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72nd birthday Interview-Hema Malini

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“The film industry is heroine oriented, but that doesn’t mean the heroine has always to play the second fiddle to the hero”

HEMA MALINI tells JYOTHI VENKATESH

To mark her 72nd birthday on October 16 this year, we at bollyy.com and Mayapuri wish her a happy 72nd birthday by reproducing an interview with HEMA MALINI by JYOTHI VENKATESH that appeared in the now defunct Star & Style dt April 6, 1979, exactly 41 years ago

My bloated ego was punctured when I walked up to Hema Malini on the sets of Manmohan Desai’s Naseeb and asked her for an interview after handing over to her a copy of a Malaysian magazine which had featured her on the cover. Glancing at the mag, she coolly asked me whether I was domiciled permanently in Malaysia. However, once I was able to break the ice, the interview turned out to be one of the most fabulous one I had ever done impromptu. Not only did Hema recall that I had interviewed her for a woman’s fortnightly, she also let me do the interview in Tamil, over steaming cups of hot Espresso coffee.

Hema Malini

Have you stopped signing films? We haven’t heard of a new one in the recent past.
I have decided to go slow as far as signing a film is concerned. I haven’t stopped signing films though. What I want to do now are good roles in big banners. I do not want to sign for every film producer who comes forward to sign me to make his project saleable.

Is there any film up your sleeve like Lal Paththar? We still remember your performance in Lal Paththar, which was excellent.

Lal Patthar was out and out a display window for Raaj Kumar’s performance. Wait till you see me in Meera and Do Dishayen. I am doing meaty roles in both films under the direction of Gulzar and Dulal Guha, In Do Dishayen I am doing a double role. It is being produced by my uncle.

The film industry being hero oriented, the heroine has got to play the second fiddle and accept insignificant secondary roles in films. Do you agree?

Of course the film industry is heroine oriented. That doesn’t mean the heroine always has to play the second fiddle to the hero. Have steadfastly refused films where I was asked to play the second fiddle.Didn’t the hero oriented film industry also make Seeta Aur Geeta? Aren’t Razia Sultan and Meera also the products of the same hero oriented film industry?

Aren’t you in favor of your mother having taken to the production of films?

Yes. I am not in favor of my mother having become a producer. Because we are not well versed about the ins and outs of film production and there are people who can easily swindle us. Besides, it is a risky industry. If one film falls flat at the box office, the producer has to close down his offices. In short, we are not cut out for film production.

Is it true that your mother’s Kasam Geeta Ki which was launched last year with great fanfare under the direction of Ashok Roy, has been shelved?

Yes. Kasam Geeta Ki has been shelved because we couldn’t cope with the magnitude of the film though it was not a multi starrer. Like I said, it is easier to act but quite tough to make a film. I also do not think the Indo American film Psychic Maya announced by me mother will also come through because a producer has to face a number of problems, especially in India.

Besides Dharmendra, Jeetendra and Shashi Kapoor, there is no other star with whom you can be teamed except perhaps Amitabh Bachchan. Don’t you think you are handicapped with this lack of heroes?

I agree with you. I do not have many heroes with whom I can co-star. It is either Dharmendra or Jeetendra who has been teamed opposite me in most of my films on the floors. The reason is that the distributors are not willing to buy a film starring me with any other star or new comer. For a change, I am working with Girish Karnad in my mother’s Ratnadeep. Girish is a talented artiste and popular in his own right. The subject also demands that he be cast in Ratnadeep. Hence I decided to work in the film when my mother offered me the role.

Is there a film, on the floors, in which you can be seen at your dancing best, apart from Mrig Trishna that is?

To date, Mehbooba and Mrig Trishna are the only films which have given me enough scope to dance. While unfortunately Mehbooba didn’t do well, Mrig Trishna has yet to get a commercial release all over the country. None of my films currently in the floors have me in a dancing role. In Meera, it is more of a singing role.

Will Meera be your swan song as far as your career in films is concerned?

It is also the opinion of a few so called critics who assumed that the film would take many more years to be completed and hence may very well turn out to be my last film. Meera will definitely be released before the end of this year. And there are around two dozen films of mine yet to be released. How can you say that Meera is going to be my last film?

Why is there a hitch in the progress of Devdas which was announced nearly three years ago? By now the film should have been completed.

When Gulzar asked me to play Par, I told him that it is doubtful whether today’s audience would identify themselves with Paro and Devdas, in the sense that values have changed as far as love is concerned. The sincerity and devotion which Devdas and Paro had is sadly lacking in our youngsters, who are more practical. Devdas would be mocked if he is shown hitting the bottle just because Paro married somebody else. Today the audience wants a hero who will fight for the heroine, risking his life in the bargain. The audience’s taste has changed.

Go on!
Gulzar convinced me that his concept of Devdas was on entirely different lines and after all, what is important is the presentation. He said he was confident of the subject and I accepted the role because I have confidence in Gulzar. If the film makes any progress, I will definitely play Paro. That is, if it makes any progress.

Is it true that you have decided to close down your dancing class in Madras and shift it to Bombay in response to appeals from parents in Bombay?

It is true that I am toying with the idea of shifting my dance class to Bombay. My father was the backbone of the dance class in Madras. With his death, I have become greatly handicapped. There is no one to look after our class in Madras and it is humanly impossible for me to go there every now and then and supervise or teach the students.

What is the hitch then?

The only hitch is that the dance masters are not interested in migrating to Bombay because they have settled down in the south and are not too keen on leaving their families. Moreover, they are so busy in Madras, what with several dance programmes being held in the city every day that it wouldn’t be monetarily viable for them to leave all those assignments and come to Bombay just for my class. Besides there is already an institution teaching dances in Bombay.

Why did you refuse plum roles like Shaan and Amardeep which have now gone to Bindiya and Shabana Azmi?

I have decided to go in only for good banners, good roles and good directors. As a result, I have become very selective. I didn’t accept Shaan though Ramesh had directed me earlier in Andaz, Seeta Aur Geeta and Sholay only because I felt that the role was very insignificant and didn’t merit my being in it. I did refuse K. Balaje’s Amardeep because he couldn’t afford to pay me my price. At this stage of my career, there is no need for me to compromise unless and until the role which I am offered in a film is a once in lifetime kind of a role. I am doing two films with Kaka and hence it is not true, like a couple of gossip columnists insinuated that I didn’t accept Amardeep only because it starred Kaka.

Why are you not in favor of accepting assignments in multi starrers? Why did you accept Ek Do Teen Char in spite of your aversion to multi starrers?

I prefer to work in one hero- one heroine film. What is there for me to do with three other heroines and four heroes vying with one another for a share of the limelight? Throughout my career, I have done only one hero -one heroine film. And yet, Touchwood most of them have turned out to be hits. Razia Sultan and Kranti too are multi starrers but I am working in them only because I am playing plum roles and not just one of the four roles like in Ek Do Teen Char. I am doing Ek Do Teen Char only because it is being made by my secretary.

Have you backed out of Amit Khanna’s Naya Johny because Sanjeev Kumar is opposite you?

I was signed for Naya Johny four years ago when the project was being planned. Today, if I do a role like the one I am expected to do in it, it will not be in keeping with my new resolve to do only a few selected films. I have decided not to do the film not because Sanjeev is there because to date. I have not been given the script or even told what my role is. However, I am keen on doing Dev’s next film after Lootmaar, based on The Goodbye Girl, which is a one hero one heroine subject.

By signing for this role of a five star crooner in Naseeb, do you believe you can change your image of a goody goody heroine?

I have taken up the Naseeb role only to dispel the notion the general public has that I can do only serious roles like either Meera or Ratnadeep. Manmohan Desai has enough confidence to cast me in this kind of a glamorous role. After Seeta Aur Geeta, it is in Naseeb that I have done quite a few stunt scenes.