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Happy Birthday, Dream Girl

 As  India’s eternal Dream  Girl Hema Malini  turns 72 on October 16 good wishes pour in from everywhere.No one  has anything but good wishes  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…ek studio se  doosre studio…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  team.”

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.”

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…wohkyon  nahin kiya…Why are  you late?…I don’t squander  my time with my loved ones  complaining.”

Hema 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 ManojKumar,  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 films. Every film is a team effort.”

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.”

What would Hemaji  wish for  this birthday? “To keep dancing until my last  breath. Jab tak jaanjaan-e-jahaan main nachungi.”

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