India’s handsomest actor Dharmendra turned a young sprightly 84 on December 8. And his fans and well-wishers kept him busy throughout the day.
I finally caught up with one of the most affable human beings in the entertainment industry late in the evening when Dharamji was exhausted. “But how can I not take your call even if I’m tired? You’ve always been so warm and loving, not only to me but also to Hema. My birthday wouldn’t be complete without your good wishes,” says Dharamji.
The only other actor who had the ability to make me feel so special was Dev Anand. Dev Saab is gone. I miss him.
Thankfully Dharamji is with us, and in good health. Touch wood!
“I was down with dengue for a while. Now there’s just some pain in my knees. Othewrise I am fine. I forced the dengue out of my knees,” he jokes.
Always, that perfect comic timing. Remember Chupke Chupke, Pratiggya and Yamla Pagla Deewana?
Dharamji confesses he misses the camera. “I belong in front of the camera. I haven’t done a film in some time. But I am planning to get back (to acting). My fans and well-wishers miss me. Unka pyar ne mujhe zinda rakha hai. They’re my oxygen.”
I remind him of how much positivity and joy he spreads by just being himself.
Laughing shyly Dharamji says, “God sent me down here to spread happiness, to put smiles on as many faces as possible during my lifetime. When you say I’ve succeeded in doing that I feel my life is fulfilled. I can’t thank the Almighty up there and my well-wishers down here enough for all the love that I get. If I’ve been able to give back even a fraction of that love that I’ve got, I am a happy man.”
I ask Dharamji about his unfulfilled dreams, and he says, “I want to see every human being freed of pain. I want to see diseases, corruption and discrimination eliminated from our country. You say it’s impossible? I’ve always dreamt of the impossible. I was a boy from a small village in Punjab. Who would have thought I’d be loved by everyone?”
Does Dharamji have any favourite films from his oeuvre? “So many… They’re all special. But Hrishida’s (Hrishikesh Mukherjee)’s Anupama, Satyakam and Chupke Chupke were special.”
Coincidentally his co-star in all the three favourite films was Sharmila Tagore who is born on the same day as Dharamji.
So is Sharmila Tagore his favourite co-star?
“One of my favourites. But my most favourite co-star is Hema,” he says shyly.