Biggest stars, humblest ambitions: Salman Khan and Dharmendra

Dharmendra feels that Salman Khan is a lot like him—and he is. Photo: Publicity Photo

The man who was a superstar between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s, Dharmendra, and the man who has ruled from 1990 to the present (despite some low phases), Salman Khan, have interesting commonalities, besides sharing a warm rapport.

Both were known to be gentle and genteel on reel as much as they can be macho and furious. Both have bodies and fitness quotients that earn envy, and both actors are unmatched among their respective generations in a credible kind of action: when they beat toughies, one or multiple, it does not look absurd.

Forgetting their sole area of contrast—Dharmendra’s two marriages and six kids against Salman’s none!—the two were also known for their romantic flings and their off-screen professionalism, piquantly mixed with late reporting on sets! Finally, their fan following has been largely feminine (and of all ages and perspectives—lover, brother, friend, son!) but also includes men—again of all ages—especially from their respective communities, who look up at them as role-models.

Salman Khan shares a lot of qualities with his role-model, Dharmendra. Photo: Publicity Photo

And Garam Dharam is also Salman’s role-model! Of course, it is a mere coincidence that Dharmendra’s biggest hit, Sholay, was co-written by Salman’s father, Salim Khan, who also co-wrote his Seeta Aur Geeta, Yaadon Ki Baraat and Chacha Bhatija, each a super-hit! And as Dharmendra once stated in an interview, “Salman reminds me of myself. I was almost like him in my early days. I like his attitude and the way he lives his life. He has a great body too! Salman is like me: he always responds to his heart’s calling.” In 2017, Dharmendra was emotional and grateful when he told the media about Salman reviving his son Bobby Deol’s career with his home production, Race 3.

Known to let their hearts rule their heads and be conned into doing several (bad) movies they should not have touched with the proverbial barge-pole, they are paradoxically blessed by the Almighty with a humongous share of blockbusters in their careers, with a steady and consistent graph despite other stars shining and (in some cases) fading.

In other words, both are true-blue superstars. As for their professional associations, Dharmendra headed the cast of Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya (1998), which was Salman’s home production, and Salman made a special cameo in Dharmendra’s home production, Yamla Pagla Deewana Phir Se (2018), roping in Sonakshi Sinha and Shtarughan Sinha too to do the same. Incidentally, they both had separate cameos in Om Shanti Om in 2007. Salman also made a cameo in Tell Me O Kkhuda that starred Dharmendra and was produced and directed by his wife, Hema Malini, who also co-starred with Salman in Baghban and Baabul.

But now, yet another lovely similarity has come out in the open. When I was writing his biography, “Dharmendra: Not Just A He-Man” (Rupa Publications), the actor (who is also producer and has dabbled as a lyricist, just like Salman Khan!) had told me that when he came to Mumbai to be an actor, all he had wanted was “A Fiat (car) and a flat (apartment)!” And now we also know that Salman Khan’s modest ambition was “to make Rs. 10 lakh (a mllion)!”

That both goals are massive understatements does not need to be said. Clearly, modesty (in ambition) pays! Big-time!

And both know the value of hard work and money: Dharmendra has still preserved the Fiat car, which is still used to buy vegetables for his household, while Salman, as per director Chandra Barot, still knows the value of Rs. 10, which the director used to gift Salman’s brothers and him in the 1970s (while directing Don co-written by Salim Khan) for the (then-) kids to buy ice-cream!

Highest Grossers of Dharmendra (debut in 1960)

Phool Aur Patthar—1966’s biggest hit

Ankhen—1968’s biggest hit

Mera Gaon Mera Desh—1971’s second-biggest hit

Seeta Aur Geeta (co-written by Salim Khan)—1972’s biggest hit

Sholay (co-written by Salim Khan)—1975’s and Indian film industry’s biggest blockbuster

Dharam-Veer—1977’s second-biggest hit

Hukumat—1987’s biggest hit

Highest Grossers of Salman Khan (debut in 1988)

Maine Pyar Kiya—Biggest blockbuster of 1989 and entire 1980s

Saajan—Biggest hit of 1991

Hum Aapke Hain Koun!…—Biggest blockbuster of 1994 and entire 1990s

Karan Arjun—2nd biggest hit of 1995

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai—1998’s biggest hit

Biwi No. 1 & Hum Saath Saath Hain—Biggest hits of 1999

No Entry—2005’s biggest hit

Dabangg (Home production)—2010’s biggest hit

Bodyguard & Ready (both home productions)—2011’s biggest hits

Ek Tha Tiger—2012’s biggest hit

Kick—2014’s second biggest hit

Bajrangi Bhaijaan (home production)—2015’s biggest hit

Sultan—2016’s second biggest hit

Tiger Zinda Hai—2017’s biggest Hindi hit (after Bahubali 2—The Conclusion)




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