Their's was a clandestine affair. The Ken of the 70s realm of Bollywood was in love with the Barbie of those times. However, the only barrier to their perfect love story was Dharmendra's first wife and his family. Everyone was sort of weary about how Hema would be accepted as Dharmendra's first wife.
However, in her autobiography: Hema Malini: Beyond The Dream Girl, she clarifies on her equation with "Dharamjees" family.
According to her book, Dharmendra's father Kewal Kishan Singh Deol was very fond of Hema and her family.
She recollects fondly, 'He would drop by and meet my father or brother for chai. Instead of shaking hands he would arm-wrestle them, and after defeating them he would jokingly say, 'Tum log ghee-makkhan-lassi khao, idli aur sambhar se taqat nahi aati (Have butter, lassi, ghee. Idli and sambhar won't make you strong).'
'My father would join in the laughter. He (Dharmendra's father) was a very jovial person.'
'Dharamji's mother Satwant Kaur was equally warm and kind-hearted. I remember how she came to meet me once at a movie set after I had conceived Esha. She hadn't informed anyone in the house. I touched her feet, she hugged me and said, "Beta, khush raho hamesha (Be happy always)." I was happy that they were happy with me.'
Hema has never visited Dharmendra's house nor has expected to be a family member.
She was always been clear that she didn't want to disturb his first family. She has interacted with Dharmendra's first wife Prakash Kaur on several occasions, most of them social gatherings, but after her marriage their paths never crossed.
'I didn't want to disturb anyone. I am happy with whatever Dharamji did for me and my daughters. He played the role of a father, like any father would do. I guess I am happy with that.'
'Today I am a working woman and I have been able to maintain my dignity because I have devoted my life to art and culture. I guess, if the situation was even slightly different from this, I wouldn't be what I am today.'
However, she maintains, that Esha and Ahana, their daughters were always welcomed to their homes and they are very close to their cousin Abhay Deol. Abhay was also very actively present at the weddings of Esha and Ahana.
Seems like an equation that works for everyone.