Interview Hindi

Ram Kamal Mukherjee: Beyond the Dream Girl is best documented story of Hema Malini's life

The author speaks about the new biography, how it differs from the previous book he wrote in 2005, and his admiration for the 'first female superstar'.

Image courtesy: HarperCollins India

Sonal Pandya

Twelve years after he wrote his first book on actress-politician Hema Malini, author Ram Kamal Mukherjee has returned to collaborate with her on another, more in-depth biography, called Hema Malini: Beyond the Dream Girl.

The book, which opens with a foreword by prime minister Narendra Modi and ends with an afterword by filmmaker Ramesh Sippy, takes Hindi film fans on a journey through the actress’s life — with inside details of her family relationships, her rise to become one of Hindi cinema’s top stars and her later forays into direction and, eventually, politics.

Mukherjee spoke to via e-mail about his latest labour of love, the differences from his first attempt, and his lifelong admiration for the actress whom he terms ‘India’s first female superstar’. Excerpts: 

What was the difference working on the previous book with Hemaji, Hema Malini: Diva Unveiled, and the current one?

This book is completely different from what I wrote 15 years ago. There is a vast difference between a coffee table book and a biography. This book is a complete tale of Hema Malini's life, which I don't think any of her previous books had.

You have admired Hema Malini as an actress and a personality since you were young. What is it about her that you find fascinating and inspiring?

I think her multi-tasking attitude inspired me the most. She is among those few actresses from 'Bollywood' [Hindi cinema] who has maintained her aura as a star. It's a fact that Hema Malini was India's first female superstar. No one ruled the film industry for almost 12 years as number one. And she had a fairly interesting journey that needed to be spoken about. I think this book will remain the best documented story of her life.

How did you tackle the difficult task of putting together her biography? It’s loaded with a lot of personal detail and facts from her early life till now. What did the research entail?

As an author it's very important to understand the sensibility of the subject. I had to be extremely careful about the content and the language. I worked on this book for almost two years and would always verify facts with Hemaji and her family members. You will also find Hema Malini's family tree for the first time mentioned in this book. There are many rare images which she shared for the first time in this book, including images of her grandson Darien.

Was it hard to track down so many people, including Hemaji, to speak to you for the book?

Oh, that was the most difficult part of this journey. All celebrities are busy in their own right. To track them down, it was a very difficult task. But eventually I managed to get most of them. I had access to archives from Stardust and Showtime magazines which also helped me a lot in gathering material. There are a few rare interviews of Dharmendra, Dimple Kapadia, and many other celebrities that added a lot more dimension to this biography.

After so many years in journalism and working on cinema books, what was it like writing fictional stories with Long Island Iced Tea?

I thoroughly enjoyed telling eight short stories in Long Island Iced Tea. I am currently working on another fiction, based on 17th century Bengal. It's a historical fiction drama. Thanks to executive editor Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri, I have approached HarperCollins for the book, hopefully we will be working on this one too.

After completing this, what is next on your plate?

There is yet another biography which I am almost on the verge of completion. But it's too early to discuss. I have also floated my production house Assorted Motion Pictures, under which I am planning to make web series, serials and short films. I also started a feature film as creative producer but due to a fund problem the movie got delayed. Hopefully that movie will be completed soon. It's an amazing story revolving around two strong female protagonists. I also co-produced a Hindi serial, Bin Kuch Kahe, for Zee TV, with my friend and filmmaker Rajshree Ojha.