I never thought of becoming No 1 or No 2: Dharmendra
Dharmendra, 78, came to Mumbai at the age of 23 after winning the all India Filmfare talent contest. He is the replica of his mother and believes that the woman is the pillar of every home, be it his mother or his wife. He has remained humble and neutral and knows that he alone can bring himself out of a low period. While he hoped to see himself mentioned at least once somewhere with our cinema completing a 100 years, the absence of the same has made him more patient. Ahead of his upcoming film Yamla Pagla Deewana 2, he talks to TOI about his caring son Sunny, who has become his father, why he could not sleep after his music launch and how humanity is more powerful than religion. Excerpts:
At 78, how do you feel?
I know I am getting old, but at heart, I am really young. Life has to come to an end and everyone has to go. Shohrat ka anth gumnami hai. So whatever God has given you, usko aaj samajh ke jee bhar ke jiyo. There are ups and downs in every life. I never cried or shouted when I was down nor did I look for help or find a shoulder to cry on. When I got success, it never went to my head. This is how I am going on and I hope God is with me. I am a true person, so definitely this is my strength. Why do we become actors? To be loved and admired. I am both, loved and admired. God is inside everyone and so we need to give back to people who have loved us.
In today’s day and age, to keep a large family like yours intact and happy is a difficult asking. How have you achieved that?
This is what I have been taught by my parents. We came with that blessing from a small village in Punjab, where we had a liking for a few things and did not have many. So I know that I should not run behind everything and know the value of life. I am satisfied and want everyone to be around me. I try and take everybody with me just like in the village, where we would look after each other and stay together. If a woman would get down from a train, I would pick up her luggage and drop her home with her children. My village background is not going away from me and is, in fact, deeply buried inside me.
Your sons, Sunny and Bobby, are extremely attached to you. How is Sunny?
He is like me, but is quite introverted. He is also more emotional than I am. He can do anything for his father, mother, family, workers, neighbours, friends and is the kind of person who would even borrow money to help others. I was born to a school teacher and know what will happen if we don’t have money tomorrow. So at least I would not borrow money to help others. Between my sons, I am more confident about Sunny. He has started taking care of me, due to which I have become younger. I am like his son and he, my father. He wants to make films for me. Woh Dharmendra ki jaga le raha hai aur main Sunny banta chala jaa raha hoon.
Bobby has been always protected by you earlier and now, even by Sunny. Are you more worried about him?
Even though he is 46, Bobby is the baby of the family and has always been looked after by everybody. Yes, earlier I used to protect him and now Sunny protects him. We both want that he should come out and protect himself and go further with his achievements. I do get worried for him. While Bobby is intelligent, Tanya is even more intelligent and knows much more than him and I know she will look after him.
Abhay’s style of acting is different than yours. How do you find him as an actor?
He is a fine actor and is the most natural actor in the industry. The day I saw him in Socha Na Tha, I came home and told my brother Ajit, ‘Apne ghar mein Motilal paida ho gaya hai.’ Motilal to me is the most natural actor.
Which was the toughest period of your life?
It was a miracle for me how at the age of 23, I became the winner of the all India Filmfare talent contest and got to work with Bimal Roy in Bandini with Nutan. My breath was my prayer. I am grateful to my parents to give me this face and looks and health and then to God for giving me the luck. From 1997, for 10 years, it was an extremely low period for me. In 2001, it became unbearable. I was not getting films. I also had a back operation and within a few days had to be operated upon again. I would feel extremely low and lonely. If I am healthy I can fight anything, but if I am not healthy, I feel low. That’s the time I started writing poetry as my loneliness and silence would talk to each other. But, I have always had the strength to struggle and fight it out.
Who is your emotional anchor?
I depend very much on myself. I have a lot of self-respect and only I can bring myself out. I don’t expect anything from anybody.
The music launch of Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 brought the two big Khans, Aamir and Shah Rukh, to share the stage dancing on your songs happily like little boys. How did you achieve that?
Aamir, Shah Rukh, Hrithik and all the young boys who also came are like my sons. They all came in by my calling them just once. I was so emotional that day that I thought of them the whole night and could not sleep, as I was so happy just thinking about the respect they gave me. Isse bada makaam mujhe chahiye bhi nahi.
In an industry that is so competitive, how have you survived 54 years being so simple and neutral?
Had I been competitive then I would not have lasted for so many years. I never thought of becoming No 1 or No 2. There is no mention of mine in 100 years of cinema in which I have done 54 years. While I do wish I had been mentioned at least once somewhere, I don’t feel bad as I know that nothing remains forever. It does not give me pain, but instead makes me strong and adds to my quality of patience and perseverance. My love for humanity and being truthful are my strengths. This affection and caring nature ensures I get love from everybody and am not uneasy anywhere. In every corner, wherever we go, I get complete love, affection and respect. Recently, I met a Muslim couple at New York airport. His wife was wearing a burkha and he looked at me and said ‘Dharmendra?’ He stopped there and had tears in his eyes. I held his hands and hugged him. He and I both went away after that. Humanity is more powerful than religion.
The way films are marketed has changed from earlier times. Are you comfortable with all this promotion?
It’s not show business anymore. It’s now showoff business.
Is winning awards important for you?
They are immaterial for me, to be frank. I don’t want to suffer, so I don’t get into it. I came to Mumbai with the hope of owning only one Fiat car and a flat. I feel I am the luckiest person on earth with lovely children and am admired and loved by people all around me. Duniya mein kisi ke dreams poore nahi hote kabhi bhi. Kisi ko mukamal jahan nahi milta. I have got much more than what I asked for.
Is there anything you would correct about your life?
Every human being makes mistakes in life. Khed is liye nahi hai ki apne aap ko aage sudhaar leta hoon.
Don’t know how many actors in the world can act at 78?
This is God’s great blessings on me. Meri aatma bahut saaf hai. Yehi mere chehre pe aa jati hai. I love the camera and without films, I am nothing. I will continue to work even after this and I think I am capable.