The Hema Malini-Dharmendra Top Ten

23 Mar

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:


Posted by on March 23, 2008 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Movies, Review


18 responses to “The Hema Malini-Dharmendra Top Ten

  1. M

    March 23, 2008 at 7:02 pm


    FINALLY – someone else who doesn’t like the Dharam-Hema combo…but I’ll go one better – I am one of the very very few who thinks Sholay is no big deal as well 🙂 All their scenes in Sholay irritated the heck out of me – I kept wanting more Amitabh-Jaya scenes, but that was probably because of the major crush I had on Jaya. I think Dharam made a great pair with Sharmila Tagore…Chupke Chupke for instance.

    I did like Seeta&Geeta but that was due to Sanjeev Kumar – one of my all-time favourites.


  2. ana

    March 23, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    I’ve only seen two movies on this list, and I liked both of them. Seeta aur Geeta, wow, and Kinara, where I liked the songs much more than the film (that is more often the case with me though)

    I think they were better when they were not paired together as well. I liked the Shashi – Hema combo a lot, Amitabh – Hema next. And Dharam with Sharmila, definitely my favorite too, in Anupama, and Satyakaam as well as Chupke Chupke. If Gulzar is Hema’s special gift, then Hrishikesh Mukherjee was Dharmendra’s (among others)

  3. Amey

    March 24, 2008 at 8:22 am

    Razia Sultan, Dharam-Veer and Ajooba… three reasons (if you needed any) why Bollywood should not make fantasy/swashbuckler movies.

    And isn’t Maa the movie with the mother of all ghosts? Or am I confusing the names again?

  4. radz

    March 24, 2008 at 11:47 am

    I can barely identify three movies I have seen in your list! goes to show how little I know and I thoroughly enjoyed your analysis.
    I never bought the Hema mystique. She seemed to me so much vanilla ice cream. I like my heroines capable of being darker and more nuanced.
    Funnily the only Hema movie I dont mind watching again would be Johnny Mera Naam with Dev Anand.

  5. Amrita

    March 25, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    M – It’s ok, I’m not a Sholayvangelical 😀 And you and I have the same crushes – I thought Jaya and Sanjeev were the cat’s pyjamas and the dharam sharmila deo were great together. loads of sex appeal and although she too did the sharmao and giggle routine, it somehow didnt irritate as much.

    Ana – well then you’ve seen the only two that really matter 😀 Definitely agree with Hrishikesh Mukherjee being the best Dharam director. Those movies were fabulous. And to think he ended it all on Anil Kapoor.

    Amey – hahahha, the things you reminded me of! I’ve been sitting here giggling for five mins. Wait until Salman Khan comes in Mahabharat. I bet you’ll remember these fondly. And I dont remember the ghost in Maa but she does look like one.

    Radz – i love that movie! although that has very little to do with Hema who was really quite pretty and doll like in it. the early Dev Anand movies are favourites of mine. Then came the 70s and … le sigh.

  6. sidekick

    March 25, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    I’m a sholayvangelical, so i approve of the sholay love, athough it is all abt gabbar, thakur, radha and jai rather than veeru and basanti :). haven’t seen much that i can recall of the hema/ dharam jodi —- and thats a good thing, i think :). i did like the early dharam some – Bandini, Khamoshi, Anupama…. Basically both are such ineffective actors, that i never got why they were the golden couple on screen. now if u did a rishi-neetu top5 i would be much more enthusiastic 😉

  7. Ashutosh

    March 25, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    Hey, thanks for posting the link to the Burning Train song. It’s a relatively unknown song which nonetheless is quite melodious in my opinion. In fact I used to play it in performances with my band in India! Brought back some memories…
    By the way, my regular blog is at The desipundit blog you have linked to is one which I only occasionally write on. In any case, those posts are always quoted on my regular blog. Just in case you want to update the link.

  8. ana

    March 26, 2008 at 1:02 am

    would amar, akbar, anthony be part of the rishi-neetu top 5? they were both so cute in that. . .(hint hint amrita, pleeeease do a rishi-neetu top 5) 😀

  9. Masoom_si_sararat

    March 26, 2008 at 5:05 am

    dev and sanjeev are my favourite also due to some of their movies, specially GUIDE(dev) and NAYA DIN NAYI RAAT (sanjeev) . in GUIDE if the malodrama in the end ie a lot of public coming over to great shadu had had been avoided it would have been great.

    @ SHOLEY :- i liked the movie due to two reasons
    1) sanjeev kumars acting
    2) social responsibility shown ie widow remarriage.
    the dialogue which sanjeev delivers to jaya’s father in movie ” samaj aur pratha to hum hi banate hain. jo hum log aaj karenge kal wahi reet ban jayegi…….” this shows what was media intended for and now where it is. Not to make topic boring so lets discuss some thing else

    @ all :- what u think abt the movie Mohabbatein (AB & SRK). was story writer justified in handing over the school to SRK

  10. Amey

    March 26, 2008 at 8:39 am

    How could I have forgotten to add Hatimtai from amongst the Four Horsemen of Indian Fantasy Cinema Doom? (see what I did there? No? Oh, never mind).

    Not to mention, the lesser horseman, “Ali Baba…”

  11. Jawahara

    March 26, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    I was thinking of Dharam Veer, another semi-Roman (I guess) costume drama. Don’t remember if Hema was in it but Dharam was and he had the smoothest gora legs of any dude I’d seen. Freshly waxed! Aaah! Also, he wore short roman skirt thingies while the ladies wore what can only be described as cheap, nylon nighties. *sigh* those were the days.

    Also, btw, I just wanted to say I get quite green with envy reading your postings. They are all well thought out, have pretty pics and videos, are fun to read and so very well written. Just had to say it.

  12. sidekick

    March 27, 2008 at 1:11 am

    Jawahara… lol at that description, almost (but not quite) makes me want to rent it!

    ana, AAA defi makes my list. the movie was pure cheese, but rishi and neetu were super cute. Amrita, pretty please……….

  13. Amrita

    March 27, 2008 at 1:15 am

    Sidekick – thats pretty much how it runs for me too but this was the only movie in which the Hema Dharam track really made me laugh. Although AB made a great foil. The early Dharam was awesome – and really hunky. The 70s were less so but he still made some great movies.

    Ana – hee hee, ok you twisted my arm 😀

    MsS – You’ve just hit upon a topic very dear to my heart: the art of conveying a message without making it preachy. Anyhoo, I didn’t really care for Mohabbatein. By the time the interval came around I wanted both of them to jump in the lake and make it a ghostly threesome. I thought the songs were fun to watch… but not to listen to.

    Amey – Hatimtai! AHAHAHAHAHA! I nearly put Ali Baba here because it’s such a trip but then thought I’d go for something a bit respectable. Hey, that ghostly Maa you were talking about? Do you mean this movie with Jaya Prada and Jeetendra where she’s this ghost who’s out to save her baby from evil doers?

    J – Lol, I remember Dharam Veer. It was Zeenie baby I think. And the songs were amazing. but nylon nighties is right! Didn’t Jeetendra do something in it too? Bet you dont remember his legs 😀
    re: the blog. I wish I could take credit for the idea, but I actually got it from a blogger (Can;t remember which one) who said his/her number one advice to would be bloggers was to pretty it up whenever possible. I figured five extra mins googling pics at the end of every post wouldnt hurt. Glad you like it 🙂

    Sidekick – you must have posted while I was writing! Do rent it – it’s a cheesefest with lovely songs. And i’ll do the post just for you and Ana. Smooches!

  14. Amey

    March 27, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    Yes, you got it… That’s the Maa I was talking about. And I was wondering why Ali Baba was missing from the list.

    And going on a tangent of self-promotion, if you want utterly random ramblings, do visit my (recently rejuvenated) other blog:

  15. Amrita

    March 28, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Ashutosh – I think this was one of those rare “classics” more known for its story than its songs. Glad it made you happy 🙂

    Amey – God, that thing! With tantriks and things. I have to do a favorite spooky movie list sometime. Cool @ talonsonboard! I usually lurk at adlergedanke.

  16. Kabir

    April 26, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    Dharam-Hema.. try Naya Zamaana.
    I agree that Dharmendra made an excellent pair with Sharmila Tagore in Satyakam, Chupke Chupke, Anupama etc..
    But all movies of Dharam-Hema and most on the list except some like Razia-Sultan are extremely watchable and total masala flicks. I believe that Razia-Sultan was the only movie with both that I couldnt sit through.
    And I agree with Amrita that Sholay has become above any list.
    I admit that I have watched a lot of Dharmendra movies but again blame it on the cable guy and when you grow up on the 70s and 80s movies, you tend to grow a certain fondness for them.

  17. Amrita

    April 29, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Kabir – havent seen Naya Zamana that i can recall so I’ll have to look it up now. And you’re right, most of them were watchable movies even if clearly done for reasons other than artistic value if you know what I mean.

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