Dreamy metamorphosis

For someone who sauntered into showville in her teens, it is amazing that Hemamalini's romance with the silver screen is still alive. T. KRITHIKA REDDY chats with the Dream Girl during her recent visit to Chennai.

IN A world of plasticine, Hemamalini comes across as a down-right natural. Pretensions are not for her, or so it seems, going by her spontaneous pearly smile, unfussy responses and the strong vernacular flavour in the English she speaks.

In Chennai on a whistle-stop visit in connection with sitagita.com's first anniversary celebrations, Hemamalini looks pretty as a picture. Her slim figure, soft dark hair that falls around her shoulders and blemishless skin hardly reflect the fact that she has walked the earth for about half a century. And despite having dominated the marquee for years, she wears modesty like a second skin.

After a brief speech at the function, she is ready to turn the charm faucet on during an interview. There is a fusillade of questions to be fielded, but she can spare only a little time. Imagine capsuling three eventful decades in 20 minutes. And that too in a conversation punctuated with lengthy pauses!

It has been a long innings in showbiz. What kind of changes has she seen between her days and daughter Esha's? With a faraway look, she recalls... "Oh, phenomenal. The script is the same - or just has minor variations of typical desi themes, but in terms of work culture, professionalism and techniques, drastic changes have come about. Indian film-makers are keen on that dose of sentiment, so the run-of-the-mill masala movies. But today's artistes are highly professional, smart and dedicated. Technological advances have changed the way films are made in a big way".

After a reflective pause she goes on to explain how there has been no sabbatical in her career. "Life has been one long creative journey for me. When I had to bid adieu to acting, I tried to explore other areas like film direction and tele serials. "Nupur", the dance-based serial was in fact a pioneering effort. But one has to move with the times. Now, commercialism is in. So all those art-centric works are not much sought after. I will be directing a film next year. And yes... it will be a commercial one. My association with the NFDC gives me enough creative satisfaction as I am able to traverse parallel frontiers. About seven NFDC ventures are also lined up", says Hema, who is still very much part of the show whirl.

About Esha's debut, she speaks in a matter-of-fact vein. "I never expected Esha to enter showville. Initially, I was very apprehensive of her decision to join films. But children have a mind of their own. Esha has stuck to her decision and will prove herself. Now, even Dharamji has reconciled himself to it. We are only happy for her".

In a clipped way, she continues, "Initially, Dharamji never liked the children to even learn dance. Now, having seen me perform for so many years, he is convinced - so much so he insists on them picking up the nuances. And I must say, dance comes naturally to Esha. She has got very fluid movements. It has been a nice experience for me to perform with my daughters."

Elaborating on her abiding passion for dance, Hema says, she is into Hindi ballets. "I've never thought about Tamil because the reach will be limited. With shows in Hindi, I can hope to tour the entire country and abroad".

About her new role as a star mother, Hema, darting a luminous smile, says "Actually, it is too early to comment on it. Esha's career has just taken off. Children are good decision-makers these days. Not like me. I was thoroughly influenced by my mother. And when it came to acting, I just went by the director's advice. Esha on the contrary does a lot of home work. I do give her little nuggets of advice - but very casually".

And what dream has she got for Aahana? "Oh...she is too young", she gushes.

Looking back, what does Hema count as her strengths on the professional and personal levels? "I am very open to learning new things. I don't like to give up even daunting tasks. As far as my career is concerned, my commitment has been total. And I do strive to be a perfectionist".

And what is it that she likes about showbiz. "Everything. Every day is a challenge. One gets to meet different personalities and talents. Moreover, acting is a creative medium. I get a lot of satisfaction from it. In fact, I am open to substantial offers even now".

For someone who sauntered into showville in her teens, it is amazing that her romance with the silver screen is still alive. With classic looks and those no-nonsense roles, the Dream Girl's road to stardom was indeed strewn with roses. No doubt, her looks inspired lyrics and she galvanised the Hindi audience with a blizzard of hits like "Sholay" and "Sita Aur Gita". At a time when the industry was witnessing sartorial anarchy, Hema sailed through prim and proper - not a button did she loosen nor did she get too wet in the rain. Till love happened. The Dream Girl- Dharmendra affair was the forest-fire romance of its time. Film fans pinched themselves in disbelief. Soon Esha was born and the natter died. Hema's fidelity to the profession was unquestionable and her career was hardly a casualty to marriage. Today, she has many things chalked out in her itinerary and seems to be as busy as she was in her prime. From a reigning star, director, serial producer, NFDC chief to star mother, it has been a dreamy metamorphosis.

Given the gaping gap between her conservative background and the daring choices she had to make, are there any regrets? "No. Let's put it this way. Life is a matter of perspective - how you see things in different circumstances. I have been able to see the positive side of whatever happened and move on. So far, I am happy. No regrets", she says radiating friendly vibes.