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When The Handsome, Young And Jobless Dharam Was So Hungry That He Didn’t Know He Was Having A Purgative For His Dinner….

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Ali Peter John

On February 14 while the world was celebrating Valentine’s Day, Dharmendra was somewhere on the highway in Karnal, Haryana, busy receiving guests to the inauguration of his second hotel, He-man (he had earlier opened his first dhaba called ‘Garam Dharam Dhaba’ which has caught on with all genuine foodies)I remembered one of the stories he had told me of his early days of struggling in Bombay. He had no place of his own, not even a room to himself or a bed as a paying guest like other strugglers had. He was depending on his friends from Punjab who mostly worked for the Western Railway and had their quarters in Santa Cruz, somewhere near the railway station. He used to go on his rounds to the different studios and to meet filmmakers and mostly return in a desperate condition, almost on the verge of giving up and going back to Sanewal in Punjab from where he had come to Bombay to try his luck after seeing some films like “Jugnu” and “Shaheed”, both of them starring Dilip Kumar and wanted to be nothing less than another Dilip Kumar. He told me that the only right spots of his struggling days was meeting a small time restaurant owner called Gupta Ji who used to take great delight in providing free lunch and dinner, besides glasses of tea to struggler who, most of them later went on to become some of the biggest stars and one of them, Sahir Ludhianvi became the shining light of Urdu poetry and the leading lyricist of Hindi films. But he said, he didn’t like being a burden on Gupta Ji all the time and looked for other ways of ‘taming the tiger of hunger within me’. He had also developed the habit of living on country liquor for which he had a regular ‘adda’ ‘Pascoal Bar’ situated in the fisherman’s village of Khar Danda and which was visited by anyone who was anyone in the industry and had heard about it as a stepping stone to success. The other bright spot during his days of struggle was a film journalist called L.P Rao who used to work for the Filmfare magazine and who was responsible for introducing the struggler Dharam to his idol’s (Dilip Kumar) sister who was also working for Filmfare, who in turn introduced him to her brother who spent one whole evening with him over the most expensive risky and the most delicious Mughlai Food, an evening Dharam has not been able to forget all his life. The other Pride spot in his struggling days was the time when he was standing in a crowd outside a studio in Dadar where Dev Anand was shooting. All he wanted like all the others was to have one glimpse of the evergreen star. Dev Anand came out during the break and suddenly saw him and called out to him and said, “hey youngman what are you doing in that proud? You are not made for that place, you are destined to be a big star one day” and he had gone away, but what he has said lingerd on in the young Dharam’s life….

But life was still to take a turn for the better. Of one thing, he was sure, he wanted to be a hero and would not compromise for anything else. The grimm struggle continued. The biggest battle for a young man who was used to living a comfortable life in Punjab, especially when it came to food, was the battle to keep hunger away. One evening, he came home, which was no home and was so hungry that he didn’t know what to do. To add to his misery, he had absolutely no money on him. He tried looking for something to eat all over the kitchen of his friend’s room and finally found some white powder in a glass jar. In his anger, his mind too refused to be kind to him. He emptied a part of the contents into a tumbler filled it with a water, stirred the contents into some kind of a paste and gulped it down. It was only when his friend came back that he realised that he had asked for serious trouble. The Powder he had turned into a paste was ‘Isabhghol’, one of the better known purgatives kept in every household for times of need. That was a tumultuous night for Dharmendra Singh Deol.

The next day, he decided to pack his bag and leave for Sanewal. The only friend he wanted to inform about his decision to leave was Manoj Kumar, his friend of the the struggling days, who had just signed few films. He wrote a note to ‘Mannu'(that’s what hi called Manoj Kumar) and luckily for him is note fell into the hands of ‘Mannu’ at the right time and Mannu rushed to the railway station and succeeded in convincing him to come back because he saw very bright future for him. Mannu asked to give him a chance and wait for 2 more months. It took Dharam just two weeks to sign films like “Anpad”,“Dil Bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere” and “Aankh Ki Parchhaiyyaan” with leading filmmakers like Mohan Kumar and Arjun Hingorani, who was to spend the rest of his life making films only with Dharmendra.

Dharmendra, the actor won recognition when noted directors like Bimal Roy and Hrishikesh Mukherjee signed him to play very sensitive roles in their films like “Bandini” and “Satyakam”. Dharmendra was now looking for a big commercial hit. He was now known man among some of the best known names in the industry and one of them happened to be the tragedy queen, Meena Kumari, who was unfortunately in the last phase of her career because of her falling a victim to alcohol and was willing to play the roles of a widow (“Dushman”), another (“Naunihaal”), and a grandmother (“Mere Apne”). She agreed to play a widow in white in actor-filmmaker O.P Ralham’s “Phool Aur Patthar” in which Dharmendra appeared as the He-Man, perhaps the first hero to appear bare-chested in a Hindi film. That one scene shot him to superstardom and to this day, when he is all of 84, people, men, women and even children call him the ‘Garam Dharam’ and the He-Man.

In the last 50 years, he has shown himself as a man of many colours. He could be a tough man, a soft man and a combination of both in one film. He could play better comic character than the best of branded comedians. He was the first actor to bring life into to action scenes. He was as good as playing the lover (imagine a hero known as a He-Man doing 17 romantic films with one actress, Hema Malini, who he ultimately married, even though he had to break customs and traditions for it). He is still growing as a very good poet. He has been spending most of his time during the last 15 years on his farm in Khandala, where he gets into the skin of his real-life character as a farmer and talks more about brinjals, cauliflowers, gourd, onions, tomatoes and various fruits more than the heroines he once used to talk about. The man who came to Bombay armed only with his dreams is now the head of the Deol Empire, with his son’s, Sunny and Bobby almost playing out their careers and Sunny becoming a MP of the BJP and his grandson Karan Singh Deol just joining the empire with “Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas”, one of the most romantic songs in in the history of Hindi films, picturised on the He-Man, the Dharmendra and Raakhee, a fact made possible only by a genius of a director like Vijay Anand.

The only time Dharmendra Singh Deol makes an unhappy face is when he is termed as a BJP MP from Bikaner in Rajasthan. Ask him why and he he says, “Jo baat Apne Bus mein nahin Hoti, usko chhod Dena achha hota Hai, maine yah baat ek kimat dekar seekhi, lekin achcha hua, der hi Sahi seekh toh li”.Hi

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