Hema Malini at 70: ‘Yes, I Think I’m Beautiful’

Hema Malini who turns 70 on October 16, finally stops brushing off the compliments
Hema Malini at 70: ‘Yes, I Think I’m  Beautiful’
Hema Malini

Ageless, timeless, classic beauty….All these  descriptions  of Bollywood’s resident dream-girl evaporate when  you speak to the graceful beauty. So matter-of-point, to-the-point and comfortable  in her space, you  wonder is this  the woman whom they called the only female superstar, who  took no nonsense from any of her male colleagues and resurrected careers of many slumping male superstars from RajeshKhanna in Premnagar to Manoj Kumar in Sanyasi. On her birthday Subhash K Jha chats up with the ageless diva.

SO WHAT MAKES THIS BIRTHDAY SO SPECIAL?

You tell me. People like you make it special for me. Believe it or not, I didn’t know what a birthday was until I was 16 years old. I don’t remember any birthday party  as a  child. Even that 16th birthday party was organized by my producer Ananthswamy who discovered me for Hindi cinema in Sapnon Ka Saudagar. It was when he  insisted that I have a birthday party I realized, ‘My God, birthday mein party hota  hai kya?’

WHAT DO YOU MEAN?

My mother never celebrated my or mine or my brother’s  birthday. I don’t know why! Looking back it seems so funny. Sad, no? I think birthdays are big in North India, not so big in the South.

SO AFTER 16 YOU BECAME ADDICTED TO BIRTHDAY PARTIES?

Once you become a star, everyone is eager to celebrate  your birthday. There would  be a cake on the sets, co-artistes singing for me. I  started looking forward  to my birthdays.

YOU LOOK SO HAPPY EVEN WHEN YOU ARE UNDER SO MUCH WORK-STRESS

Dukh to hai. Sabke saath hota hai. It’s up to the individual to go beyond personal setbacks.

WHAT ABOUT YOUR PLANS TO DIRECT ANOTHER FILM?

It doesn’t seem to be going anywhere(laughs). I must get a script that inspires me.  Direction is  not an easy job. I’ve so many other responsibilities.  Dancing makes me  so happy. When I   enact  those divine roles of Durga, Kali, Malaxmi  on stage I feel a deep sense of peace and satisfaction.  When I  want the audience to see Radha’s purity in me, I’ve to believe in that purity. Something sublime happens inside me when I’m stage. Dancing was always my main passion. I don’t need film offers to keep me busy.

ARE YOU AS HAPPY AS YOU LOOK?

I wouldn’t say everything is perfect.  One  doesn’t always get  what one wants in life. When one is younger one dreams of a perfect life, which  doesn’t exist. I didn’t get everything that I wanted. But I never gave myself the opportunity to miss all the things  that I didn’t have. I had my two daughters. The last 30 years of my life just sped by with them. Taking them to school, looking at their homework, doing their hair and managing their tantrums I relived my own childhood.  Now when they’re grown up I  suddenly I look back and I feel, “Arrey, I missed out on something !”

WHAT DID YOU MISS OUT ON?

(breaks into laughter). Maybe I expected more of  my husband’s company. I though we’ll be together more often. I never felt that absence until now. When I married I thought we’d come to an arrangement that would suit all of us. Lekin nahin hua. But it’s okay. I accept the situation. I got my   daughters. He has many problems to look after. As a human being I ‘m bound  to have regrets….But he loves me like mad. When I think of his feelings for me everything seems worth it, even his physical absence.

BUT YOU’RE ENVIED BY WOMEN ALL OVER THE COUNTRY

Am I? I’m thankful for all that I ‘ve. And now  that I’m in the Rajya Sabha  I want to do more for the country. It’s not enough to be a beautiful admired celebrity. It’s important to use that power for social good. Even my dance performances are for charitable  causes.

HOW DO YOU PLAN TO SPEND YOUR BIRTHDAY THIS YEAR?

I’ve never been a birthday person. Cutting cakes makes me very embarrassed. But what to do? Earlier during my days of hectic shooting  a  cake  would be carted  in  the middle  of shooting with all my co-stars and  technicians  singing. Now  it’s family and friends.

YOU ARE A YEAR OLDER. BUT YOUR RADIANCE AND BEAUTY REMAIN UNDIMINISHED?

(peals of laughter) Radiance and beauty? Thank you. But it’s  well-wishers supporters like you and  fans  who  have kept me going  for so long without stopping. You know, until recently I had never  thought of  myself as beautiful!

WHAT IS THE SECRET OF YOUR BEAUTY?

(Straightway without a thought) Good clean honest living. I’ve always been a very straightforward  and blunt person. That trait has got me  into  a lot of trouble specially  since my  political career began. But I don’t regret calling a spade a spade. I’ve never believed in hiding the truth from myself or from others. Because you lie once you go on  lying to cover up for that one  lie. Too much stress. I never wanted it, never opted for it.

BUT IS IT ALWAYS POSSIBLE TO TELL THE TRUTH?

It is ! All you need to do is look at any situation without  fear  or misgivings. You should try it some time.

YOU ARE A ROLE MODEL TO MANY WOMAN. WHO ARE YOU YOUR ROLE MODELS?

Vythanthimala. Without a  doubt she has been the greatest influence on  my  life  and career. From the beginning I  modeled  my career on  her footsteps as a Bharat Natyam dancer and an actress. She has  crossed 80. But her energy level is still unflagging. Besides Vyjanthimala   my mother was my biggest influence. When she was alive she took all the decisions.

WHAT ACCORDING TO YOU IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR IN A WOMAN’S CAREER?

A supportive family. Specially a supportive husband. You can’t be an achiever if your husband is  over-conservative, narrow-minded and jealous  of  your success.

BUT YOUR HUSBAND (ACTOR DHARMENDRA) COULD HARDLY GIVE YOU THAT SUPPORT AS HE HAD TWO FAMILIES TO TAKE CARE OF?

But he  never stopped me from doing anything. He encouraged me to always follow my dreams and fulfil my ambitions. Even today when I achieve something he is  the proudest. Sometimes, not having a spouse breathing down  your neck is also very inspiring.

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO PEOPLE WHO LOOK UP TO YOU?

Follow  your dreams. Never say no to any opportunity. Think positive. And don’t bother with what  your neighbour is  doing. I never looked at the competition around me. For me my career, my family and my life are all that mattered.

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