As India’s eternal Dream Girl Hema Malini turns 72 on October 16, good wishes are pouring in from everywhere. No one has anything but blessings for India’s first and only female superstar. She laughs when I share these thoughts with her. “Was I a female superstar? I don’t know! I never got a chance to assess my career, what I was, how successful I was, was I getting paid more than my colleagues. These things never mattered. My mother looked after my career while I just worked and worked, from one studio to another. Many of my birthdays were celebrated on studio sets. Did I mind it? I don’t know. I just remember cutting so many of my cakes on the sets surrounded by co-stars and the entire team,” recalls Malini.
Now, it’s different. “I am with family. My daughters, my sons-in-law who are like the sons I never had, my grandchildren, they are with me. It feels complete! I couldn’t have hoped for more,” she adds. “If the superstar had to change anything in her life what would it be? “I don’t think I want to change anything. I didn’t get enough time to spend with Dharamji (husband Dharmendra) since marriage. But that’s okay. Whatever time we have together is precious. And I make it a point not to crib. Yeh kyon nahin kiya, who kyon nahin kiya. Why are you late? I don’t squander my time with my loved ones complaining.”
Malini, who has delivered more hits than any other female hero of Bollywood, was known to make careers. It is rumoured that fading superstars like Dev Anand, Manoj Kumar and Rajesh Khanna specially requested her to work with them to revive their careers. Hemaji doesn’t deny this Midas myth about herself. “I remember doing Sanyasi with Manoj Kumar, Amir Garib with Dev Saab and Premnagar with Rajesh Khanna. I think all three were superhits. But I don’t think they clicked because of me. They were well made films with very good songs. That’s why they worked. I don’t think it is right for anyone to take credit for a successful film. Every film is a team effort,” she mentions.
How has Hemaji managed to remain so grounded in spite of such rare beauty and success? “I think the secret is to not let it all go to your head. I’ve never stared at the mirror admiring myself…main kitni sundar hoon… maine kitne hit films kiye. If I thought about all this, I may have become vain. I just kept working. Even now when I am more into politics than cinema I work to my fullest. In fact, I am so tired of being at home because of Covid. I missed parliament’s last session. I miss being with the people of my constituency in Mathura,” states Malini. What would Hemaji wish for this birthday? “To keep dancing until my last breath. Jab tak jaan jaan-e-jahaan main nachungi.”