It was 9.30 pm and we had waited for almost an hour by then. Soon, the man of the moment comes out of his suite at The HHI to say, “Please give me 10 minutes... my director has come in with the script.” You do so as the request comes from Dharmendra, one of the most macho men to have enthralled Hindi film viewers.
These 10 minutes pass in speculation and the veteran actor is soon back, apologetic once again. The tiredness from his hectic journey from Mumbai shows on his face, but he still plays the perfect host. “Chai peeyenge?” he asks.
The veteran still looks as energetic and sporting as he had been on screen four decades ago. “You still look so handsome” we say. “You mean more than Sunny and Bobby?” he asks with a smile.
The matinee idol is in Kolkata for four-days for Jahnu Barua’s Har Pal and his love for the city comes through. The trip down memory lane begins with the shooting for Asit Sen’s Mamta in 1966, where Suchitra Sen was his co-star, New Theatres, Bimal Roy, Hrishikesh Mukherjee and the other Bengali names linked to his career.<b1>
“How is Suchitra Sen? She wasn’t well. She has been a great friend. I pray for Suchitra’s good health. I wish I could always visit her but I respect her privacy,” he says.
“I can’t forget the chandeliers of Grand Hotel and the New Theatre’s office... Suchitra took me to the Kali temple in the wee hours. I would like to visit the place this time, too,” he says.
Happy and content
At his age, Dharmendra could have taken a sabbatical from films but this year has seen him in a new avatar. Three of his films — Apne, Johnny Gaddar and Life... In A Metro — have been hits. Is it a comeback? Probably not for a
man who has been working without a break for five decades and has also romanced the heroines his sons have worked with.
Apne will always remain special to him. It reflects in his eyes. “Apne to apne hote hai. It’s special working with Sunny and Bobby, but I always have done the film keeping in mind the character of Chaudhary Baldev Singh. I have never worked keeping in mind my co-stars but the character. When I was new I worked with a powerful actor like Nutan in Bandini who made me feel I was a doctor and not Dharmendra,” he says.
Directors such as Bimal Roy, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Chetan Anand and Mohan Saigal are people whom Dharmendra misses. He also feels nostalgic about acting with Nutan and Sharmila Tagore but his passion for cinema keeps him going.
The veteran feels excited about working with the new breed of actors such as Priety Zinta and Shiney Ahuja, who feature in this film.
In Har Pal, the actor will be seen in a different kind of role. He plays a drunkard who does not marry and whose life changes when he meets a girl. “It is a very true-to-life character. It is the girl’s story,” he says.
Dharmendra, who promises to keep working for the sake of his huge fan following is a contented actor and father. “I do not feel proud, but I am happy with what life has given me,” he says. He has four home productions lined up — Chumku (with Bobby), Man (with Sunny), Masters (all three of them together) and Justice (a solo project).
Deep down in his heart, there is the urge to work with Hema Malini again. “I have a great wish to work with Hema again and we are searching for a good script,” he signs off.