The sudden release this week of the bio-pic Ek Thi Rani Aisi Bhi chronicling the life and times of Vijaya RajeScindia, the Rajmata Of Gwalior, has come as a complete surprise to the movie trade as well as to fans of Hema Malini. “Forget fans, it came as complete surprise to me also,” Hema bursts into peals of laughter. “But I am glad it’s finally been released.”
Ek Thi Rani Aisi Bhi produced by Zee Classic and directed by Gulbahar Singh, was completed in 2010. But was delayed for various reasons including lack of funds.
Hema says she is very proud of the film. “I’ve always felt honoured to play historical characters. I remember when Kamal Amrohiji selected me to play Razia Sultan it was my biggest challenge to learn Urdu, to ride a horse and do sword-fighting. When I was offered the role of the Rajmata Of Gwalior I said yes without a second thought. Though I’ve nearly given up acting because of my political and social commitments there was no way I would give up the opportunity to play the Rajmata.”
As she got to know the Rajmata for the part Hema felt a deep connectivity with the Queen who gave up the royal life for public service. “I’ve always identified with roles where a woman voluntarily chooses a life of social service over her affluence. I remember Naya Zamana, Dost and other roles like that. And of course Gulzar Saab’s Meera.”
In Ek Rani Aisi Bhi Hema plays a woman in search of an identity beyond lineage. “I’ve never felt more inspired to connect to any character as I do to this one. We screened the film earlier this week at the Siri Fort Auditorium in Delhi. It was attended by the Rajmata’s family members. I was a bit anxious about their reaction to the film and my performance. When they said I looked and acted like the Rajmata I was relieved.”
Hema wishes the film could have got a more publicized release. “I hardly do films anymore; In fact I can’t remember my last release. But when I do something special like this film I want it to be seen by as much of the audience as possible.”
Coincidentally Hema has done two films in the last five years—the Rajmata bio-pic and Ramesh Sippy’s Simla Mirch. Both have been delayed before release.