Earlier this week, Bollywood’s most beloved ‘Dream Girl’ Hema Malini headed to Russia on a special invitation to attend the Indian Film Festival Of Russia. Little did she know what awaited her. “It was the most exhilarating three days of my life. The fan adoration I saw in Russia is unbelievable. Why do the Russians love me so much?” Hemaji wondered as she laughed her throaty laughter.
I reminded her that she was and remains the most popular Bollywood actress ever with the power to lift sagging films and hero’s careers. No actress before or since has conveyed the same charisma and power. She laughs, “So then maybe the Russians have good taste. But seriously I was taken aback. I was told only two other Indian actors before me have seen the same kind of popularity in Russia – Raj Kapoor saab who was incidentally my first co-star (in the film Sapnon Ka Saudagar in 1969) and Mithun Chakraborty.”
Hema Malini’s connections with Russia go back to 1980 when she starred in the Indo-Russian co-production Alibaba Aur 40 Chor. “That film featured both Indian and Russian technicians and was very popular in Russia. But the Russians today love me for another film altogether,” says Hemaji shyly.
Hema ji’s Russian fans are not just her fans they are devoted fanatics of one of her films. Chortles Hema Malini, “Seeta Aur Geeta – they are crazy about that film. They remember every detail of the plot. They want a sequel to Seeta Aur Geeta. Imagine, the film came in 1972, and they want a sequel now!” Incidentally the Seeta Aur Geeta director Ramesh Sippy is game for a sequel. Sippy who has collaborated with Hema on the historic Sholay recently worked with Hema Malini again in a film called Shimla Mirchi.
Hema Malini confesses one of the pleasures of the Russian visit was to meet the veteran Russian actress Kseniya Ryabinkina. Says Hema ji fondly, “She was Dharamji’s heroine in Raj Kapoor’s Saab’s Mera Naam Joker. I was very happy to meet her.”