Hema Malini appears to be completely out of depth in her new role as Bharatiya Janta Party's Lok Sabha candidate from Mathura. She looks more like an actress who's signed up for a film without reading the script.
It's high noon and the starlet, dressed in a bright red saree, has not ventured out yet into the city to campaign, even as her rival, Jayant Chaudhary, from the Rashtriya Lokdal is out campaigning with his wife.
A bunch of TV journalists have gathered around the 'dream girl' for news feeds for their channels. She asks them to keep it short and gives each one 10 minutes. They want her to walk around in the hotel lawns for ambiance, and she obliges, coming out into the front lawn after making them wait a bit.
She looks tired and unenthusiastic, but slips into the role as soon as cameras begin to roll. It is a medium she is comfortable with, and the actress of Basanti fame puts up a better act than most politicians. "I am no outsider to Mathura," she says, emphasising on her many visits to the temple town as a devotee of Lord Krishna.
Then she waxes eloquent on her deep desire to work for the Brijwasis, cleaning up the Yamuna, and wanting a saaf (clean) and sundar (beautiful) Mathura.
"I am also one of them, I am a Jat bahu," she says when an anchor quizzes her on campaigning in the Jat-dominated district in western Uttar Pradesh.
Dharmendra, who Hema Malini married in the 80s, is popularly mistaken for a Jat though he was born into a Punjabi Jatt Sikh family. He later, reportedly, converted to Islam to marry a second time as his first wife refused him a divorce. Hema Malini was born in a Tamil-speaking Iyengar family.
The electorate, is however, not interested in such details. For them she is above all a
Bollywood star. "There is no north-south in Bollywood," says the 65-year-old star.
The interviews rap up and she retires for the time being, only to emerge out of her hotel at 3pm for a roadshow across Vrindavan.
Her cavalcade of about four cars drive through the narrow lanes of Vrindavan till sundown, stopping intermittently for Hema Malini to accept garlands and chunnis. Crowds gather to see if it is the Sholay girl for real, and look fascinated with the black Audi she is being driven in.
Young school girls and old widows of Vrindavan rush excitedly towards the car to catch a glimpse of the star. A group of boys joke: "It would have been better had it been Sunny Leone."
The BJP nominee remains in her car throughout, and emerges only from the sunroof (of the car) to wave and smile at the crowds of onlookers, who, surprisingly, include even monkeys.
Party workers put their best foot forward, shouting catchy rhymes: "Hema Malini Mathura main, Jayant Chadhury khatra main".
But it is slogans around BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi that is given precedence. "This is the Krishna Janambhoomi and a stronghold of the RSS. Where else would there be a Modi wave if not here?" says a young leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, BJP's student wing.
He has been shouting slogans and leading Hema Malini's cavalcade for almost four hours, but appears unhappy with her style of campaigning."She should get off the car and talk to people," he says. Another local leader agrees: "She should have done a padhyatra and mingled with the masses. She has been getting bad advice," he says.
The two are nevertheless sure that the BJP candidate will win, or rather, as they put it, Modi will win. "Modi ki lehar hai, Mathrua main Modi hi aaega," they say in unison.