Dharmendra probably never thought his famous act in Sholay — in which he climbs a water tank and threatens “suicide” — would return three decades later to give him sleepless nights. And that too in the actor-turned-MP's own constituency.
Farmers of this food basket of Rajasthan have realised that nothing attracts more attention than a repeat of the Sholay act. Only that they want to draw the attention of the administration to their woes, and not for the hand of a girl as in the film.
For over a month, the farmers, under the banner of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, held peaceful protest meetings to demand their outstanding payment for their mustard produce. But nobody cared.
On Monday evening, they got an inspiration. Twelve of them climbed the water tank and issued an ultimatum — meet our demands or we will jump off the tower. They refused to listen to the appeals of police and administration officials.
That did the trick and Dharmendra, already facing criticism from his voters for not doing enough, was shaken out of his sleep in Delhi.
Dharmendra sat till midnight, ringing up all his contacts and the farmer leaders. He tried to talk the farmers out of the act but failed. The farmers finally relented but not before Dharmendra got them to speak to senior officials in the district and in Jaipur and to the secretary of Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar in Delhi.
Rajasthan Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rajendra Rathore said, “Dharmendra called me up at least six times. His desperate calls helped the administration resolve the crisis.” District collector Kunji Lal Meena said: “He wanted us to give the farmers a written assurance that their demands would be met. He also requested us not to book the farmers.” And now it has become a trend.
On Tuesday, a handful of people in adjoining Suratgarh repeated the stunt. “This is becoming a recurring problem. We are buying nets to shield the protesters if they try to jump off the tanks,” the collector said.