How many times have Hema Malini and Dharmendra appeared together in a project? According to IMDB, a staggering 42. Which is reason enough, wouldn’t you say, for this post to exist?
But first, a confession: I’m not a fan. I know, I know! It’s shocking. The mere thought that there are those amongst us with souls so dead that they don’t care for the awesomeness that is Veeru and Basanti. But I can’t help it – not only am I a Jai and Radha sort of girl but I really hate it when these two come together. Sorry, but it’s true. I like them on their own with other people, but to me, when Hema Malini and Dharmendra come together they consistently bring out all the more annoying bits of each other.
There is, of course, one exception and that movie is Sholay. It’s incomprehensible to those who’ve seen it and didn’t love it, or those who’ve seen it and found it likable enough but nothing special, but to people like me who grew up watching that movie, Sholay is the film that each of those actors was born to play. I can’t think of another actor who could have played Basanti as Malini did – as a grating yet charming, loyal airhead with an inexplicable Madrasi accent – and carried it off. And I can’t imagine any actor other than Dharmendra who could portray a goofy but emotional bonehead crazy enough to convincingly fall for her.
This is why I’ve kept Sholay off this list. It’s not a movie that belongs on lists – it’s kicked the ass of every list out there and deserves to be retired the way the Mangeshkar sisters (well, not Usha but the other ones) have opted out of award ceremonies.
I must also admit that I haven’t seen all 42 of their movies but I have seen a large enough number to feel vaguely embarrassed. For this I thank the neighborhood cablewallah from my childhood who had a very eclectic taste in Hindi cinema. Here’s my top ten from the Hema-Dharam stable.
10. Razia Sultan – Want another bit of heresy? I think Kamal Amrohi is overrated as a director. Hey, you can scream all you want, I can’t hear you. We used to laugh at this movie when we were kids coz the sight of Dharmendra in black face was hilarious. In retrospect, this movie had such a lot to offer in its hammy fist: race and gender politics, palace scheming, family drama and a romance to tie it all up in a neat bow. Too bad it all falls flat. However, the one thing Amrohi did right by all his movies was in choosing the music. Khayyam’s music here is nothing short of magical (like, what’s new?) and almost makes you forget the weird bargain basement Arabian Nights vibe of this movie. Below, one of my all time favorite Lata Mangeskar tracks, Ae dil-e-nadaan.
9. Maa – I had to go back to IMDB to certify that this movie was not a figment of my imagination. I’ve seen some strange stories in my time but this one is for the books. Dharmendra lives in a forest and spends his time kidnapping baby wild animals. I guess that’s one way to make a living and though you wouldn’t think there’s much money it (what would the ransom be? Carcasses and nuts?) he seems to be doing rather well off it. But he finally meets his match in an elephant who seriously disapproves of his criminal intentions towards her cute little baby and in the ensuing disagreement, his own mother ends up dead (sidenote: have you ever seen a mother elephant being separated from its baby in real life? It’s as traumatic as watching a human mother get separated from her baby. I’ve had a real hate on for plantations ever since I saw that). Now he needs to restore the baby elephant to its enraged mom before the mommy elephant gets mad enough to stomp all over his lady love as well.
8. Raja Rani – I guess Hema Malini and Dharmendra were every producer’s wet dream of what a princess and a prince ought to look like (frequently appearing in those well-known bits of royal attire: net gowns and leather vests) coz that’s the only explanation for the bunch of royalty-based movies that they’ve done. With really bad production values too. You’d think they’d have caught on after the first couple, but noooo! This is part of the early crop and is actually one of the more successful efforts.
7. Azaad – I don’t know whether to laugh at or cry about this flick. It’s very clearly a paycheck movie: busybody do-gooder and pyromaniac bitch beat each other up until they fall in love in that mysterious Hindi movie way where two people hate each other and hate each other and hate each other until quite suddenly they’re in love with each other and have the personality transplant to prove it. And now they have injustices to right and people to save. Oh well, then. That makes it all right. Below is the Kishore Kumar song in which young Gandalf and his pony try their best to pretend that they’re badass care-for-nobodies even in the face of almost irresistible provocation by the dreaded fruit cart toppling Bajaj Scooter Gang:
6. Pratigya – I really preferred this movie when it was called Khoon Pasina and starred Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha but I have to admit, there’s a certain charm to this. Just a little bit though. It annoys me in parts but then a lot of things that pass for comedy in Bollywood annoy me no end, so I can overlook this. But then, people apparently like this dumb song below so what do I know (loud noise alert):
5. Tum Haseen Main Jawan – Perhaps I’m being too kind to this movie because I saw it piecemeal over a period of many years. I thought Dharmendra as a womanizing navy officer who hires woman-with-a-secret Hema Malini to be the nanny was pretty perfect casting. It seemed to be a character he understood. This is one of those movies tailor made for the phrase “timepass”. You never feel bored and the masala’s just enough to save it from blandness. For the record, it was a toss up between this movie and Dost for the title of “Timepass Master”. But – electric blue Cleopatra wig! Sailors! Sitar music! Are you fucking kidding me? Sold!
4. The Burning Train – Toy trains! And misunderstandings! And Parveen Babi once again portraying a woman who has a spine! There are all kinds of things that bother you about the people in this movie – to the point where the villain seems almost reasonable. However, I had great fun watching it. Did I mention toy trains? Video of couples bonding below. Yeh dosti it isnt. But… la la la la la la la laaa laaa:
3. Dillagi – I usually can’t stand Bollywood movies set in schools because there’s invariably something seedy about them. The kids are all fucking psycho or the teachers are and it’s just not fun to hate children. Occasionally they’ll even hire great big honking adults to play “kids” and try to pass them off as seventeen year olds or something and that just sticks in my craw. But here’s a movie that’s relatively mild, a story of inter-teacher love that doesn’t have any porn-y bits that I can remember and was actually charming. Funny, even.
2. Kinara – If they’re lucky, then every actor stumbles across this one director who knows exactly what to do with them. Gulzar is Hema Malini’s special gift. Although that other Gulzar favorite, Jeetendra, walks off with honors. I thought the Rock Hudson original, The Magnificent Obsession, was kind of sickly sweet but Gulzar makes this work.
1. Seeta Aur Geeta – This is a childhood favorite. When I was little, I loved it when Geeta steps in to beat up the bad, nasty fatties who were tormenting Seeta. When I grew up, I was surprised to note that it was Dharmendra who managed to add a few layers to his strictly supporting role (this movie is all about the girl and you know it) rather than Sanjeev Kumar. Add a portly Kumar trying to hip it up on roller skates (what is the deal with the 70s and skates?) and my life is made. Below, the most amazing roller skating trip you’ve ever seen two beginners take – with dialogues in Russian coz they were the only ones on Youtube who shared my feelings for this song.
But if you insist on a Hema-Dharam song to finish things off, then here goes: