Perhaps the only actress of Hindi cinema to have ruled the box office for close to five decades; the only Hindi actress to have taken to direction while still charming the camera, Hema Malini will forever be ‘Dream Girl’ to generations of film lovers. From someone who was a reluctant actor to becoming an enduring screen goddess, producer, director, Hema Malini’s journey is the stuff legends are made of. A life that could easily be converted to a script has been chronicled in a book by veteran journalist Ram Kamal Mukherjee that explores her life beyond her epithet of ‘Dream Girl’. Indeed, as actor, filmmaker, danseuse, magazine editor, member of Parliament, singer and someone who just turned Nani second time over, ‘Beyond the Dream Girl’, launched on the actress’ 69th birthday last week, is the story of a life lived with grace and ease, despite formidable resistance.
In an industry where heroes supposedly drive the commercial success of films, Hema was an exception, with her name alone sufficing to ensure the box office success of a film. She was, arguably, India’s first female superstar. And even her co-actor of several films, Amitabh Bachchan alludes to this in the book when he says, ‘Hemaji made shooting such a breeze. She was an equal on the sets.”
Apart from starring in mainstream super-hits like Johny Mera Naam, Jugnu, Andaz, Seeta Aur Geeta, Sholay and several others, she received critical acclaim for her performances in Lal Patthar, Khushboo, Kinara, Meera, Ek Chadar Maili Si and Razia Sultan – thereby covering the depth as well as breadth of her repertoire as a performer. The book also chronicles her sustained and sincere efforts at reviving classical dance to her dignified handling of her personal life as well as the controversies that hounded her role as a politician. From her relationship with her mother to her role as a mother, Hema Malini: Beyond the Dream Girl covers it all. Detailed interviews and exclusive anecdotes from her family, friends and co-actors, this is an inside look at the remarkable icon of Hindi films, who has lived life on her own terms – without any brouhaha.
One truly remarkable aspect of the biography is that its foreword has been written by Prime Minister Narendra Modi – perhaps the only book where an active PM has done so.What has been omitted, however, is the oft-written gossip on her equation with Jeetendra, her marriage with Dharamji, the Sanjeev Kumar episode – perhaps the subject’s own insistence on not wanting to fan gossip. There could definitely have been more pictures in the book, though, but perhaps those were omitted since Ram had written a coffee table book on Hema Malini fifteen years back.
The book is divided into 23 chapters, covering her childhood, teens, Bollywood, rise as an actor, romance, colleagues, marriage, her second innings, launching Shah Rukh Khan in Dil Aashna Hai — which she directed — her ballet, her political journey and spiritual journey. While it does make for a good read, it is evident that it is an ode from a fan to his idol. Read it once.
Text and images by Aarti Kapur Singh