The good old man

Anuj Kumar
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Cinema As “Yamla Pagla Deewana” hits the big screen, Dharmendra rewinds. Anuj Kumar

Once more! Dharmendra promises to be seen more often.
Once more! Dharmendra promises to be seen more often.

T he media's vocabulary may have changed from handsome to hot but Dharmendra retains his impish innocence and charm. Malleable is not the word for this original macho man of the Hindi film industry. Completely natural, is what they call it these days.

“Be it acting or life I have followed my heart. I feel my mind and heart are inseparable. There is no method, everything natural.” But his greatest inspiration, Dilip Kumar, is considered the biggest of method actors. “He used to lend soul to method acting. Like Marlon Brando. Watch him (Dilip Kumar) in ‘Gunga Jumna' and ‘Sagina Mahato'. Even if you are spontaneous, you have to understand what the director has in mind, what is his vision. I am thankful to great directors like Bimal Roy, Dulal Guha and Asit Sen, who nurtured me to do my own thing when I was nobody…the number of takes they allowed me in films like ‘Bandini' and ‘Chand Aur Suraj' to get it right. They are equally responsible for my success as Arjun Hingorani and Pramod Chakravarty,” says the 75-year-old actor, who was in New Delhi to promote his latest venture “Yamla Pagla Deewana”.

A delicious mix of a romantic hero and an action star with a flair for comedy, Dharmendra didn't get enough credit for his acting chops. No awards, little critical acclaim. Does he consider the industry has not been kind to his softer, serious side? “Not really. ‘Satyakam' had my money. When it didn't do commercially well, I went by my popular image and the next film we produced was ‘Pratigya', which proved to be a blockbuster. Coming from a village, I always had that commercial success at the back of my mind. But directors like Hrishikesh Mukherjee kept testing me and I was always available for them. As for the image you have to manage it. I feel a friendly talk with a journalist is enough.”

As a producer he has given big breaks to the likes of Raj Kumar Santoshi and Imtiaz Ali but they moved out of Vijeta Films banner. Dharmendra says the industry is increasingly getting opportunist while he still considers it a family. “I don't believe in controlling people. We have little business sense. My sons feel that I believe people easily but this has been the case from the beginning and it has not failed me. Apart from O.P. Ralhan, I had a great relationship with all my directors all through their careers. Log haath badhaate hain mein gale laga leta hoon, log gale lagate hain mein dil mein basa leta hoon…”

Emotionally charged

Yes, Dharmendra is turning into a poet. “I had this side but I started taking it seriously only three years back when I started giving shape to my pain in words.” Pain to Dharmendra? “I am a sensitive soul. I get emotionally affected very easily. Perhaps that's why I am in this profession for so long….”

After holding himself back for a few years, Dharmendra is game for a fresh innings with “Yamla Pagla Deewana” releasing this week, and if the promos are any indication, the Deols are making fun of themselves, a job which FM channels were doing for some time. Dharmendra calls it emotional liberty. “All these scenes, be it my tank scene in ‘Sholay' or the title taken from a song in ‘Pratigya' or Sunny's hand pump scene from ‘Gadar' have been etched in people's memory for their merit and if they fit in the script why not? It is not that we are rehashing our successful scenes. After the emotionally charged ‘Apne' we wanted to do a fun film on lost and found premise.”

This time he is going all out with publicity. “I never did it on such a big scale because I felt it is like doing your own munadi (publicity) but I am being told this needs to be done to bring public to theatres these days. I still doubt it,” he smiles. Star wars are a common feature these days. Dharmendra says competition was always there in the industry but it was not “cut throat”. He recommended Bachchan for “Sholay”. “Insecurity was the last thing on my mind. See, people still remember my fun scenes from the film even if he walked away with emotional scenes!” True. “People ask me you live so close to each other why don't you meet often. I say Amit doesn't drink!” Alcohol has been a significant factor in his career. “It is right nobody has had more affairs and pegs than me in the industry but I never misbehaved with anybody. However, I don't recommend drinking. It is a bad habit and now even I have quit.” Today, Dharmendra recommends pranayam and kapalbhati. His stamina is still intact. “I cycle for 45 minutes and do 100 half-dips every day.” No face lift? “What is that?” Amazing example for the six-pack generation! “I don't recommend six-pack because it is very difficult to sustain and when you slacken a bit, the abdomen bulges out. I don't completely agree with the point that it enhances masculinity on the screen.” He reminds how Salman Khan still considers Dharmendra's character in “Dharam-Veer” as the best combination of looks and real strength. He is said to be very particular about the way he is shot. “I am. In this case I am inspired by Guru Dutt, whose every frame was immaculate. Handsome is as handsome does!”

His dalliance with politics brought him bad publicity. “It was a mistake. I was told that if good people won't come to the Parliament how things will change and I fell for it. There are so many stumbling blocks that good intentions have little value here.” Was Hema Malini responsible for his entry? “No, not at all. It was (Atal) Vajpayeeji who asked me to join.” He doesn't think Hema is allowed to do much in the political arena. “She is called to deliver dialogues… mayoos sawal, majboor jawaab…This is politics.”

His disagreement with his daughter Esha's entry into films was considered backward. “I reacted the way a Hindustani father would do. I am not against women working in entertainment industry but I feel there is a lot of pain in the life of an actor and I didn't want my daughter to go through it. My mother used to say that you lead a dual life, a life of deception. The better you are at it, the greater the actor you are. I didn't want all this for my daughter but when she said she is ready to take the challenge, I stepped back. Now I am working with her in this beautiful film ‘Tell Me O Khuda' which has a strong message. Hema has done a great job.” It is being reported that his younger daughter Ahana is knocking at the doors of glamour world? “No, it is not correct. She will do organic farming with me and then I will look for a suitable boy for her.” Some things simply don't change….

I get emotionally affected very easily. Perhaps that's why I am in this profession for so long.



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