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The quintessential Dream Girl

Author: admin

It’s a bold and beautiful story, of a bold and beautiful person. Ram Kamal Mukherjee’s Hema Malini: Beyond the Dream Girl (HarperCollins; 219 pages; ₹ 599) is as close to an autobiography of Hema Malini that we will ever get. Mukherjee, Hema’s long-time admirer and biographer, has done every fan of the ‘Dream Girl’ a solid service by unspooling the exciting and enticing inside story. Unlike his worshipful tributes to her in the past, such as the coffee table book titled Hema Malini: Diva Unveiled from more than 10 years ago, Beyond the Dream Girl is a step up in terms of readability and content.

With a foreword by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and an afterword by long-time collaborator and director Ramesh Sippy, Beyond the Dream Girl celebrates the life and times of one of Indian cinema’s greatest stars, who has, incidentally, completed 50 years in the industry.

We partake in an intimate journey, which takes us from her childhood, relationship with her parents and brothers—Jagannath and Kannan—who later took over their parents’ roles as manager and accountant, to the legendary Hema-Dharmendra love story, among others.

Early on, we are introduced to Hema’s late mother, Jaya Chakravarthy (in pic below), a disciplinarian who paved the way for her daughter’s uncompromising stand on her primary vocation, i.e., dance. Hema went on to create a niche for herself in an industry where larger-than-life male superstars reined.

Through friendships and collaborations with the likes of Gulzar and Ramesh Sippy, Hema was inspired, encouraged and challenged to get into music, direction and production, besides acting. It’s a well-known fact that she gave Shah Rukh Khan his big break in Dil Aashna Hai.

We are also entertained by behind-the-scenes stories that showcase Hema’s grit and gumption. For instance, while shooting for Sholay, she danced barefoot on hot ground despite scorching heat. Later, she kept dancing on glass splinters—a requirement for the scene!

But the most exciting chapter has to be the one which talks about a love-struck Dharmendra. Titled “An Eternal Love Story”, it plays out in true filmy style. We get to know that Dharmendra rushed to stop Hema’s impending marriage to Jeetendra, and asked for her hand in marriage. Hema boldly decided to stand by an already married Dharmendra at a time when society was much more conservative.

We come to understand that, for Hema, life as a public servant came with a different set of challenges than just life in the public eye… but it was nothing she couldn’t rise up to meet. That is the Hema Malini we come to know of in Beyond the Dream Girl—brave and beautiful!

EXCERPTS FROM HEMA MALINI: BEYOND THE DREAM GIRL

Meanwhile, Jaya kept working on her plans. Every day was spent convincing her daughter to marry Jeetendra. She managed to coax Hema to meet his parents, and once Hema did, things started spiralling. Jeetendra’s family was ecstatic – they could hardly wait for the alliance. A close friend of Jeetendra’s remembers him saying, “I don’t want to marry Hema. I am not in love with her. She is not in love with me. But my family wants it, so I might as well. And she is such a good girl.”

For all practical purposes, it was to be a marriage of convenience. It had to be quick – before either party changed its mind – and it had to be a clandestine affair, so that no ‘untoward trouble’ could take place. Hema, Jeetendra and their families had flown to Madras and the wedding was supposed to happen there. But an evening daily got a whiff of the sensational news and their next issue carried the ‘big story’. It left much of the industry in a state of disbelief but more importantly, it gave Dharmendra a jolt he was clearly unprepared for. Recovering his wits quickly, he rushed to Shobha Sippy’s house – then Jeetendra’s airhostess girlfriend – and the two took the next flight to Madras to take matters into their hands.

When they reached Hema’s house in Madras, the scene, ironically was no less dramatic than a blockbuster. Hema’s father couldn’t contain his rage and almost physically pushed Dharmendra out of the house. “Why don’t’ you get out of my daughter’s life? You are a married man, you can’t marry my daughter,” he repeatedly yelled. But a pleading, helplessly sentimental and slightly inebriated Dharam could not be budged. Finally, they agreed to let him talk to Hema alone in a room, while everybody else – Hema’s parents, Jeetendra’s parents and the registrar of the marriage bureau – waited outside on tenterhooks.

Inside the room, the two were going through an emotional turmoil of catastrophic proportions. Dharmendra, distraught and on the verge of falling to pieces, kept begging Hema not to make such a ‘big mistake’. ….

When Hema finally came out of the room – puffy-eyed and visibly shaken – her voice quivered as she asked everyone if they could wait for a few days. Jeetendra and his parents, livid by now, declared that that was not an option. The marriage had to happen now or never. As everyone waited desperately for an answer, Hema quietly shook her head. The insult was far too much for Jeetendra and he stormed out of the house with his parents.

This incident occurred in 1974. It took Hema another two years before she finally spoke to Stardust about this tumultuous event. “I did not propose to Jeetendra. His parents made the proposal. I was confused. It was the most unexpected thing that has ever happened to me. They came over in the morning. By evening Shobha and all landed there – and the matter ended there. But as far as the press was concerned, that’s where the story began!”

….

Who would have known that for Hema and Dharmendra, the moment of truth would finally arrive with a film called Hum Tere Ashique Hain (1979)? Based on the classic My Fair Lady (1974), this Prem Sagar venture featured Hema and Jeetendra once again, and upon the release did reasonably well, making it to the top 20 films of the year. In it was a scene where Jeetendra plants a kiss on Hema’s cheek; in yet another scene, she had apparently cried without the need for glycerine, which, of course, could be taken to mean that she was living her emotions. It is said that one of those instances, if not both, finally drove Dharmendra to take a decision. On 2 May 1980, Hema and Dharmendra got married.

Photos courtesy: HarperCollins
Featured in Harmony — Celebrate Age Magazine
December 2018