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Superstar To "Super Dad"

As veteran actor Dharmendra gets ready to celebrate his 75th birthday on December 8, a window into his world from his biggest fan, Bobby Deol

First Time On His Set
It’s been so many years, I can’t recollect which film or which scene it was. But I know that the first film I must have seen must have been one of my father’s. I was probably in a dark hall, on a big screen, and I could see my father on it. While growing up, I watched all his movies. I have never looked upon him at as an actor. Like in any other normal family, you look up to your father and my father was everything. I have never looked at him as a superstar or anything beyond being a dad. My father, as a father, was a superstar. You know how it is for a child!

The Person Th at He Is
He is the warmest, most big-hearted man you will ever come across and I am so blessed to have been born to him as a son. I am so blessed to be born into this home. When I started attending his shootings, I got to be with him more than the others because I was the youngest. It was great fun. I used to go out with him just to be out with my father. I would look at people looking at him and I wondered why they were looking at him like that. Then I saw in their eyes that he was not just an actor or superstar to them but he was a warm human being... he was one of them. He was like a family member to them – that’s how people look at him.

To date, there is not a single actor in the industry who enjoys the goodwill that he does. People know him as a man, as a human being and then as an actor, whereas all the other actors are either actors or stars. That’s what makes my dad stand out, all alone as a unique human being.

His Movies
I have watched lots of his movies. I have been to so many of his shootings. I mean, Sholay is one film everybody talks about. I was on the sets of Sholay when I was a kid and I had no idea what was happening then. I had gone to Bangalore when they were shooting. The whole village set was put up as Ramgarh. Afterwards, people started calling it Ramgarh. I have been to so many shootings with him, and to Bangalore a lot. I have spent a lot of time with him outdoors.

Simple Lifestyle
We live a very simple lifestyle. We don’t talk about ourselves as people from the industry. We lead normal lives just the way any other family does. So when I was in school and college, especially in school, I didn’t realise that people were looking at me as the son of a superstar. I was very unaware of all these things. When you’re in college, obviously people know who you are because you have grown up and so people used to look at me. So obviously I was “somebody” – his son.

He’s Th e Best
I don’t think anyone can compare with him because I don’t think anyone can match up to his looks. I mean to date, there hasn’t been a single man who has been as good looking as my father. There may have been some good looking people but in the 50 years he has been in this industry, I don’t think anyone has matched up to his looks. He is beautiful on the inside and on the outside. He is an amazing human being and it shows on his face.

He’s No t Just An Angry Man
People, especially the media, have never really shown what my dad is all about. What happens is, agar ek action film ka dhindhora peet diya toh matlab action hero bana diya papa ko. Papa ne kitne kisam ke filmain ki hai. There are so many types of roles he has done and all his films have been hits. The industry is notorious for tagging people so they call him the “first action hero”.

Yes, he was the first actor to remove his shirt on screen, in Phool Aur Patthar, and everyone went crazy. Guys started building their physique after they watched him in that film. But my dad did it simply because of the character he was playing. It was not as if he did it on purpose to show his physique.

I think my dad is not just an action hero but an actor. I know people will think I am biased when I say this but I don’t care – my dad is an actor who can play any type of character. He has proved that time and again. So, as an actor, my dad is an Iron Man.

No Preaching
We have never really criticised each other’s work. When you are working, you are doing your best but sometimes, the film doesn’t fall into place. You think, “Oh, it’s too bad the film did not shape up the way it could have.” I don’t think there is anything to criticise about my father.

Simple Ways
As I said, we are a very simple family. On his birthday, like every year, we will have a hawan. And, like every year, many of his fans come to meet him. And they sill continue to come every year. For them, Dharmendra can never grow old. He is evergreen and will always stay young for them. Fifty years in this industry is an awesome achievement.

24X7
It is amazing. He has worked as an actor because he had a passion for it. But family comes first. So when his films didn’t turn out great, he didn’t really care. He sometimes chose the wrong films.

He used to do four-four shifts. There were times when he used to shoot in Delhi, come back in the morning and shoot in Bombay, and then return to Delhi in the evening and shoot there the whole night. I don’t think anyone can do that now. Earlier, a lot of actors worked double shifts. My dad has worked really hard. That’s why we are here. We are loved so much because of my dad.

No Co mplaints
I never complained that he was busy all the time. I used to wait for him to return at night and sit with him even if it was two o’clock in the morning, I used to wake up and sit with him. I used to take advantage and ask him for things like watch a video film and things like that.

Sometimes we used to go swimming together. I remember when we would take the jeep to Juhu beach. At that time, itni population nahi thi yaha par. Ghar itne nahi the... khali khali tha... We used to sit on the bonnet of the car, even in the rain. He’s a morning person, so we used to wake up early and go for a walk together. I hated waking up early but I loved his company.

We used to play every morning. We used to play badminton. We also used to catch hold of everybody and play volleyball together. I have played gulli danda with him when we were shooting in Madhumalai. It’s been great fun!

He’s What He Is
I don’t think he will ever change. He was born the way he is today. I think it’s the upbringing. My grandparents, my grandmother, was a very selfless woman. He has got this from his mother and discipline from his father because my grandfather was a very disciplined man. My grandfather used to wake up at four every morning, say his prayers and go for a walk. He used to sleep early and eat healthy. He has got all that from his parents and I have got whatever I have from mine.

On Choosing Wrong Movies
I don’t think so. I don’t think he has gone wrong in his life because that is what he was and this is what he is. How can you change yourself for selfish reasons? He has often accepted a film because the producer needed his help. He is not a selfish man. I think that is what makes him so great.

On Turning Actor
I think he always wanted me to be an actor. It’s natural for a father to want his son to become what he himself is. When a father is a doctor, he wants his sons to be doctors; when a father is into banking, he wants his sons to get into banking. So being an actor, he wanted us to be actors. I guess he would have been a little upset if I hadn’t become an actor. Yes, he is very happy now.

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