The ‘Dream Girl’ of the Hindi film screen, Hema Malini is one of the best known and most prolific actresses of Hindi cinema. A professionally trained dancer, film producer and director, she has starred in close to 155 movies, and also enjoys a successful career in politics, currently being MP for Mathura.
Born in the Tamil-speaking Chakravarthy household on October 16, 1948 in Ammankudi, Tamil Nadu to V.S.R. Chakravarthy and Jaya Lakshmi, she went on to be schooled at the Chennai-based Andhra Mahila Sabha. Post high school, she turned her focus on pursuing a career in acting. She bagged her first onscreen appearance in the Tamil film Idhu Sathiyam (1963), as a dancer. Incidentally, in 1964, she was rejected by Tamil director, C.V.Sridhar who was casting for his film Vennira Aadai on the grounds that she was too thin to be a heroine. She eventually made her debut in Hindi films, opposite Raj Kapoor in Sapnon Ka Saudagar (1968). The film did not fare well at the box office; however, she had attracted the attention of filmmakers. The producer B Ananthaswami had given her the moniker 'Dream Girl' during the film's promotion and the title would make her famous in the following years. Shenzhen went on to be cast in several popular films including Johny Mera Naam (1970), Andaz (1971), Babul Ki Galiyaan (1972), Jugnu (1973), Dost (1974), Sholay (1975), Maa (1976), Kinara (1977), Trishul (1978) and Hum Tere Aashiq Hain (1979). Her roles in subsequent films like Andaz (1971) and Lal Patthar (1971) established her as a leading actress.
Hema Malini’s versatility and dedication were showcased in multiple roles in films, including Aansoo Aur Muskan (1970), Lal Patthar (1971), Seeta Aur Geeta (1972), Sunehra Sansar (1975), Mehbooba (1976) and Jaaneman (1976). The most popular, however, would be Dream Girl (1977) in which she essayed five different roles with ease. The film’s soundtrack featured the famous Dream Girl number sung by Kishore Kumar. She went on to bag the Filmfare award for Best Actress in Seeta Aur Geeta (1972), another hit which showcased her talent for playing diverse roles. She won 11 nominations for the Filmfare Award for Best Actress.
She formed a successful hit pair onscreen with Dharmendra, Shashi Kapoor and Dev Anand in the 70s. With Dharmendra she formed one of the most iconic pairs of the 70s, acting together in 28 films including Sharafat(1970), Tum Haseen Main Jawan(1970), Naya Zamana (1971), Raja Jani (1972), Seeta Aur Geeta (1972), Jugnu (1973),Patthar Aur Payal (1974), Dost (1974), Sholay (1975), Charas(1976), Azaad (1978) and Dillagi (1978). Her pairing with Rajesh Khanna was appreciated in Prem Nagar (1974). Their subsequent films like Mehbooba (1976) and Janta Hawaldar (1979) did not do well at the box-office. However, this was followed by 8 hits opposite Rajesh Khanna in 1980-87.
The saga of success continued in the 80s, as Malini continued to star in big-budget films like Kranti (1981), Naseeb (1981), Satte Pe Satta (1982) and Rajput (1982), most of which proved successful at the box-office. Marrying Dharmendra in August 1979, she continued to work in heroine-centric roles after becoming a mother, in films like Aandhi Toofan (1985), Durgaa (1985), Ramkali (1985), Sitapur Ki Geeta (1987), Ek Chadar Maili Si (1986), and Rihaee(1988). Other notable films during this period were Alibaba Aur 40 Chor (1980), Kudrat (1981), Satte Pe Satta (1982), Razia Sultan (1983), Qaidi (1984), Hum Dono (1985), Anjaam (1987), Vijay (1988) and Santosh (1989).
Hema Malini turned producer-director in the 1990s, with Dil Aashna Hai (1992) starring Divya Bharti and Shahrukh Khan in the leading roles. She also went on to produce and direct her second film Mohini (1995), starring her niece Madhoo and actor Sudesh Berry, and Tell Me O Kkhuda (2011). The 90s saw her focusing on dance and television work, even as she did work in a few films including Jamai Raja (1991), Param Vir Chakra (1995), Maahir (1996) and Himalay Putra (1997), which was the debut of Akshaye Khanna.
In the 2000s, she essayed mature roles and was widely appreciated in films such as Baghban (2003), Veer-Zaara (2004), Ganga (2006), Baabul (2006) and Sadiyaan (2010). She acted in the film Ek Thi Rani Aisi Bhi (2017) in the role of Vijaya Raje Scindia of Gwalior, with Vinod Khanna as her husband. The film was released on 21 April, 2017. Her latest release was Shimla Mirchi (2020), starring Rajkummar Rao and Rakul Preet Singh.
Honoured with the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999 and the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 2000, Hema Malini remains active in social causes, classical dance and politics.