Dressed in a black sari, she looks very much the Dream Girl, who ruled Bollywood in the seventies. Hema Malini personifies grace and simplicity. On the sidelines of the opening of Wonderland, a collaboration between Gallery Veda and Park Hyatt on Monday, City Express caught up with the actor, dancer, politician and choreographer on movies, dance and our city...
You have had many roles to play — as an actor, dancer, politician and director. Is there anything that you feel you have missed out on?
Let me first make it clear that being a dancer has been the pivotal role. I have had a brush with art too. I won an award from Pandit Nehru when I was a kid for a competition held by Shankar’s Weekly. Maybe, I should focus on that as well, now. I haven’t got to do much after that.
Has the film industry evolved in the last few decades?
I have to learn a lot from this current lot of actors (laughs). Aishwarya Rai especially did a lot of interesting roles and films and now Kareena kapoor, Priyanka Chopra and Vidya Balan have also been part of the shift in paradigm. I am also happy that the films aren’t just focusing on the younger audience. There are films even for the older generation like Baaghban. Maybe, that has to be explored a little more.
Talking about heroines, you made it big at a time when there were many South Indian actors reigning Bollywood. With Vidya Balan, has the trend begun again?
Many of my contemporaries were South Indians at that time. It was very interesting because when you thought you had made it big, someone had replaced you as the No 1 actor. Today the competition is too much. There are some good male actors from the South too who are making it big in Bollywood. That is more interesting to me.
Do you watch Tamil films often?
Not much (laughs). But, I really enjoyed watching Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam. However, I feel that there are only a few films that have a mass appeal like Vishwaroopam. Maybe it is because of the language or the theme that they deal with. Telugu films are made keeping in mind the Telugu masses. There is little for the pan-India audience to relate with regional cinema.
We haven’t seen you wielding the megaphone much. Do you think women filmmakers have a larger role to play?
After Dil Aashna Hai, I have only dabbled in directing now and then. But, I must say today, women filmmakers are doing a fabulous job. Look at Zoya Akhtar; she is dealing with unconventional themes and I think that change is for the better.
You were one of the first directors on the small screen too with the teleserial Nupur. Have you chosen to stay away from the small screen consciously?
I didn’t foray into the small screen with the intention of making money. I always did projects because I wanted to get involved with them. Today, the system has changed and that doesn’t suit me anymore.
What are your memories of Chennai?
I have a lot of memories of my parents here. I completed my schooling in this city before I joined the film industry in the late sixties. I come here for the December season too, sometimes. It is my brother who keeps calling me to Chennai, saying ‘It is time for you to relax a little. Don’t work so hard, visit us and take a break.’ Dharamji too loves the city and accompanies me whenever he can. I come here when I really want to sit back and relax. It is my retreat spot.
Are you working on any new films or dance projects?
You must ask the filmmakers why they haven’t given me a big project after Baaghban. I am waiting for a nice role (laughs). However, I am collaborating with singer-composer Shankar Mahadevan for a music project on Saundarya Lahari.The verses are something that I have grown up listening to, so I thought why not make an album with it. I will be chanting them in the album along with singers Suresh Wadkar and Shankar Mahadevan. Amitabh Bachchan has given the introductory lines for it.
So, who do you think is the ‘Dream Girl’ of today’s cinema?
Katrina Kaif and Deepika Padukone. Isn’t Deepika the dreamy girl she played in Om Shanti Om? I think these ladies are really beautiful.