Hema Malini aka Basanti turns 72 and it’s just a number for her fans!

A glowing testimony of a wife, mother and grandmother still showcasing unbelievable beauty, grace and elegance, Hema Malini turns 72

Bollywood actress Hema Malini (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ @filmyguftgu)
Bollywood actress Hema Malini (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ @filmyguftgu)

Monojit Lahiri

Botox? Facelift? Make-up magic? Trick photography? These are some of the terms that automatically come to mind when one sees Hema Malini in ads, in a dance performance or even in personal life. Fact is, neither of the above is applicable because Hema Malini is a classic case of: What you see is what you get. A glowing testimony of a wife, mother and grandmother still showcasing unbelievable beauty, grace & elegance.

It’s interesting when one remembers that this Iyengar girl was dropped by Filmmaker Sridhar on the grounds of “too thin & zero screen presence” in her early years. After two forgettable Southie films in 1963, the 20-year-old was suddenly catapulted to star opposite the legendary 44-year-old Raj Kapoor in Sapnon ki Saudagar in 1968. With an unknown entity in their hands, the Publicity team desperately needed a hook to position this new kid and Dream Girl is what came about. While the film didn’t remotely trigger any sapna or push any sauda, Hema caught the imagination of moviegoers and the Dream Girl moved into the public domain with all cylinders firing. She learnt the tricks of the trade fast enough and very soon, apart from to-be-hubby Dharmendra, she starred & hit it big with the likes of Rajesh Khanna & Dev Anand. This was a time when-mostly-heroines were eye-candy and arm-candy for the all-powerful hero & pairs that clicked, were repeated endlessly. Hema was smart enough to realise this and like a true professional who didn’t want to go against the rules of the game, did her naach-gaana number brilliantly to move from strength to strength.

However, unlike Rekha who mastered the Hindi/Urdu dialect so well that she was given the title role in Umraon Jaan no less, Hema continued to have a Southie accent while delivering her dialogues, but did her zillion fans care? Besides, when the occasion demanded [Lal Patthar, Khushboo, Kinara, Ek Chaadar Maili Si, Kudrat, Seeta aur Geeta, Sholay, Razia Sultan, later Baghban & Veer Zara] she certainly rose to deliver with passion and purpose.

This strict no nonsense disciplinarian who never stepped out of line to party, smoke, drink, gossip or flirt, however, had quite a few leading men going gasp-pant and desperate to take her home to mother. It was alleged that Jeetu was quite keen on her but the guy who really went the distance was Sanjeev, who landed up at her home in Chennai with mom in tow, to propose. Haribhai clearly underestimated the heroics of pagal diwana Dharam-garam who aced him clean n’ proper by landing up in the nick of time to sweep her away from the shocked Sanjeev, leaving him to croon Khilona jaan kar tum kyoon mera dil tod jaate ho! While Hema did confess that Dharmendra was the handsomest actor she had ever seen, the He-man pulled out the stops to woo her from day one. Blessed with a genuinely big and generous heart –which happily accommodated his wife & three kids plus all other distractions – his Hema-driven karnameys were legendary. It is said that during the shooting of Sholay, he bribed the Cameraman to repeat intimate scene takes with Hema, at hundred bucks a take. The DOP was delighted and carried out his instructions diligently, pocketing a neat packet but leaving Hema bewildered! A stud who women were crazy about, he turned a totally new leaf once he married Hema and fathered kids.

Hema Malini spread her wings to embrace many roles. A popular, respected and acknowledged Bharatnatyam Dancer, movie star, director, producer – she gave SRK his first break opposite Divya Bharati in Dil Aashna Hai – she acted in over 150 films and in the seventies & eighties was one of the highest paid actresses in Bollywood. An active champion in supporting social causes, she was the face of many charitable fund-raisers. In her later years, she tried to push her daughter Esha, even producing a film Tell Me O Khuda co-starring real life dad Dharam, which unfortunately bombed. However, despite her Box Office market fading with the advent of new faces, her off-screen charisma and personality was indisputable, powerful enough for political parties to woo her. It was BJP who finally got her and today she represents the Mathura constituency as M.P. “45 years after Sholay’s release, the yell for Basanti hasn’t stopped” she loves to state.

At the end of the day, the Dream Girl – Padma Shri – Basanti’s popularity is based both on her striking good looks, thanks to an active & disciplined life regarding exercise & diet and her totally transparent & controversy-free life, despite residing in scandal & herapheri-ridden Bollywood. Another commendable aspect is the way she has conducted her life as the second wife of Dharmendra, living with class, openness and dignity all the way, never interfering with her husband’s interactions with his other family. This has only increased the respect of her fans. No wonder, even after signing off from films in 2012, the Dream Girl continues her dream run as an icon who neither age can chill nor rival steal.

Happy Birthday Dream Girl – and let your dowdy contemporaries eat their heart out looking at the sensational Kent model!

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Published: 16 Oct 2020, 1:19 PM