One of Indian cinema’s most influential filmmakers Ramesh Sippy turns a year older on January 23. Indian cinema’s Dream Girl Hema Malini recalls her close association with the filmmaker who redefined commercial cinema.
“Rameshji’s first film was Andaz. And I was in it. I was advised not to play a widow so early in my career.But I liked the film and role.The film was a superhit especially the song Zindagi ek safar hai suhana,” recalls Hemaji.
“We then did Seeta Aur Geeta which was one of the most important films of my career.People think doing Seeta Aur Geeta was tough for me. In fact, it was a cakewalk. That’s because somewhere even the playful mischievous restless Geeta was part of my outwardly demure personality. So, that was not tough.”
Seeta Aur Geeta made Hemaji insanely popular. She recalls an encounter with former Prime Minister the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee. When I met Atalji for the first time he wouldn’t look at me. He seemed very embarrassed. I wondered why.Then someone told me he was a big fan of my film Seeta Aur Geeta.He had seen it at least twenty-five times.”
As for Sholay Hema says, “What to say? It is a film where every character every dialogue made history. People liked my Basanti for her chirpiness. Shooting the film was tough. We shot Sholay in the blistering heat in a place called Ramnagara near Bengaluru.I was in full makeup in my wigs and costumes riding the tonga.I could never do without wigs. During those days we actresses were allowed to sport all kinds of hairstyles. For Gulzar’s Meera I needed straight hair. For Sholay I needed a curly wig. I couldn’t subject my real hair to so much shock. Once I stopped using wigs, I gave them all away to hairdressers, fans and transvestites.”
45 years after Sholay Hemaji collaborated again with Ramesh Sippy for Shimla Mirch about a single mother, played by Hema Malini, and her daughter (Rakul Preet Singh), who fall in love with the same man.
Says Hemaji. “It was offered to me in the midst of my parliamentary work.I couldn’t say no to Rameshji. I liked my role. But the film didn’t turn out the way it was planned.Hota hai.It’s all part of the film business. You win some lose some.Films that I hold really close to my heart like Meera and Razia Sultan have not done well.”