Hema Malini is now known to many as the original “Dream Girl” who made her way into the hearts of her fans, slowly but surely. But how did it all start? In his authoritative biography of Ram Kamal Mukherjee, titled Hema Malini: Beyond the Dream Girl, there is an incident which points precisely to the birth of this term. This happened when Hema Malini made his film debut with Raj Kapoor’s film Sapno Ka Saudagar in 1968.
“They wanted to present a new face from South India that could dance well and correspond to the status of Vijayanthimala,” Hema reportedly said. But no one becomes a “dream girl” overnight. Doing this would not only mean looking a certain way, but also talking and wearing certain clothes that would match the picture. And Malini was only 16 when she said yes to the project. From then on, his grooming began. From her costumes to her accent, everything was polished. Her vocal training was performed by none other than famous All India Radio presenter Lakshmi Sharma.
Producer Ananthaswami has also become a godfather figure for Hema Malini. And yes, he was the man who was responsible for giving Malini the label that has now become synonymous with her. During the poster design process, Ananthaswami’s idea was to add “Raj Kapoor’s Dream Girl” under the name Hema Malini.
“After Sapno Ka Saudagar came out, the press and people started calling me Dream Girl. I could see how the name had taken. People often asked me if I made an effort to live up to the name. I did not do it ! The label surprised me. I guess my face and personality went well with the general image of an Indian woman. Anyone could identify with my face – it’s a quintessentially Indian face. Yes, the only thing I have ever done was take on roles that would embarrass or hurt my family or my fans in any way. So the name stuck. But today I feel embarrassed when people call me Dream Girl. I’m hardly a girl anymore! Hema Malini said in the biography Beyond the Dream Girl.
But part of the aforementioned statement is questionable. Because Hema Malini’s face was not identifiable in the strictest sense of the word. It was the kind of face people wanted to see. It was breathtaking in her beauty, and her skills as a bharatnatyam dancer definitely added more value to her as a performer. And as she became more successful, it was easy to see why various distributors and producers thought having the prefix “Dream Girl” would draw more attention to their projects.
But it was in 1970, when Hema Malini appeared in Vijay and Dev Anand’s acclaimed film Johny Mera Naam, that the actor’s star really started to rise. People noticed that she could stand side by side with someone like Dev Anand while getting by. If Dev Anand could do comedy, her female role could too. And what a mover she was! It all came together to make Hema Malini a fan favorite. And then two years later, in 1972, Hema Malini took on a dual role, thus really proving how she really got there. Seeta Aur Geeta, where Hema could be seen doing the double act of a sassy woman and docile doe-eyed beauty, wowed both critics and audiences alike. Director Ramesh Sippy fully represented the lineup of Hema the performer, making his fans take turns crying and laughing.
Sholay came when Hema was already a star. Despite the star-studded and talented cast, Hema managed to carve out a special place for himself in the blockbuster. His chemistry with Dharmendra, the memorable song “Jab Tak Hai Jaan” and his ongoing chatter and connection with his horse in the movie Dhanno have a distinct fan base even today. At that point, the Dream Girl label was so firmly stuck to her that the makers thought it would be great to milk her, and two years later we saw her in the movie tilted, yes, you. guessed it, Dream Girl! From that point on, Hema Malini starred in many great films including Trishul, Meera, Kranti, Satte Pe Satta, Naseeb, Razia Sultan, Baghban, Veer Zaara and Aarakshan. She was last seen in the 2020 release of Shimla Mirchi alongside Rajkummar Rao.
Hema Malini may feel a little weird to be called a ‘dream girl’ today, as she herself once said it that she is no longer a girl and so this title sounds a bit hollow. . But people who loved Hema Malini on screen will always identify her as that, their dream girl forever.