Hema Malini shares her secrets on how to live life to the fullest

It’s around 7p.m. I am on the sixth floor of Park Hyatt waiting to meet dancer-actor Hema Malini, who’s in town to inaugurate an art show. ‘Kitni bhid thi’ she says to one of the organisers. Her drive from Kasturi Rangan Road, where she is staying, was longer than expected. “I come down often because my brother lives here. I was in Chennai two months back too,” she says. Nostalgia though isn’t her thing, she explains right at the beginning of the interview. “Why must we talk about our past? I am always thinking about the present and my future.”

“Are you interested in art?” I ask as she sits down in a manner only dancers can, with grace and poise. She shimmers in a black sari. “Of course! I know a few artists personally too. It is not my field but I too am an artiste, so I can appreciate art,” she says, sipping coffee. Talking about her own art, she adds, “My schedule is pretty hectic. I am performing in Mysore for Dasara this week. The production is called Mahalaxmi, the next day I am off to Delhi, and then it’s back to Mumbai… so you see that’s how my days are,” she sighs, “But I am happy performing.” Even in the middle of this conversation she impresses with her politeness. “Why don’t you also sit down?” she asks our photographer, who has been trying to get that perfect click.

It is almost impossible to talk to the actor without bringing up Sholay. “I am glad I got to be part of such a historic film,” she says and pauses to think. And then adds, “The movie is still popular and that’s great. It also means that for as long as people remember the film, I will also be there in their memories. That’s special. And of course, it is not just Sholay but people also remember me for Seeta Aur Geeta. When I am in the U.S., I love travelling in cabs. And there have been times when Russian cab drivers recognised me and hummed a few tunes from the movie!”

Her stint in Tamil cinema though, she clarifies, will be restricted to that one rare appearance she made in Hey Ram. “I am busy these days with my dance productions. In November and December I will be performing across the U.S.,” says the dancer who has trained in Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Mohiniattam and runs the Natya Vihar Kalakendra, a dance school in Mumbai. She is, however, most excited about her latest project, a devotional audio CD in which she chants Soundarya Lahari. “I have been chanting Soundarya Lahari, written by Adi Shankara for about 16 years now. It is very popular here in the South but not many know of it in North India and this is my offering for the pooja season. I meditate to these shlokas and am very happy that Suresh Wadkar and Shankar Mahadevan have contributed to it, with Amitabh Bachchan giving the introduction,” she says with a smile.

On her life as of now she says, “My daughter Esha is married and then the younger one will also get married and maybe after that I will be a grandmother,” she smiles. Ask her about professional ambitions and she adds, “I have plans and if it’s the right subject and is not too expensive then why not?” Does this mean she wants to produce films? “Produce, act… I love to work! As long as I look good on screen and if the role suits my age, I will not say no to it.” Perhaps it is this attitude that has kept her looking so youthful. “I practise yoga too! And dance always helps,” she says before signing off.