Happy Birthday Dharmendra: Bollywood’s Jat Yamla who is all muscle and heart
Actor Hema Malini, when asked how she fell in love with Dharmendra, has often said that she had never met a man as handsome as him. In the early 1970s, he was voted as the 10 most handsome men in the world, this in an era where there was no internet, and hardly any television. To an entire generation of cine goers, Dharmendra may be a graying old man, known as the father of actor Esha Deol, but in his day, he was among the most striking men in Bollywood.
To several generations of film lovers starting from the 1960s, right up to the 1980s, Dharmendra was a dashing hero like none other — muscular yet childlike and utterly romantic. A hero, who as the male lead, romanced beautiful women, bashed up baddies and, in his later years, pulled off comedy with ease. He subsequently went to launch both his sons, Sunny Deol and Bobby Deol, into films. His romance and subsequent marriage with Hema Malini is stuff of legends and, perhaps, one of the most successful love stories of Bollywood.
Dharmendra was born in Punjab’s Ludhaina district into a Jat Sikh family. Son of a school headmaster, Dharmendra was smitten by the moving images from a very early age. Many might find it hard to believe but Dharmendra got into Bollywood not through any connections or luck, but was selected as part of a Filmfare talent hunt contest.
Married at he young age of 19 to girl called Prakash Kaur in 1954, Dharmendra arrived in Mumbai (then Bombay) from Punjab looking for a job. He made his debut in Arjun Hingorani’s Dil Bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere in 1960. From then to 1967, he was cast as a romantic hero, starring with actors like Nutan, Nanda and Saira Banu. Not many know that he formed a successful team with late actor Meena Kumari, with whom he worked in seven films. It is often said that they were romantically involved. However, what was certain was that Meena Kumari helped him establish himself as a romantic hero in an era dominated by triumvirate of Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand with the second line of actors like Rajendra Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Raaj Kumar and Sunil Dutt enjoying much success.
With Phool aur Patthar (1966), he was first seen in an action role. The film would be a precursor to a host of action-oriented films. While action as a genre was hardly prevalent in Bollywood, a hero who would bash up the baddie got a new paradigm in the ‘Jat’ image of Dharmendra. Films like Dharam Veer, Charas, Azaad, Katilon Ke Kaatil, Ghazab, Rajput, Bhagawat, Jaani Dost, Dharm Aur Qanoon, Main Intequam Loonga, Jeene Nahi Doonga, Hukumat and Raaj Tilak all fell in this bracket.
Through the 1970s, many of films with Amitabh Bachchan would feature fight sequences, which earned him the moniker, Garam Dharam.
The 1970s also saw him pairing with Hema Malini. They did a number of films together including ones like Raja Jani, Seeta Aur Geeta, Sharafat, Naya Zamana, Patthar Aur Payal, Tum Haseen Main Jawaan, Jugnu, Dost, Charas, Maa, Chacha Bhatija, Azaad and Sholay. It was in the course of these films that the two fell in love and after much opposition from all sides, married in 1980 in a simple Tamil ceremony at her home in Mumbai. A married man, father of four children, in a rather public affair with one of the most sought-after actor in Bollywood (Sanjeev Kumar was hopelessly in love with her and allegedly was so dejected that he remained single all his life and Jeetendra nearly married her; she backed out at the last moment.) was as controversial as it could get. Their affair still remains one of the most talked-about romances of Bollywood.
In his later years, Dharmendra was seen a whole host of comic roles as well. To most of people in their late 30s and 40s, in films like Chupke Chupke and Sholay, Dharmendra’s comic timing is stuff of legends. He appeared in other films where his flair for comedy was on display such as Tum Haseen Main Jawan, Do Chor and Naukar Biwi Ka.
Dharmendra wasn’t only about his ‘Jat’ image, romantic or otherwise. He will forever be remembered for delivering some sensitively etched characters like the ones in films like Satyakam, Anupama and Khamoshi.
Apart from Meena Kumar and Hema Malini, Dharmendra formed successful pairings with Tanuja, Asha Parekh, Mala Sinha, Sharmila Tagore and Rakhi onscreen.
Some of Hindi film’s most romantic songs have been picturised on him--Mere Mehboob Tujhe Salaam from Baghavat (1982), Tumein Dil Mein Bandh Karun Dariya Mein Pheink Doon Chaabi from Aas Paas (1981), Yeh Dil Tum Bin Kaheen Lagta Nahin Hum Kya Karen from Izzat (1968), Aaj Mausam Bada Beimaan from Loafer (1973) and Main Jat Yamla Pagla Deewana from Pratigya (1975) to name a few.
Dharmendra may not visible on big screen as often as his contemporaries like Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor, but the actor maintains a rather busy Instagram page.
On his 83rd birthday today, here are some of his best posts over the years and some of his best songs.
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