I am totally involved in my daughters’ lives. Maybe not that much in my grandchildren’s though.

Grans of glam

Why Hema Malini is India’s Dream Girl ...forever!
  • Dream Girl Hema Malini is one of the best known actresses in Bollywood and is today a BJP MP working in the Mathura constituency.
  • As a 16-year-old, she made her Bollywood debut opposite Raj Kapoor. And in the film’s publicity posters she was projected as Raj Kapoor’s Dream Girl. Eventually she became the Dream Girl for the entire nation.
  • She almost married Jeetendra. But it was the much-married Dharmendra she was really in love with. Rumour had it that the couple converted to Islam to get married after Dharmendra’s first wife refused to sign the divorce papers.
  • She was one of the top heroines of Bollywood and one of the very few at the time to do her own stunts.
  • She played the protagonist in Kamal Amrohi’s Razia Sultan (1983) and her scene with Parveen Babi is credited as the first to suggest lesbian love in Hindi cinema.
  • In 2003, she was elected as a Rajya Sabha member and in 2014 she defeated the Mathura incumbent of RJD and stormed her way into the Lok Sabha.

HM: My little Darien loves to paint. He came into my room yesterday and he had paint all over him. I sat him next to me and started telling him stories and he fell asleep listening. It is these simple things that warm the cockles of your heart.

SD: Ahilya, the little one, is fascinated with make-up. I have a small make-up pouch, which is nothing great, but she loves it. She digs into it and experiments, first on her own face and body, and then on mine. It’s crazy! We both look like Red Indians at the end of her make-up session. But I enjoy it. The very word naani has something so very sweet and tender about it. I prefer it to the Marathi aji.

HM:When Darien first called me naani, people were not sure how I would react. My mother didn’t like the word. In Tamil we call our grandmother paati. But I love naani. And, yes, you are right; we can’t be as involved with our grandkids as we can be with our own daughters.

SD: The mother-daughter relationship is complex beyond belief. It is incomparable. Intensely demanding and a bit maddening. Nobody else can love me as much and nobody else can hurt me as much. We argue and fight because we are all strong women. It is probably the most challenging relationship on this planet, but also definitely the most fulfilling.I also feel that every woman in the world is a working woman. More so, a full time homemaker. We must place a value on ourselves.

‘Did you just say ‘old’? Ha!

Why Shobhaa De says it with a bite...always
  • Shobhaa De is one of the most controversial writers/columnists that India has ever had: funny, sarcastic, scathing, irreverent, brutally honest, and occasionally outrageous. It is said one tweet from her can shake up the parliament – and frequently does!
  • Shobhaa De, born Shobha Rajadhyaksha, ventured into journalism after a brief stint as a model, and edited magazines like Stardust, Society and Celebrity, inventing a new language – Hinglish – along the way.
  • She was one of the few Indian woman authors to write erotic novels 30 years ago. One of her most controversial books was Starry Nights, which took a cold, hard look at Bollywood shenanigans.
  • The female characters in her novels are always unorthodox and unapologetic. her non-fiction is equally hard hitting.
  • Her bold column, The Sexes for The Week acted as a catalyst for a sexual revolution of sorts.
  • She has never been afraid to take on celebrities and politicians, fearlessly chastising chief ministers and Bollywood stars when she feels they need a rap on the knuckles.

HM: Today when I look back, everything looks fine. You should be happy in whatever you are doing, or do things that make you happy. So many transitions have happened in my life, but as life threw challenges I kept figuring my way out. One should embrace each stage of life with open arms and mind.

SD: I think it’s time to challenge the stereotype. But I have always broken stereotypes, and here I am!

HM: When I was young, my parents would consult astrologers for various things, and every time I would be told that I will live very long. Then, I thought, my god! What if I lived to be 80, and how wrinkled and shrivelled I would be, and I’d shudder. But as I slowly inch towards that age, I don’t look or feel like that old woman of my nightmare. I am just me; I am the person I was.

SD: Each decade has its own relevance, its own highs and lows, and life is about how you deal with the low period. How you conduct yourself when the tide is ebbing and the seas are rough. I have, in fact, enjoyed swimming against the tide. If nothing else, it makes you a better swimmer. It has tested my strength, I have accepted the challenge and come out stronger. It is tough enough being a woman at any age. Tougher still, when you get older. Hema and I belong to a good vintage!

HM: I was the top heroine when I got married and the offers started to wane. The industry had this mindset that a married lady is only fit to play a mother to the hero, not his love interest. So sometimes, when I went to Dharamji’s shoots with Esha, I would see actresses much junior to me at work, while I sat with my daughter on my lap, watching. It was a strange feeling. I kept thinking, what should I do now?

Then I had a chat with Gulzar saab. I told him I didn’t know where I was headed. He listened to me very carefully and then told me to broaden my horizons. ‘One door shuts so that you can try the other doors,’ he said. Suddenly I got a strange kind of strength, and I got into dance ballets and that became such a big part of my life that I never looked back.Today, sitting on the verge of 70, when I look back at each decade of my life, I smile…it looks beautiful from here.

Just do it!

Shobhaa, who had refused an offer to act in Satyajit Ray’s Ghare Baire, says that today at 70 she is finally ready to even give acting a shot. Shobhaa wears a top by Payal Khandwala and crushed silk skirt from Nayika (Jaipur) (Prabhat Shetty)

SD: I think the 70s is when you start recognising your true passions, your commitments and capabilities. There is a very distilled and pure focus. At 70, you should become the Nike spokesperson and just do it! No force on earth can stop us at this stage in life. You take total control of your life for better or worse. You finally own it. At 70, it’s important to discard vanity and focus on productivity. I hope to remain as prolific in my seventh decade as I have always been throughout my 45 year old writing career.

Hema is a fine example. Nobody had thought she would be able to nurture the Mathura constituency as well as she has. Look at her level of involvement. In fact, I see Hema in the Cabinet in the near future.

Hema Malini divides her time between her dance performances and her political career, but the role she loves playing the most today is that of a doting grandmother (Prabhat Shetty)

HM: (Looking mock-scared) Arre, kitna kaam karna padega! It is too time-consuming. I don’t want to get so busy that I can’t look out for my babies. And now they are having babies!But, you know what? I think if you want to try something new at this point, you should definitely give acting a thought.

SD: (Laughing heartily) Maybe it is about time I give that a shot! That’s the fun of being 70. It’s time to do things we never thought we could do!

So people, the message is out there: don’t mess with these two!

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From HT Brunch, December 3, 2017

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First Published: Dec 02, 2017 22:41 IST