During the 70s, Bollywood saw the emergence of some young actresses who lent new dimensions to glamour and left the country spellbound.
Actresses like Hema Malini, Sharmila Tagore,Dimple Kapadia, Rekha etc. gifted the much-needed glamour quotient to the Bollywood. Add to this their impeccable acting skills and their graceful portrayal of unforgettable characters on the screen which made much of the cinema of the 70s and the 80s an enchanting experience.
The actresses of the present times strive hard to come close to the stature of the original glamour girls of the yesteryears. Over the course of next few weeks we'll take a look at the lives and personas of these veteran actresses.
We start with the original “Dream Girl”:
She is 62 years old but many feel that she still looks more beautiful and graceful than her daughter who is 34 years younger to her. She was the first (and is probably the only) dream girl of the Bollywood, a feat Aishwarya Rai can only dream of achieving. A Padma-awardee, Hema Malini is one of those few Bollywood actresses who can boast of an acute blend of acting prowess and breathtakingly elegant looks.
Hema Malini was the second Tamil actress to make waves in mainstream Bollywood afterVyjayanthimala. Born as Hema Malini R. Chakravarty in a Tamil Iyengar family in October 1948, her first attempt to act (at the age of 15) in a movie couldn't materialise as Tamil director Sridhar rejected her on the grounds that she was too thin! But this could not deter the young Hema who debuted opposite legendary showman, Raj Kapoor in 'Sapnon Ka Saudagar' just four years (1968) after her rejection.
And this was the beginning for Hema Malini's becoming the most sought after lead actress for the next two decades. She had that rare ability of fitting instantly into a wide array of diverse roles. In fact, she could easily accept challenging roles which most of the heroines of the 1960s refused to do. She played the role of a young widow in Andaaz (1971) and in Lal Patthar (1971) she played a character with negative shades.
In 1972, she lit up the big screen with her glittering double-role performance against Sanjeev Kumar and Dharmendra in the cult hit 'Seeta and Geeta'. The movie earned her her first Filmfare Best Actress Award and till this day, it remains one of the best in her career.
Then came the life-changing blockbuster 'Sholay', a movie which redefined not only the lives of the actors but was instrumental in altering the Indian cinemascape. She etched the role of 'Basanti', the loquacious and affable “tonga-driver” beautifully on the screen and won hearts all across the country. It is said that it was during the filming of 'Sholay' that Hema fell in love with Dharmendra.
The Dharmendra-Hema pair, often considered as the coming together of two polarised extremes of femininity and masculinity, elicited brilliant on-screen chemistry and was seen in as many as 28 films, the most prominent ones being 'Dream Girl', 'Charas' 'Naya Zamana', 'Raja Jani', 'The Burning Train' and of course, 'Sholay'.
During the mid-70s, her fans started calling her "Dream Girl", an allusion to the movie of the same name where she starred opposite Dharmendra. The name was only fitting as she had actually become the most desired, most eligible bachelorette of the country.
By the late 70s, Bollywood was gripped by the movies depicting the valiant action hero who could handle a dozen goons as comfortably as taking a walk in the park. In that testosterone-filled era, Hema helped keep the door open for female-centric movies, especially with her three Gulzar films --- Khushboo(1975), Kinara (1977) and Meera (1979).
In 1980, Hema tied the knot with Dharmendra. She decided that she'll continue acting in movies. In the early 1980s Hema starred in breakthrough films like Manoj Kumar's 'Kranti', Manmohan Desai's 'Naseeb', Kamal Amrohi's 'Razia Sultan' and Vijay Anand's 'Rajput'. Gradually, her attention shifted to the upbringing of her daughters, Esha and Ahna, who were born in 1982 and 1984, respectively.
By 1984, Hema was a working mother, trying hard to strike a balance between family responsibilities and professional commitments. In 1983 she starred in Andha Kanoon which marked the debut of Tamil actor Rajinikanth in Bollywood. In the film she played the sister of Rajinikanth, seeking revenge for the death of her parents. In the late 80s, she delivered hits like Ek Chaddar Maili Si (1986), Rihaee and Jamai Raja (1990), in which she played more matured roles. But her on-screen presence was discernably declining.
In 1992, she made her directorial debut with the SRK-Divya Bharti starrer 'Dil Ashna Hai'. The movie couldn't do well at the box office and Hema's film career started to fade gradually. She was now focusing on dance ballets and Television serials. Dance has always been her first love, something which she never hesitated to confess.
“My interest was dance and in the beginning, I didn't enjoy acting at all. It was my mother who brought me into films and who looked after my career. I remember each time a producer came to meet her, my only reaction was, 'Oh God, another year of my life gone,'” she has been quoted as saying.
Hema Malini has been active in Hindi films for the last forty years and was lately seen playing prominent roles in Ravi Chopra's 'Baaghban' and 'Baabul' and Yash Chopra's love saga 'Veer Zaara' opposite Amitabh Bachchan. She continues to appear in movies occasionally, her last appearance (a cameo) being in the movie 'Bbuddah Hoga Tera Baap'. Hema remains a Bharatnatyam exponent.
In 2000, Hema Malini was conferred the fourth highest civilian award Padma Shri by the Government of India. She was nominated for the Filmfare Best Actress Award for ten times from 1974 to 2004 and won it once ('Seeta aur Geeta', 1972). In 1999, she got the coveted Filmfare Life Time Achievement Award.
Hema forayed into politics when she joined BJP in 2004. She is now a Rajya Sabha MP under the aegis of BJP. She spends most of her time by being involved in charitable and social ventures, while making occasional appearances in films. With her film career less hectic, she is often seen in BJP rallies as well.
It's been 41 since the endearing, drop-dead-gorgeous “Basanti” took the B-town by storm but her charisma refuses to diminish. During the course of her career, she took many risks and always made her own decisions. Her mantra in life has always been “my way or the highway”. She acted in those films which were rejected by the prominent actresses of the 70s. And then she also made a strong decision of marrying already-married Dharmendra which drew her considerable flak.
Many actresses have made unsuccessful attempts to usurp her from the throne. Hema continues to be the real 'Dream Girl' of the Bollywood. She remains the role-model for several aspiring Bollywood actresses.