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Can stars speak?

hema_malini_book.jpg In Raj Kanwar’s Ladla, Sridevi plays an entrepreneur who falls in love with a foreman in her factory, marries him, and performs the obligatory role of carrying his lunch to work. So we all know about the role of women in the industry and the films it makes. Here’s some more. A review of Hema Malini’s official biography (Hema Malini: The Authorized Biography) picks up interesting stuff from the book (I must confess this is absolutely lazy on my part to base this rant on a tiny review). Besides addressing husband respectfully as Dharamji, throwing light on how they produced two babies, and deflecting attention from her role as the other woman, reminding us of the centrality of destiny (rather than action by individual agency) she also offers tips for aspiring actresses:

Her advice to heroines keen on settling down – they must do so before they turn thirty. Later, it becomes difficult to start a family. At the end of the day, you need someone beside you to share your life and thoughts, Hema asserts.

On Dharamji position in the relationship:

“Dharamji trusted me and encouraged my pursuits. Always concerned and demonstrative in our private space, his reassurance has instilled confidence in me,” Hema says.

On fate and god, rather than herself, playing a role in her relationship with Dharamji:

“That I should be attracted towards him and none of my other heroes was providential. That I was willing to risk societal pressures and moral accusations were the will of God,”

Even at this stage of her life, where she is materially and politically well cared for, her anxiety to distance herself from the tag of the “other woman” is palpable. The poor lady explains it thus:

Hema strongly resents being referred to as the first lady of second marriage, says the biographer. She does not like the term. “It is not as if I set out to be the trendsetter. That would be trivialising the feeling and the relationship. I cannot be held responsible for every woman in similar situation, neither can I be compared with anyone,” says Hema.

We get it HemaJi!

Read entire review here.


1 Nirmal Kumar { 02.25.07 at 1:58 am }

Why is it that we intellectuals deny the right of word to the media personality especially if it is a woman? Whats wrong in Hema’s decision to marry a much married person? Even Dharmendra was equally guilty. In fact more guilty. he had a wife and children back home and went on to father two girls with another woman. So in that sense it is not Hema who should be called another woman but Dharmendra who should be called Another Man. He was settled and he was charming and must have assured her of secure life.
Hema was the case of overprotected and over exploited women of the Indian film industries with their parents out to make money and fleece their offsprings. The cases of Ameesha Patel, Jaya Prada, Priyanka Chopra should be fresh in our minds.
I welcome thebiography of Hema for she has asserted her sexuality and made a life free of constant male hassles. This bio should be an eye opener. In this it is Dharmendra who comes out in poor light, always shy of accepting her and her children in open spaces. Some self centred he has proved to be.

2 Kishore Budha { 02.25.07 at 3:29 am }

Since when did the film fraternity start “telling all”. That’ll be the day. Dharmendra sits within the “stud” image and the society accepts him for that. What is interesting is that Hema Malini typifies the position of the female in Indian society and the film industry. Male actors can get away, while she advises female actors to get married “in time”. It reminds me of Mrs Henry Dashwood from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility who is anxious to get her daughter’s married off.

Come on. Hema Malini cannot be a role model for women.

3 Kishore Budha { 02.25.07 at 3:51 am }

Hema Malini cannot be a role model for young women ….unless all you want to do is act in films (which besides Seeta aur Geeta are not centred around her), get married, do classical dance recitals (which the eminent Hindu dance critic Gowri Ramnarayan termed “masala kitsch”), and join a right-wing political party (and do nothing of consequence).

Hema does not see the writing on the wall. That she is woefully out of sync with the times is reflected in the poor careers of her daughters. Hopefully, women such as Sushmita Sen and Bipasha Basu who openly demonstrate their agency are the emerging role models! In fact she would have gone down in history by doing a “tell all” book that exposed the patriarchy and exploitation in Indian cinema. It would have become a seminal book that would have influenced research and intellectual thinking. Unfortunately, what she offers is a “safe” book, which valorises herself and barely conceals her anxiety to be labelled the “other woman”. The point is that biographies such as these only reinforce the structural conditions of the society we live in.

4 Nirmal Kumar { 02.25.07 at 7:25 am }

Hema is no crusader or activist. Her understanding of feminist issues may be limited but she led a life of her own. She understood her sexuality and decided to it live on her own. Her bio (which I must read now) is a work of a commercial biographer who had no intention of being probing. Perhaps the whole intention was to produce a good-marketable coffee table book.
For a woman it is most difficult to speak about her private life. more so when she is so unsure of the response of her partner. And then to compare her to Bipasha or Sushmita would be outrageous for she represents a different generation. She has lived a life of a diva for much longer time than Bpasha or Sushmita would.
It is the question of achieving your female identity. And for woman like Hema that becomes a survival battle. To fight on her own. the feminist discourse in her life story is her assertion of sexuality. She wanted to have a lover, legitimate off springs, her own house of which she was a master and a well paying vocation. She achieved all. In that case the quality of her roles and dance becomes meaningless. More important then becomes her great fight of sexual assertion. And mind you she achieved that without succumbing to marital subordination and domestication.

5 Kishore Budha { 02.25.07 at 11:02 am }

You are conflating the terms female with gender.

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