Veteran actor Dharmendra gives a rare insight into the time when he was at the peak of his career.
"I wish God could turn back the clock, and all actors and my friends (who have passed) could come back again, and it would be the same as it was in our time. More than friendship, there was strong attachment with everyone. I was very attached to people like Dilip Saab, Shashi Kapoor, Manoj (Kumar). I don’t see that happening again. Beyond work, irrespective of what films we did, we were like a family. With people like Pran, I did so many films and we were so close to each other. But time is such a thing that it buries everything as it passes. There is nothing constant in life. Everything has to go.
I have always maintained that everyone is bigger than me. This is my nature, I am blessed with it. This is what my parents taught me. Even if it wasn’t a very well-defined friendship, there was always love and affection… I could feel it. There was a certain interpersonal respect among everyone. I had a lot of respect for (late Bengali actor) Uttam Kumar, and I used to love Suchitra Sen (leading lady of Bengali cinema in the ’50s and ’60s). What people and actors they were! Even now, whenever I go to Kolkata, I can feel her presence everywhere, though I haven’t met her for God knows how many years. Shauhrat ke samundar mein sahil nahi hote, meine dekha hain ek ek tara dubte huye (There are no shores on the sea of fame; I have seen many stars falling there).
Over time, things have changed a lot. Life has become more professional. When we joined the industry, it was show business, which over time, has turned into show-off business. We have become increasingly busy. My relations with everyone are still cordial, but we don’t have time to spend or hang out together. Amitabh stays a stone’s throw away from my house, but we don’t get to meet each other for years. Incidentally, I met Amitabh last in London when I was promoting my film there, and he was there for his personal work. Such is life."
— As told to Dibyojyoti Baksi