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Dream girl

By Nickunj Malik - Sep 12,2018 - Last updated at Sep 12,2018

If Helen of Troy had a “face that launched a thousand ships and burnt the topless towers of Ilium”, Hema Malini has a face “that launched a thousand roads and smoothened the portly potholes of Bihar”. Everyone familiar with Greek mythology knows about the legendary Helen of Sparta who was the most tantalising character in all literature, ancient and modern. An entire war, which lasted for ten years, was fought over her. 

Malini, on the other hand, is an Indian actress, dancer and politician, who was born in 1948 in Chennai, India and is popularly known as Bollywood’s “dream girl” after her film “Sapno ka Saudagar” ran to packed houses in 1968. At the height of her career, her suitors were Jeetendra, Sanjeev Kumar and Dharmendra — three of the most successful thespians of Indian cinema. Malini’s mother decided that Jeetendra was the best husband material for her daughter and coaxed her to meet his parents. Meanwhile, Dharmendra, when he got to know about this, stormed into their house in a drunken state, declared his love for Malini and asked for her hand in marriage. The only problem was that he was already married to Prakash Kaur and had four children with her.

His first wife refused to give him a divorce so Dharmendra allegedly converted to Islam to marry Malini. “Today we can laugh over it, but at that time it wasn’t funny. Strangely, my father had no problems with Dharmendra other than the one related to me. In fact, they got along so well whenever I wasn’t around. They would always be laughing and I would want to freeze the moment. If only they could be like that forever. Everyone in my family adored him, just not as a prospective son-in-law,” Malini has said in her biography, “Beyond the Dream Girl”.

For some inexplicable reason, politicians in India are obsessed with Malini’s face. When Lalu Prasad Yadav came to power as the chief minister of Bihar in the year 2000, he claimed that the roads of Bihar would soon be made “as smooth as Malini’s cheeks”. This statement caused much hilarity in the local press but the dignified film star, who had joined Indian politics by then, first as a member of the Rajya Sabha (the upper house) and then as a duly elected representative of the Lok Sabha (the lower house) handled the matter with poise and grace. In other words, she ignored it.

Constantly reinventing herself, she is a very accomplished actress of Bollywood today, and has appeared in over 150 films, in a career that has lasted over 40 years. Also she has been immortalised as the chatterbox Basanti in the box office blockbuster “Sholay” and is a great devotee of lord Krishna and ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. 

It was interesting to meet her recently at a function in Dubai, where she gave a presentation on the opening of a new ISKCON temple there. Glowing in a resplendent pink saree, it was difficult to imagine that she would be seventy years old next month.

Soon we were posing for pictures.

“You look lovely,” I complimented her.

“Follow the basic teaching of ISKCON,” she lectured. 

I listened to her carefully.

“Your soul must be clean,” she instructed.

“Then you will look beautiful,” she confided.

“The dream girl forgot to mention,” my spouse whispered.

“What?” I questioned.

“Your forehead must be botoxed,” he laughed.

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Comments

She indeed deserves this column that you devote to her. The heart throb of generations, she is an icon. Her depiction of beautiful girl next door, flirtatious only upto a limit but ready to let loose with slightly flared nostrils and a tirade Helen would give her right arm to transcend time and borrow (beauty, as you say, she had enough of her own).

The longevity of enduring romanticism of public persona probably has something to do with the spanning of that generation which had the best of both the worlds, a sound childhood as children and the technologies they enjoyed as they grew older. The rare combo was available in full measure to them. As a "meninist" I must highlight how Amitabh Bachchan does the same, someone who made women of my mother's generation swoon as much as ours and can still sweep girls of my daughter's generation.

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