It seemed age is finally catching up with Hindi cinema's Greek God from Punjab. Dharmendra, 76, failed to keep his promise to dine on Thursday night with fellow Punjabis in Brampton, considered one of the many Punjabs away from Punjab.
"Mera baai aauga? (Will my brother come?)" Gursharan Kaur, a 70-something era-mate of the actor kept asking everyone, waiting impatiently outside an Indian restaurant for three hours. A native of a village in Jagraon, not far from Dharmendra's village Sahnewal near Ludhiana, Gursharan introduced herself as the actor's sister: "The minute he sees me, he will give me a hug." Well, that moment never came.
Gursharan and the 300-odd others like her appeared irritated with Dharmendra, but the simmering anger soon turned into filial worry as they were told that their beloved bhaaji could not make it due to uneasiness and jetlag.
Ooo! It's you!?
Dharmendra is the brand ambassador for the first Punjabi International Film Academy Awards (PIFAA) to be given away in Toronto on Saturday.
But for the moment, the crowd had to be contented meeting yesteryear villain Prem Chopra, besides actors Om Puri, Sonu Sood, Divya Dutta, Vikas Bhalla and Rama Vij, and comedian Kapil Sharma.
Plus, there was the latest Punjabi heartthrob, singer-actor Diljit Dosanjh of the Jatt and Juliet fame, who was rated highest if one went by the barometer of cheers when he entered the restaurant.
Among the 'stars' were some who were not recognised by the crowd.
We would not be rude to disclose their names, but their pride must have got enough beating when they had to introduce themselves. "Ooo! It's you!" was the set reply from audiences.
Finally, Dharam ke darshan
Dharam bhaaji can't be elusive for too long. The next day, Friday that is, when PIFAA organisers announced the official shop open, he took the stage wearing sneakers and a blazer, sunglasses in place, at a plush hotel on Derry Road of Brampton.
As for any remains of irritation from Thursday, Dharmendra's endearing opening remarks were enough balm: "Har jee nu, jee jaan naal pyar, tey rajj ke duaavaan! (Lots of love and blessings from the core of my heart to everyone!)" Cheers ruled, and Dharam bhaaji had won everyone over, all over again.
He made an immediate appeal to all Punjabis to make the show successful, and also urged them to love Canada. "Mother Canada has taken you in her lap, and you should respect her like you do India," he said, as the Canadian minister for immigration, Charles Sousa, who was the chief guest, blushed.
The macho-romantic played to the gallery one last time before unveiling the PIFAA trophy, as he expressed a desire to become a hero and romance young heroines again. As Dharmendra left, left behind was a room that had no dearth of willing, young, female hearts.
Let the show begin!
Earlier, at the beginning of the trophy-unveiling show, president of Parvasi
Entertainment and founder of PIFAA, Rajinder Saini, said, "The show is happening with the blessings of Dharmendra-ji and (PIFAA chief patron) Om Puri-ji and support from Harpreet Sethi of Black Diamond Entertainment."
Saini said he had gone through "tremendous labour pains for nine months to deliver the baby called PIFAA".
The awards to be given on Saturday would be in 21 different categories, including best film, direction, acting, music, lyrics, singing, cinematography editing, and the award for lifetime achievement.