In the year 1958, a good-looking Punjabi hunk from a small town of Sanehwal came all the way to Mumbai and won Filmfare Talent Hunt, and with that Dharam Singh Deol started his dream journey of becoming an actor and went on to become the ‘He-man’ of Bollywood.
Dharmendra made his debut with Arjun Hingorani’s ‘Dil Bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere’ in 1960. Through the ’60s and the ’70s, he played the romantic hero who had a perfect comic timing, and later, in the ’80s, he turned into an action icon. Many superstars ruled the three decades, but he survived and charmed his way into the hearts of the masses to create a niche for himself.
Voted among the top 10 most handsome men in the world in the early ’70s, he was also the best dressed man in Bollywood; he could carry off anything with aplomb – be it fancy sweaters, slim pants or simple kurta pyjama. However, he was the most underrated actors. After receiving the Filmfare Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1997, he became emotional and said he had never won any Filmfare award in the Best Actor category despite having worked in so many successful films. In 2012, he was awarded Padma Bhusan, India’s third highest civilian honour.
He was the hero of all seasons and acted in over 300 films in a career spanning 55 years. In the ’80s, Dharmendra established Vijayta Films, named after his eldest daughter Vijeta, and turned producer to launch son Sunny Deol in ‘Betaab’ (1983), son Bobby Deol in ‘Barsaat’ (1995) and nephew Abhay Deol in ‘Socha Na Tha’ (2005) as actors.
The only time he attracted criticism was probably when he married Hema Malini in the 1980s but did not divorce his first wife Prakash Kaur. Apparently, he converted to Islam to keep two wives. He married Prakash in the year 1954 at the age of 19 and that was four years before he joined Bollywood. Despite his flaws, he is loved by one and all, be it his family or co-stars. He always lived up to his reputation of being the gentlemen and most bankable star.
Some of his popular movies are ‘Bandini’ (1963), ‘Haqeeqat’ (1964), ‘Phool Aur Patthar’ (1966), ‘Satyakam’ (1969), ‘Seeta Aur Geeta’ (1972), ‘Yaadon Ki Baraat’ (1973), ‘Sholay’ (1975), ‘Chupke Chupke’ (1975), and ‘Loha’ (1987).
Phool Aur Patthar
This was Dharmendra’s first hit movie after a series of flops and it catapulted him to stardom. This was also the movie in which he took his shirt off and gave a glimpse of his muscular physique. With this film, Dharmendra and Meena Kumari became a popular couple and went on to do many more movies together. It is said that Meena Kumari helped him make it big in Bollywood.
In the film, Dharmendra plays the role of a thief, Shaka. He is on a mission to rob a house in a village, where people are running away due to plague. He breaks into a house and finds an ailing widow Shanti (Meena Kumar) abandoned by her in-laws. Taking pity on her, he takes her home and nurses her back to health. She, in return, encourages him to start a new life and get rid of his criminal activities. But, it easier said than done, as Shaka’s boss would not let him go and Shanti’s in-laws lie in wait.
Director: OP Ralhan
Producer: OP Ralhan
Release date: August 14, 1966
The film was critically acclaimed and nominated for four Filmfare Awards. Ashok (Dharmendra), a writer and teacher, writes a book ‘Anupama’ based on the character of Uma in the film. Sharmila Tagore (Uma) has a troubled relationship with her father Mohan Sharma (Tarun Bose). Sharma holds Uma responsible for the death of his wife in childbirth, and he cannot detangle his love and resentment for his daughter.
Introverted Uma grows up on her own and shares a complicated relationship with her father. Her marriage is fixed with her dad’s friend’s son Arun (Deven Verma). But, Uma falls in love with Ashok, a close friend of Arun. Ashok helps Uma understand herself better and decide what she wants in life.
Dharmendra has done several other movies with Sharmila Tagore including ‘Satyakam’ (1969) and ‘Chupke Chupke’ (1975). While in ‘Anupama’ he played a serious role in ‘Chupke Chupke’ he played the role of Dr Parimal Tripathi, who has an incredible sense of humour, just like the real Dharamendra.
Director: Hrishikesh Mukherjee
Producer: LB Lachman
Release date: 1966
It is classic film known for its storyline, acting, dialogues and songs.
Amitabh Bachchan was a newcomer at the time and it was Dharmendra who showed faith in him and was influential in getting him the role of Jai.
Veeru (Dharmendra) and Jai (Amitabh Bachchan) are small-time criminals hired by a retired police officer Thakur (Sanjeev Kumar) to capture a ruthless dacoit Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan). Thakur’s hands are chopped off by Gabbar, and his family is brutally murdered except his youngest daughter-in-law Radha (Jaya Bhaduri). Thakur wants revenge for his family and for the people of his region who live in perennial fear because of the dacoit and his men.
Some of the evergreen songs from Sholay were ‘Yeh Dosti Hum Nahin Todenge’, ‘Mehbooba Mehbooba’, and ‘Koi Haseena Jab Rooth Jati Hai to’.
Classic dialogues written by Javed Akhtar and Salim Khan like “Kitne aadmi the? Woh do the aur tum teen, phir bhi waapas aagaye…”, “Yahan pachas pachas kos door tak jab bachcha rota hai, to maa kehti hai, beta so ja, so ja nahi to Gabbar aa jayega”, “Bhaaaag Dhanno bhaag aaj teri Basanti ki izzat ka sawal hai” are unforgettable.
Director: Ramesh Sippy;
Producer: GP Sippy;
Cast: Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Jaya Bhaduri, Hema Malini, Amitabh Bachchan, Amjad Khan
Release date: August 15, 1975
A hit film of the ’70s which apparently dethroned Rajesh Khanna from his ‘superstar’ status.
Reportedly, Dharmendra had refused to work with Mumtaz in the film because of her screen image, but agreed to act after being convinced by the director.The movie turned out to be a hit and the lead pair went on to do several movies together.
Ranjit (Dharmendra) is a thief working for a gang. Pratap (Premnath), leader of a rival gang, hires Rakesh (Roopesh Kumar) to spy on him, but it ends badly for Rakesh. His sister Anju (Mumtaz) is then entrusted with the work of spying on the rival gang. The gang leader tries to set a trap for Ranjit, but Anju warns him and he escapes. They fall in love and there’s more twist to the story.
Music was composed by Laxmikant Pyarelal and Anand Bakshi penned the lyrics. Two songs of the movie were chartbusters — ‘Koi Shehri Babu Dil Lehri Babu’ sung by Asha Bhosle and ‘Aaj Mausam Bada Beimaan Hai’ sung by Mohammed Rafi.
Director: A Bhimsingh
Producer: RC Kumar
Cast: Dharmendra, Mumtaz, Om Prakash, Premnath, KL Singh, Iftekhar, Madan Puri
Release date: March 12, 1973