An Ode to Hema . . .

I'm taking a short break from Raaj Kumar Week (and a half) here at Filmi~Contrast, and taking a moment to acknowledge my favorite filmi-actress on her 65th birthday.

Don't mention your birthday, you say? Well, I shall. Try and stop me. 

I'm pretty sure every week is going to be Hema Malini week here for a while (yes, I'm obsessed), so I won't worry about dedicating a post series just to her films. That might turn out to be rather superfluous, given my watching choices recently. For now, I'll just count down the newly discovered things that make me adore Hema on my journey so far . . .

5. Her oh-so-lovely chemistry/deeply palpable on-screen understanding with Dharmendra. 

I mean really, how could I not mention this? I can't speak to their personal life, but their onscreen life is the epitome of what I want to see between male/female romantic leads.

Even when she wasn't playing his on-screen love-interest, they made perfect sense as friends and partners in crime.
(Seeta aur Geeta, 1972)

I'm not gonna lie, for me, if space between people can hum . . . the space between them practically shouts. Even in their first role together. (Sharafat, 1970)

After over a decade of starring together, they still HAD it. (Rajput, 1982)

4. Her ferocity. 

Sure she could handle herself in the dishoom dishoom department, and knew what to do with a whip. But you really don't want to get on her bad side in any way, shape, or form . . . considering that she could also slay you with a look.

My name is Geeta. You stole my sister . . . prepare to die. 

I love it when she takes it upon herself to protect the menfolk. (Sharafat, 1970)

3. Her ability to convey bitter ironies with merely a look, a turn of the wrist, or a wry smile. 

I can't think of a more powerful example than this song, Mubarak Ho Tujhe Ae Dil (Raja Jani, 1972), in which she congratulates Dharmendra's character on getting everything he wanted . . . while making her life a misterable lie in the process. One of her many excellent uses of the "kindness as a rebuke" strategy. 

2. Her distinct, droll, and refreshingly frank comedic style:

 These kind of facial acrobatics seem to be par for the course in Hema roles, especially in masala films.
(Seeta aur Geeta, 1972.)

(Sholay, 1975)

I LOVE it when she talks to herself. Best conversations ever. (Raja Rani, 1972)

1. Her ability to project the strength of her own self-awareness even on the most oppressed, downtrodden characters. 

Even in her suffering female roles . . . I still see the strong woman underneath . . . the woman who is confident in her own identity, no matter who else takes issue with it.

(Abhinetri, 1970)

(Rihaee, 1988)

She looks sad, but the beauty of it is, you knows she's about to get it done. 

Whether she is faced with societal sexism or goondas galore or even (horrors!) bad writing, I always feel that her characters will never give up. I'd like to think that is perhaps a reflection of who she is. (If it's not, she's TRULY the greatest actress ever.) Gosh, I love her, but I'm going to end it here, instead of going on and on and on and on for the rest of the night. I don't know if she'd like all this fuss, anyhow.

(Rajput, 1982)


  1. A lovely post. Hema Malini looked good with a no of heroes including Vinod Khanna , Jeetendra, Sanjeev Kumar and Amitabh Bachan. Watch Satta Pe Satta, Kasauti and Desh Premee and the more recent Baghban in a parental role for the Hema- Amitabh jodi. I have already mentioned Kudrat, Mehbooba and Khusboo before. She was also good in Meera with Vinod Khanna which was a different role from the masala fare. Watch Tum Haseen Mein Jawan for the Dharam- Hema Jodi. Raja Jaani is one of my favourite 70s movies for the songs, Hema's sassiness and Dharam garam.

  2. I enjoy the Hema Malini/Vinod pairing, it's very natural as they I feel mirror one another in personality and acting styles . . . and Meera is on my list to see when I feel in the mood for a preachy exotic drama, lol.

    Raja Jaani is definitely in my top ten of 70's movies. I love it dearly. It's a nice mixture of exotica, swashbuckling action, and romance. . . and as an early 70's film, still has some of the delicacy and restraint that is harder to find in later 70's masala.

  3. I think you are heading towards a new post called " my fav 70s movies" like memsaab has on her blog! Personally I think it would be a difficult task to make a list of top 10 movies or favourites coz the 70s had a rich diverse fare of movies - not only masala but also off beat ones. This was the decade when film makers like Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani and others made a no of interesting movies on serious themes which were equally enjoyed by the film audience as the masala madness of manmohan desai. Also Rajashri movies made a no of small budget, feel good movies in this decade which were known for their authentic story settings, good music, performances etc. At the same time we also had film makers like Hrishikesh Mukerjhee, Basu Chatterjee, Shakti Samanta etc who made simple but delightful movies. Let me know if you need any recos, I shall duly send them! Happy film viewing

    1. Looks like your last comment here ended up in the spam limbo of my blog somehow . . . but hopefully it's all published and put to rights now.

      I can't deny I was thinking about Memsaab's top ten list for 70's movies when I mentioned how Raja Jani would place ;) I agree that keeping it to ten is impossible. I've seen just under 50 movies from the 70s, and I already feel it is extremely hard to pick and choose. However, Raja Jani would make it into (my) list of top ten Indian films, so I think it's safe to choose that one at least. Kaala Patthar, also . . . But beyond that, gosh. Sooooo much good stuff! And obscure stuff that hardly anyone thinks about, like Rajshri's Balika Badhu (1976), with only one name actor (Asrani), but tons of charm and favorite potential. I'll certainly let you know if I start running out (horrors!). I've definitely kept your recommendations so far (Kudrat, Mehbooba, etc.) in mind.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Filmbuff,
    The silly, silly Blogger template cannot handle your comments for this post, for whatever reason. My apologies. Anyway, to sum up your missing comment . . .that Balika Badhu had a memorable song, was a Bengali remake, and that Rajshri makes their films available on their webpage . . . as well as the comment on the worth-whileness of Parvarish (Desai, Shabana, Neetu Singh, etc.)

    Parvarish is one of my favorites. Interestingly enough, it didn't win me over especially the first time I watched it. Wasn't what I expected, and I was a bit bothered by the direction the story went. But on subsequent re-watches, I've come to really love it. It's consistently entertaining all the way through, the weepy childhood prologue isn't too long, the songs are all fabulous, and its got my favorite male jodi, Vinotabh (a rare vintage, unlike Shashitabh). It's one of those films I've started to show to people to sell them on the 70's Bollywood films. I made my brother watch it--and even tho, I think he didn't love the movie as a whole, the song "Aaja thehro, zara dekho" with the two girls pretending to be trying to kill themselves, and the fellows trying to "help" them do it . . . pretty much knocked his socks off. Neetu Singh is at her best in Parvarish, which my brother also did not fail to notice ;)

    Rajshri is amazing . . . they've put so much of their library up on Youtube for free viewing, which I am extremely grateful for. Not everything is subtitled, but I think with another month or two of Hindi studies under my belt, that won't bother me so much. I would welcome recommendations from you in the "classic Rajshri" arena. People don't necessarily mention their older films in reviews . . . and so it would be useful to know which films are worth seeking out.

  6. Done - will send you a list of Rajashri movies which i enjoyed. I have already mentioned 2 - sawan ko aaney do and Chitchor - will send you a list in a day or two - happy viewing!

  7. Sorry forgot to add - parvarish is my fav movie too for AB and VK jodi as well as the fantastic roles for both the female leads - esp the way they con people! Neetu Singh was a natural actress. Watch her in Kasme Vade which also had AB, Rakhee and Randhir Kapoor. Also Priyatama - Basu Chatterjee movie - all 70s movies by the way

  8. Looking forward to your list, Filmbuff!
    Kasme Vaade will make it to my television sometime soon, probably. I'll probably invite my brother, since apparently Neetu is quote-on-quote, "Pretty much the perfect woman," according to him :)

  9. Then you must ask your brother to also see Priyatama and Deewar - in the latter Neetu just provided some relief to the seriousness of the movie as Sashi's female lead and has nothing much to do except "run around trees" singing songs with him but she did bring a certain freshness. Neetu was very good in Kasme Vaade.


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