'Dreamgirl' Hema Malini says the character of Basanti in 'Sholay', which she had essayed four decades ago remains a symbol of women's empowerment till this date.
"Basanti was the first woman character in a Bollywood film who commanded a horse-drawn carriage. She remains a symbol of women's empowerment till this date," Hema Malini, also BJP MP, said on Thursday during the 'In the Spotlight' session at INFOCOM 2018.
"Now when I go for campaigning I tell the women present, a large number of them tribals in some places, that their contribution is no way less than Basanti the tangewali.
"Women work so hard, the tribals work so tirelessly - hats off to them," the 'Padma Shri' recipient commented.
Asked if she is more popular as Basanti than any other roles portrayed in her 50-year long film career, the 70-year old Bollywood diva said, "In my dance shows people want to see my dance numbers only. But when I go for campaigning, the public come to see me because I am an artiste from Bollywood.
"I worked in so many films but people remember Sholay most. This happened as the character remains so popular. When I go in the midst of 70,000 people they want to see Basanti perform," the BJP MP said.
Asked if she had initially turned down the offer for 'Lal Patthar', the 1971 Bollywood film which was produced by F C Mehra and directed by Sushil Majumdar, the actor replied in the affirmative and narrated how she had finally agreed to do the film.
"Initially I had reservations as I was told by someone that since I was cast along with Rakhi she would eat me up and that I had a negative role. But Raaj Kumarji (who had been signed for the film) came to my house and convinced me."
"I agreed because of his insistence ... I am very happy that I did so. Lal Patthar remains one of my best films," she said.
Asked about her lending her voice to two Bengali songs put to tune by Kishore Kumar in 1973 for a Durga Puja album, she recalled "Kishoreda came and requested me to lend my voice. I told him I am not a singer. But as I went home and told my mother, she said I should not turn down the request of such a great kalakar."
"The next day, I recorded two numbers on a single day," Hema Malini said and even sang a few lines of one of the songs 'Gungun kore je mon tare keno bojhano gelo na ...' as the audience broke into applause.
Asked by a member of the audience why she did not work with Satyajit Ray, the actor, who had worked with big names like Ramesh Sippy, Manmohan Desai, Vijay Anand, Raj N Sippy, Yash Chopra and Gulzar, said, "I did not get any chance. Had he (Ray) offered me any role I would have accepted.
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