There’s no stopping legendary actress and Hon. Member of Parliament Hema Malini! A remarkable lady, she is literally a powerhouse on a mission, gung-ho about life, focussing on accomplishing one task after another, achieving one goal after the other, never willing to give up.
Long-limbed and elegant looking, Hema Malini exudes grace thanks to her erect posture and regal bearing. We met this iconic actress, world-renowned Indian classical dancer, filmmaker, producer, and politician at her super spacious, well-appointed home in Juhu, Mumbai, for a tête-à-tête.
Choosing her words carefully, she spoke about several aspects of her life… being Hindi cinema’s ‘dream girl’, her powerful and enchanting performances in varied films, her commitment to social causes, her inspirational status as an achiever. But her eyes lit up especially when she spoke about her love for and dedication to Mathura, the constituency she is the MP (Member of Parliament) from.
A reservoir of talent, Hema Malini has been a trailblazer for decades now… powering her way through the glitzy film industry and high-powered political corridors with equal ease and dexterity. Undoubtedly, her mastery lies in ‘remaining relevant’ for close to six decades and counting… and yes, we have only admiration for this extraordinary lady!
Excerpts from the interview…
Is there a specific film or performance that had a significant impact on shaping your identity as an actress?
I was introduced to films by producer Ananthaswamy when I was 16 years old. He gave me the title ‘dream girl’ and planned how everything would work out. It was all about shaping my image and career in the film industry. Soon, I did various roles which created a big impact on the public. I played some really beautiful characters and received a lot of credit. Seeing me in different bold and powerful avatars captured the imagination of people! I went on to get tremendous love and respect from them.
You were and continue to be the ‘dream girl’ despite not doing too many films today. Will we be seeing more of you on the big screen soon?
People think that I’m very busy in Mathura only! But even people from there want to see me on screen; they want to see me work in films. Even in Parliament, ministers often ask me when I’m going to do a film. I’m absolutely open to working and I am looking forward to being cast in movies. And thanks to my dancing and stage performances, I’m always fit and active, ready to happily embrace any opportunity.
Are you looking to do only big budget films?
I can do just about anything! Big or small budget productions don’t matter, but I do need something that will match my image and stature. I love watching films and OTT webseries. Some of them are really very nice, and some aren’t. Today, we’re making a variety of films that resonate with different audiences, but there’s not much being made for the big screen the way they used to be made. When it came to the big screen, the audience used to see the stars as gods. However, today, everybody is available everywhere. We see celebrities on social media and feel a connection with them, which is also nice. This is what has changed in the world today…
You are a renowned classical dance maestro. How has dance influenced your life?
Dance has been a very, very important part of my life. If I don’t dance, I will feel like something is lost. From the age of six, I started learning dance, then performing, and to date, I continue. Dance was the reason I came into films. Seeing me perform on stage as a young teenage girl, producers would approach my family to cast me in movies, and that’s how I got into films. Dancing and performing connect me with the people, and that is what I love.
What motivated you to enter the world of politics alongside your film career?
I never thought I would get into politics. But it happened because of my co-star and old friend Vinod Khanna. He got into politics and wanted me to campaign for him as a “crowd puller”. I was scared to do the campaigning because I didn’t know how to. But somehow I managed with his support. He won that election, and the BJP party people started approaching me to campaign for other candidates too; which I did. They then invited me to join them, we won, and today my party is in a very big position.
Do you enjoy being a Member of Parliament; do you like being in politics?
I’m the kind of person who likes to experience anything and everything. Whatever opportunity comes my way, I take it. This is what my mother taught me – whatever you don’t know, you can learn about it, she would always say. People think that because I come from a different field, I’m not supposed to know anything about politics. But politics is public service.
As an MP from Mathura, I see that it is such a beautiful place that was kept in bad shape for the last 70 years. It should have been taken care of; facilities should have been provided in a big way. But nothing was done. Even so many years after Independence, it has no proper roads. And it is such an important place for our country. It is the birthplace of Lord Krishna. Mathura is a place where many saints lived, and we must make an effort to celebrate them all. Devotees from all over the world come here. It is our duty to keep it well and beautify it. I want to create better infrastructure for the devotees.
What are some of the challenges you faced in politics, and how did you overcome them?
Also, please tell us about the good times you’ve enjoyed in politics. From my point of view, all my experiences have always been positive. My party is a very positive party. I’m very glad to be able to work under the leadership of Modiji. From the time he became the Prime Minister, I became the MP of Mathura. We get a lot of direction from him. He’s a very strict taskmaster who keeps giving us instructions on how to deal with people and do social work.
Do you have access to Prime Minister Narendra Modi wherever you need it?
He gives me time whenever I want to meet him, but he always asks for the agenda of the meeting. I just met him recently and spoke about the pending projects of my constituency. I want to keep doing things for Mathura, so that it becomes an even better place.
What is your association with the Hon. Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath?
He is a very strict but wonderful Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. He is making amazing progress in the development of the state. Also, he is appreciative of my work and has a high regard for me; he is aware of my dedication. I have many ideas as an artiste, but making permanent changes is what I need support with, which I get from him.
Today, you have your own Hema Malini Foundation. Could you please share what kind of work the Foundation does and what change you wish to drive through it?
We focus on helping needy people and children with healthcare especially. And we are planning to start something concrete in the near future to support artistes who need a platform to showcase their skills.
How do you perceive the role of women in the film industry and politics today, compared to when you started out?
Right from the time I made my foray into the film industry, I started seeing a change in the way women were perceived in films. Known to carry a film on my shoulders, I started getting very women-dominant roles. I had similar experiences in politics and social work too from the time I stepped in. Powerful roles were given to me from the beginning. Today, we are seeing women in positions of power doing wonderful work in every department in our country, be it Hon. Minister Nirmala Sitharaman or Hon. Minister Smriti Irani.
Can you share an insight into what helps you overcome obstacles and stay motivated even during challenging times?
I have never experienced anyone pulling or pushing me down. I have always been welcomed and loved by everybody. By God’s grace, I have always enjoyed such a position – right from the time I was 16 and joined the film industry.
You are very close to your daughters Esha and Ahana. What is the most important value or belief you want to pass on to your children and grandchildren?
I love seeing how nicely they have grown and are now raising their children. I haven’t tried imparting much advice to them, but they have learnt from watching me. They might use me as guidance, but they are doing things even better than I did. Many times, I ask them for advice. Ahana is an animal lover and she does her best to convince me to raise the issue of animal rights in Parliament. Esha too gives me sound advice on many matters. Both my daughters are very bold and very successful.
How do you find inspiration to continue working hard and staying creatively driven even after achieving so much amazing success?
There is no full stop in achieving; in accruing success. You just have to keep on thinking about the things you want to do, and keep at it. As long as I am physically and mentally fit, I’ll keep working. Hard work makes me feel good.
Do you engage in any self-care practices to stay fit and rejuvenated despite a demanding schedule?
I must thank my parents for giving me good genes! Everyone in my family is fit. And my dance practice also keeps me active. Dancing has also given me certain knee problems, so I do exercises to strengthen my knees and muscles.
Do you have any advice for aspiring actors or performers?
Be dedicated. And once you’re successful, be happy and don’t overdo it. Take care of your health and your name, and don’t party too much! Be sincere to your work, be respectful to all the people who work tirelessly on the film sets – the pre and post-production teams.
What do you want your legacy to be – as an actress, politician and person?
I’m known as an actor, dancer and politician. I have been very fortunate to be connected with the beautiful film industry. Dancing, to me, is a divine art. And in politics, I’m doing my work for the people. This is how I am known today and it is how I want to be remembered.