This guy Dharmendra had me at hello really, and the more I see of him, the more I love him. There are SO many reasons why I love (love love) Dharmendra, but here are the top 10:
1. HE’S GORGEOUS: Duh. This one’s a no-brainer. From the beautifully chiselled features to that fit physique, Dharam-ji is just, simply put, one good-looking specimen of manhood.
This is particularly enjoyable to me because, no offence meant, but for me, there aren’t really a whole lot of really gorgeous leading men in Hindi cinema. Plenty of charismatic, interesting-looking heroes for sure, but I really do feel that the women have always outdone the men in terms of physical beauty. Good looks (in the ‘classic’ sense) aren’t quite as important for the men of Bollywood – what’s more important for them is screen presence, charm and believability – which is why overweight heroes with questionable styling choices have held sway at the box office at various times. Of course, this is probably changing now (which I am actually not sure is a good thing), as the unconventional good looks of Aamir Khan and SRK gives way to the modelesque beauty of the Neils and Ranbirs of the noughties. (All this is purely my opinion, of course – I’m sure plenty of people will disagree.)
Anyway, to get back to the point, Dharmendra has always been a real treat and feast for the eyes for me in terms of his physical beauty. As one of my commenters pointed out a while ago, he was one of the first mainstream leading men in Bollywood to train for his roles – to make sure that his legs were toned and honed in preparation for Dharam Veer and all the other movies in which he proudly showed them off. He was in fantastic physical condition, carrying off very physically challenging roles with great aplomb, well into in his 40s and even his 50s, which is pretty remarkable considering that he also had a well-publicised drinking problem.
It’s often said that Dharam ji’s beauty was at its peak in the 60s, which I tend to agree with – but as I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I do tend to prefer his slightly more mature looks in the early-to-mid 70s – for me, he was just irresistible in his early-to-mid thirties.
2. THAT VOICE: I love Dharam’s voice... there’s something so raw, yet noble, strong, and almost pure about it. A little huskiness, but not enough to be menacing. A certain innocence and freshness, but not enough to be girly. Unlike his son Sunny, he wasn’t much of a shouter in his movies – he generally spoke in lower tones, and even when he got really mad, his voice would generally go lower and more menacing, not necessarily louder. But for all its quietness, Dharmendra’s voice has always held authority and projected whatever was need, whether it was anguish, angst, confidence, comfort, laughter, love.... Brilliant dialogue delivery – he always emotes so well with his voice.
And I know this has nothing to do with his voice, but I also think Dharam had fabulous lip-syncing skills – I really love watching him lip-sync to Hemant Kumar’s haunting voice in the beautiful ‘Ya Dil Ki Suno Duniyawalon’ (Anupama), or to Mohammed Rafi’s agonised voice in ‘Hui Shaam Unka Khayal’ (Mere Humdum Mere Dost). Such expressiveness in his features....
3. Speaking of his voice, another thing I love about Dharmendra is his ANGREZI!!: (By the way, I really love that word, Angrezi). Dharmendra’s father was a school headmaster in Ludhiana, but as far as I know, Dharam himself didn’t go to college. When he does speak (often halting) English in interviews etc (which isn’t often – you get the feeling he’s far more comfortable with Hindi), you very much get the sense that he pretty much taught himself the language through practice. I do feel that Dharam places a high premium on education, as seen in the high level of education his children have received, particularly in the UK. But I don’t know that Dharmendra himself enjoyed an advanced level of formal education. He probably finished secondary school and then started working immediately after that to support his family. He married young, became a father at a young age, and was working in movies by the age of 20, so he almost certainly did not go to university. (I would love to know if anyone has more info on his early life – I’ve not found a whole lot on the net)
For all this, Dharmendra has played an incredible number of Angrezi-speaking, highly educated individuals in his career – from a brilliant college student (Ayee Din Bahar Ke), to a novelist (Anupama), to professors (Chupke Chupke, Dillagi), to an engineers (Satyakam), to a doctor (Bandini), to an award-winning scientist (Black Mail), he’s played them all, and very convincingly too. Just as he’s also played loads of street rogues, criminals, etc with little or no English skills (Sholay, Patthar Aur Phool, Ram Balram, Samadhi, etc). And if there’s one thing I enjoy, it’s hearing Dharmendra do his Angrezi dialogues.
Whether he’s playing a highly educated man or an illiterate one ‘murdering’ the English language, there’s just something about it. I can’t put my finger on it, maybe it’s the beautiful accent, or the very precise enunciation or that certain shyness/uncertainty that comes through at times, but it’s just wonderful... it just gets me. Every time. And I’m not the only one – Rum feels the same, as does the lovely Bollywood Deewana – in fact he made this fab little video of Dharam’s English dialogues in Krodhi (which looks like a fabulously camp film – the wig and beard alone are quite amazing – I must watch it!). I just looove this video to bits and watch it whenever I need a pick-me-up. Enjoy.
4. SENSITIVITY: I would love to say that whenever I think about a man with sensitivity, I think about Dharam, but thanks to Ralph Tresvant, all that comes to mind is an R&B song from the 90s (albeit a pretty good one). But back to the topic at hand. There is such a sweetness and sensitivity about Dharmendra that just makes my heart melt. Especially with his leading ladies... in films like Anupama, where he’s gently coaxing a timid girl out of her shell, or Black Mail, where he shyly confesses his feelings to Rakhee’s lovely Asha and then eventually struggles to deal with his crushing disappointment when he feels used by Asha. There is something so sweet about Dharmendra sometimes, you just want to put your arms around him and give him a hug. Manly as he is (and he is very manly indeed), in his best onscreen performances you just get the feeling that he feels things deeply.
5. HUMOUR: Dharmendra has such a great sense of humour onscreen, and fantastic comic timing too. Sometimes he gets really, really wacky (Ghazab, for example – those buck teeth and that whiny act were just something else!); other times it’s more subtle (like the witticisms in Chupke Chupke), but it’s always fun. The great thing about Dharam’s comedy is the way he throws himself into it and isn’t afraid to look silly or undignified. He’ll happily dance like an absolute idiot if required... in fact; you often get the sense that he really enjoys laughing at himself.
Now who could possibly resist that??
And now, this post is getting longer than expected (and why on earth did I not expect it??), so I shall be back with Part 2 of this list later....