Entertainment Bollywood 08 Dec 2016 I was born a He-Man, ...

I was born a He-Man, I’ll die a He-Man: Dharmendra

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | SUBHASH K JHA
Published Dec 8, 2016, 12:10 am IST
Updated Dec 8, 2016, 12:12 pm IST
It is a quiet 81st birthday for Dharmendra, one of India’s most beloved stars, with only close family members around him.
Dharmendra
 Dharmendra

One of Indian cinema’s most beloved stars, Dharmendra, celebrates his 81st birthday on December 8. It’s a quiet birthday with only close family members around him.

“I’ve never liked shor sharaaba. I don’t attend parties and don’t throw any. I am a simple man with simple needs. What keeps me going is not fame, fortune or success but the love of the people. I’ve no hesitation in saying I am loved by one and all. That is my greatest achievement and the only birthday gift every year,” says the affable actor, so  natural on screen and in person, you are liable to miss his iconic status in life.

 

“I don’t know about legendary,” he laughs uncomfortably. “When I came to Bombay—that’s what the city was called back then—I only had my dreams. I was an untutored villager, with no idea of acting. I wasn’t even aware I was goodlooking until I began receiving movie offers for my good looks. I’ll always be thankful to filmmakers like Arjun Hingorani and O.P. Ralhan who saw something in me. Now when I look back I consider myself fortunate to have worked with the best filmmakers and the most beautiful heroine in the film industry. For a boy from the village in Punjab it was  a dream come true.”

 

Among the directors that Dharmendra worked with he singles out Bimal Roy, Dulal Guha, Asit Sen and Hrishikesh Mukherjee as his gurus. “With Bimalda I got to work in one of his finest films Bandini. If, as you say, I was a natural performer with no mannerisms or stylising, it was because I learnt from masters like Bimalda and Hrishida to not ‘ACT’ for the camera, just react.”

With Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Dharmendra was an absolute favourite and part of some of his best works including the classic Satyakam. At one point in the 1970s he was shooting for two films directed by Mukherjee on two floors of the same studio.

 

Laughs Dharmendra, “Yes, I remember. We were shooting for Chupke Chupke and Chaitali. I’d do a shot with Sharmila Tagore for one, change my clothes and rush for another shot with Sairaji for the other. Hrishida was very fond of me. Satyakam was a favourite for both of us. Its theme of corruption in our society remains more relevant today than ever before.  I think the reason Satyakam is such a favourite with everyone is the hero’s idealism. No matter what the pressures are, my character wouldn’t compromise on his principles.”

 

Dharmendra has a favourite scene from Satyakam. “My character, suffering from cancer, has lost his ability to talk. I had to convey Satyapriya’s anguish wordlessly. At some point, my spiritual guru, portrayed by Dadamoni (Ashok Kumar) says, ‘Now I can berate you to my heart’s content without any retaliation from you’. The words are bitter but they convey his love for me. I had to express I understood that. Next, my wife, essayed by Sharmila, walks in with papers for me to sign that could relieve my family of poverty in the event of my death. For their sake, I agree. But she snatches the papers and tears them up. My character had to convey his deep undying love and gratitude for the woman who has stood by his side, through thick and thin. It was a very tough scene. I thank Hrishida for his faith in me. I think Satyakam should be screened at the school level. It shows honesty can never become outdated.”

 

In his heydays, Dharmendra was known to be an incorrigible ladies man. He laughs shyly, “I remember all my heroines with much fondness as I am sure they remember me.”

Now Dharmendra looks forward to spending time with his grandchildren. “I may not be doing that many films any more. But the love of my people remains undiminished. I was a born the he-man of Hindi cinema. I will die the he-man.”

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