Even at this age, it is hard to keep your eyes away off Hema Malini when her face breaks into a smile. Wearing a bright yellow sari with a red and pink border, she is an image of grace and elegance when we meet her at her residence in Juhu. “This sari was gifted to me on my birthday and I decided to wear it today, it drapes so well, na?” she asks us with childlike enthusiasm.
It is this passion for life and all its various aspects that has led Hema onto various paths -- she is an actor, a Bharatnatyam dancer and a director. And very recently, she has come out with a devotional album titled Soundaryalahiri. When we accidentally use the word ‘singing’ in front of her, she corrects us instantly. “I’m not singing,” she says categorically, “I’m just chanting Sanskrit shlokas, along with singers Suresh Wadkar, Shankar Mahadevan and Ashit Desai. The shlokas are in praise of the divine mother and this is my offering to her.” The concept, Hema adds, was her own idea. “I have been toying with the idea for some time and finally spoke to Desai about it,” she says. Out of the 100 shlokas in the album, Hema has chanted 30.
Age -- the actress feels -- is really just a number, and should never be a hindrance to learning new things. “In fact, we must keep learning. I want to learn so many things but I just don’t get the time,” she says. When we prod her about the things she would like to learn, Hema talks about the one thing that’s on her priority list. “I want to learn Urdu. I know how to read and write it, as it was the first thing told to me after joining the film industry, but I want to perfect it,” she says. Any particular reason? “Well, Dharamji does so much shero-shayari (poetry), so I thought I should learn it,” she laughs. The lady seems to have a love for languages. While she picked up Sanskrit during her Bharatnatyam learning days, this Tamilian also knows a bit of Telugu.
Her love for the arts is pretty evident in whatever she does. “As an artiste, I feel one should know everything. In fact, recently I went to an art opening in Chennai and I was so inspired to paint,” she smiles. She does know how to draw and paint a little, she admits. “I often sketch the dance costumes for my shows, to give to the tailor,” she says. And as we are about to leave, she shows us some of the sketches she has made, on her mobile phone. Needless to say, they are beautiful. What next Hemaji, fashion designing?