In Retrospect

Beyond the Dream Girl

Ram Kamal Mukherjee's recently published biography of Hema Malini has a lot to offer to her fans ; Millennium Post brings to you an extract from the book published by Harper Collins India.

Hema and Dharmendra's marriage took place at her brother's house. It was a quiet, traditional Tamil wedding. That's how the couple had always wanted it. Dharmendra's father, Kewal Kishan Singh Deol, was very fond of Hema and her family. She recollects fondly, 'He would drop by and meet my father or brother for chai. Instead of shaking hands he would arm-wrestle them, and after defeating them he would jokingly say, "Tum log ghee-makkhan-lassi khao, idli aur sambhar se taqat nahi aati (Have butter, lassi and ghee. Idli and sambhar will not make you strong)." My father would join in the laughter. He (Dharmendra's father) was a very jovial person. Dharam-ji's mother, Satwant Kaur, was equally warm and kind-hearted. I remember how she came to meet me once at a dubbing studio in Juhu, after I had conceived Esha. She hadn't informed anyone in the house. I touched her feet, but she hugged me and said, "Beta, khush raho hamesha (I give you my blessings)." I was happy that they were happy with me.'

Hema has never visited Dharmendra's house. She was always clear that she didn't want to disturb the 'other' family. She had met Dharmendra's first wife, Prakash Kaur, on several occasions, most of them social gatherings, but after her marriage their paths never crossed. 'I didn't want to disturb anyone. I am happy with whatever Dharam-ji did for me and my daughters. He played the role of a father, like any father would do. I guess I am happy with that. Today I am a working woman and I have been able to maintain my dignity because I have devoted my life to art and culture. I guess, if the situation was even slightly different from this, I wouldn't be what I am today. Though I have never spoken about Prakash, I respect her a lot. Even my daughters respect Dharam-ji's family. The world wants to know about my life in detail, but that is not for others to know. It's no one's business.'
Esha is probably the only one (from Hema's family) to step into Dharmendra's house. Dharmendra's younger brother, Ajit Singh Deol (Abhay Deol's father), was very unwell and bedridden. Keen on meeting her Ji chacha, Esha paid him a visit. 'I wanted to meet him and pay my respects. (He passed away in 2015.) He had been very sweet to both me and Ahaana and we have always been very close to Abhay,' Esha shares. 'There was no option of him visiting us, because he was bedridden, and neither was he in a hospital where we could visit him. So, I called Sunny bhaiya and he organised everything.'
Hema's bungalow Advitiya is five minutes away from Dharmendra's 11th Road house, but it took almost three decades for Esha to traverse it. On her way out, she also met Prakash for the first time. 'I touched her feet, she blessed me and I walked away…' she tells me after a prolonged silence.
'People ask me if I am sad,' she continues, going back to her personal life. 'I tell them I am very happy in whatever I am doing, and they should also be happy and not bother about others. It's a very sad situation in our country where women are perceived to be happy and secure only when they are with their fathers, husbands, brothers or sons. I have felt most secure with my mother, aunt and daughters. Unless we think beyond (these stereotypical notions), nothing is going to change. I could have stopped working, but I didn't. Yes, there was a time when I thought that it was "pack-up" for me. That's when Gulzar saab met me and said, "Hema, you have reached the peak. Don't look down, because between one peak and another lies a deep valley. You need to keep walking."'
Most of Dharmendra's time nowadays is spent at his farmhouse in Lonavala, where Hema and her daughters often join him. 'Far from the madding crowd, we chat about life. He indulges in shayari, which he claims he writes only for me, and I know that is not true! But I record them on my phone because of his voice and his Urdu pronunciation. Then he asks me to sing a song, and he records that on his phone. Later, whenever we are away from each other, we listen to each other's voices on our phones. I guess that's love… an emotion not many people will be able to relate to.'

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