When Deepika Padukone made her first onscreen appearance in Farah Khan’s 2008 reincarnation saga Om Shanti Om, her debut was reminiscent of that of Hema Malini 50 years before.
While Malini was introduced as the Dream Girl in Mahesh Kaul’s 1968 film Sapno Ka Saudagar, Padukone’s character of Shantipriya – the Dreamy Girl — was modelled on the veteran actress.
On 16 October, the Dream Girl and the Dreamy Girl shared the same platform when Padukone was roped in by HarperCollins to launch the biography of Malini, titled Beyond The Dream Girl, penned by journalist Ram Kamal Mukherjee.
As the two evergreen beauties, from different eras of Hindi cinema, embraced each other, their timeless grace detracted the onlookers from decoding the multiple parallels they have had in their respective lives.
Malini, just like Padukone, went through a phase of depression during her initial years in Bollywood. While Padukone came out to speak about it, Malini channelised all the pain and frustration into getting her big break in the industry.
Mukherjee revealed that Malini was initially signed for a Tamil film, co-starring former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, but was eventually replaced by another actress. The rejection took a toll on Malini personally and she went through a low phase.
“I would not call it depression. It was not clinical but just a low phase of my life when I faced rejection for the first time. But then I learnt how to use that phase to work harder and make sure I get my first film,” said Malini, at the launch event.
Along with the lows of their lives, Padukone and Malini have also enjoyed their share of professional highs. Malini, as Mukherjee claimed, ruled the Hindi film industry for an unparalleled duration of 15 years. But Malini admitted that despite loving what she does, she found the media-created ‘number one’ spot to be painfully lonely.
“It is not a very happy place to be, even when it comes to romantic relationships. Not many are willing to match up to where you are,” said Malini, a hint of melancholy in her voice. Padukone echoed the same sentiment when she said that an actress’ personal life does go through a turmoil when she is on the top of her game. “There are a lot of issues to deal with. The man in your life may not be able to give you the space, understand your passion and ambition or be okay with you earning more than him.”
It is thus, no surprise that both the actresses found love within the industry. Malini’s husband Dharmendra rounded up an hour-long video full of her close associates wishing her on her 69th birthday on 16 October. They also congratulated her, not only for the book, but also for completing 50 years in Bollywood.
A range of celebrities, from Amitabh Bachchan, Jeetendra, Mithun Chakraborty, Jackie Shroff and Lata Mangeshkar wished the actress a long journey ahead. Among those present at the book launch were her daughters, Aahna and Esha Deol (in the ninth month of pregnancy), Juhi Chawla, Richa Chadha, singer Alka Yagnik, filmmakers Ramesh Sippy and Subhash Ghai among others.
Pamela Chopra, wife of late filmmaker Yash Chopra, could not make it to the event but had a heartwarming letter read out by Padukone, dedicated to Malini. “Hema ji has no artifice when you see her onscreen or interact with her personally. Only a few actresses have managed to maintain that all these years. The only other exception to the rule would be Waheeda Rahman.”
Dozens of more compliments like these, directed towards Malini, only proved that Padukone has a tall order to live up to. Her next film, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s period drama Padmavati, might be a great platform to accelerate her career just like Malini did with her period drama, Kamal Amrohi’s 1983 film Razia Sultan.