On Thursday (December 8), Dharmendra turns 81. From all accounts, he spends most of his time at his Khandala-Lonavla farmhouse. On occasion, he hangs out with the janta comprising his loyal fans at a nearby dhaba, regaling them with shero-shayari.
For over a decade now, Dharmendra has developed a penchant for poetry and has been writing couplets and verses himself. He has rejected lucrative offers from publishers for his autobiography, saying that he has been authoring one himself – in Urdu! When it is ready he may self-publish it.
When I asked Hema Malini about that, she laughed, “You know how he is. Yes, he has this fascination for Urdu poetry but I have been telling him to get a writer to pen his autobiography. Will you do it?”
“Thank you Hemaji,” I responded. “But I think it’s best if Dharam sir does it himself. I’ve heard some of his poems. It will be a different kind of biography for sure. Moreover, I’m too much of a fan of his to be objective.” “Think about it,” Hemaji smiled, and we left it at that.
To be honest my connection with Dharmendra, justly remembered as the hero of astonishingly good looks and a personality which suggested a soft heart behind a tough exterior, is deep-rooted. There was a time when I was a boy in knickers who couldn't get a ticket to a "house full" show of Jeevan Mrityu or Aaya Saawan Jhoom Ke at Mumbai’s Alankar cinema.
I couldn't ever develop biceps like those of the hero but I did take to wearing knee-length kurtas after seeing him as the earnest young man who serenades Sharmila Tagore at a gathering by the piano in Anupama.
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Hey but that's another story.. maybe a socio-psychological one about the impact of cinema on the impressionable spectators. Just a few days away from his 81st salgirah , I’d like to reconstruct the conversation I had with him way back in 2007.
His home production – Apne featuring him with sons Sunny and Bobby Deol – had just been released. He was in the U.S., and was calling from a clear landline but asked to make sure, “Hello, hello dear..can you hear me?”
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And our conversation went like this:
Yes sir, I can hear you. How's it going? What's the response to Apne overseas?
London and Canada were fantastic. It's almost as if I'm reconnecting with the audience after ages.
Will your production banner – Vijeta Films – get active again?
Now that I've got that incentive to work hard, very hard again, things at Vijeta will start happening soon. Filmein banani padengi. What else do we know anyway?
I've just returned from the Naaz cinema in San Francisco. Everyone seemed to be moved and applauded as soon as the film ended. In Mumbai, I believe the collections are picking up. Getting positive feedback is as if someone has breathed new life into me. My mother used to say "Son, don't give up till you've touched the sky". I have a long way to go yet...two-three films are being planned.
Anil (Sharma) will be making Masters with Sunny, Bobby and me again. It's about three con men.. bilkul phitoos. Then there's a script for Sunny and me about two crooks whose dhanda is to fall in love again and again. We're also thinking of a Seven Year Itch kind of movie..you've seen it?
But here the man gets a 50-year-itch.
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What were you doing in Anurag Basu’s Life in a Metro.. getting so close to Nafisa Ali?
Why dear, didn't you like the film?
I certainly did not like your Kis Kiski Kismat with Mallika Sherawat.
Why are you reminding me of that? I was just missing the camera..so kar diya. Bhool jaao usko,
It’s believed that Bobby is your laadla, you’re stricter with Sunny.
No no, nothing like that. Both of them are equally precious. I love so many outsiders..so you can imagine how much I love them.
On another note, what do you think about the constant criticism of your performance as the Bikaner MP?
Even you're asking me this? Do I really have to prove the things that I have done for Bikaner? Maybe I'll just have to publish a book with photographs as proof of the work I've done there.
I'm not hungry for manipulated wah wahs. I’ve never believed in thrusting myself..saying I've done this and that. If I'd wanted to do that, I would never have allowed anyone to grab any headlines away from me. I want to be in the dils of the people, not in the headlines. Frankly I hate to be in politics. I'd rather be an insaan than a devta.
In retrospect, Anil Sharma’s Masters didn’t happen. But a film on the same lines – Yamla Pagla Deewana did. Plus a sequel.As for that 50-year-old itch, no show on that, not yet at least.
And I’d like to think of Dharmendra, as the gentle toughie today chilling out at his farmhouse, composing sonnets about the days that were.
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