The original Deol—Dharmendra—turns 88

Dharmendra celebrates his 88th birthday on December 8. Photo: Rajiv Vijayakar

It’s 88 years December 8, since a mammoth star and actor was born: Dharmendra. And this entire year has been one of bounties for him.

The actor who was probably the first to go shirtless (first in Shola Aur Shabnam and significantly then in Phool Aur Patthar), became known not just for emotions and romance but also for machismo, action and even comedy. He has been honored with the Padma Bhushan when his work deserves nothing less than the Dadasaheb Phalke Award as well.

For 63 years now (beginning with Dil Bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere that released in December, 1960), Dharmendra’s name has been synonymous with unusually great looks and a persona to match. Known as one of the nicest men in the Hindi film world, this man has been a part of some of its greatest and most memorable films, including Anupama, Satyakam, Jeevan Mrityu, Mera Gaon Mera Desh, Yaadon Ki Baraat, Chupke Chupke, Sholay, Dharam-Veer and more.

If his box-office hits are legion, so are his finest performances in all of the above films as well as Pratiggya, Ghazab, Apne and, last, latest but not the least, that small role he had in this year’s Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani.

What’s more, come his favorite singing voice, Mohammed Rafi or other giant and younger singers, or Shashwat Singh, his latest voice in Rocky…, Dharmendra remains one of our most musical stars of all time. His chartbusters alone would be in dozens, led probably by Main jat yamla pagla deewana that spawned the Yamla Pagla Deewana franchise.

In films, he has also been officially producer (Ghayal, Barsaat) and also a lyricist (in the song Kadd ke botal sung by Sukhwinder Singh) and unofficially produced several films (see below), some of which he also presented. A team player in the strictest sense (Mahesh Bhatt, then an assistant to producer Raj Khosla, recollected how he actually wore an actual truck driver’s used outfit when his costume was not available for a crucial time-bound shooting sequence in Do Chor!), Dharmendra was also known to creatively contribute to his movies, like the comic scene before the hit song, Sona lai ja re, in Mera Gaon Mera Desh.

Dharmendra also owns Sunny Super Sound, a recording and production complex in Mumbai’s Juhu, and apart from introducing family members like his sons and nephew Abhay Deol, has also mentored or helped give names like Rajkumar Santoshi, J.P. Dutta and Javed Akhtar (as solo writer after the Salim-Javed split) their breaks, and has flirted with politics too.

A brilliant poet (a gift he discovered during personal adversity), Dharmendra has also been an ideal husband to second wife Hema Malini and a great father to their daughters, Esha and Ahana, even as he remains with his first family of wife Prakash and four children. Today, he prefers to spend most of his time at his Khandala farm near Mumbai, amidst his beloved nature and animals, prone to post cute messages on Twitter and Instagram.

At 88, he is still doing an untitled Shahid Kapoor-Kriti Sanon film, Sriram Raghavan’s Ikkis, the biopic on Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal, and Apne 2 is said to be under production. Buzz is that he will play a role in Housefull 5 as well. After all, the camera loves him and he loves the camera and cinema with unbridled passion.

This year, the founder of the Deol clan in Hindi cinema has had a six-fold triumph. Here’s a look.

Dharmendra himself has delivered a terrific performance in Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahani. The film began Hindi cinema’s lucky phase in 2023 following a long lull after Pathaan. It is also one of the best films of the year and one of the biggest hits internationally.

Sunny Deol with Amisha Patel in Gadar 2. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

Sunny Deol, his elder son, got his first blockbuster in eons with the sequel to his all-time 2001 hit, Gadar—Ek Prem Katha. As Sunny put in on the show, Koffee with Karan, the film is “organically a major hit”. By this, he meant that the film already had a loving audience waiting to watch Tara Singh, his character, again, besides the fact that the admission rates, unlike other big movies, were not hiked initially. Despite this, on a production cost of Rs. 60 crore, the film earned Rs. 525 crore only in India, apart from the non-theatrical revenues and moneys from overseas theatres.

Bobby Deol made a mark in a small role in the whopper hit, Animal. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

Bobby Deol has just made an impact with a 10-minutes role of a baddie in the latest blockbuster, Animal. The film came to him when he was feeling down and out and he took it on, though the film focused on Ranbir Kapoor and Anil Kapoor.

Karan Deol in his debut film, Pal Pal Dil Ke Pass, with co-star Sahher Bamba. Photo: Publicity Photo

Karan Deol, Dharmendra’s oldest grandson in films and Sunny Deol’s elder son, got married on June 18 to Drisha Acharya. Dharmendra’s wife, Prakash Kaur, and Sunny’s wife, Pooja Deol were seen prominently at the wedding.

Rajveer Deol and Paloma in Dono. Photo: Universal Communications

Rajveer Deol, brother to Karan, made his debut in Rajshri Productions’ Dono. The film did not click, but Rajveer was appreciated for his performance.

Esha Deol’s co-production, Ek Duaa, won a Special Mention at the 69th National Film Awards. Photo: Publicity Photo

Esha Deol, Dharmendra’s and Hema’s daughter, had an indirect triumph. Her short film, the 2021 release, Ek Duaa, with which she made her debut as co-producer also, won a Special Mention in the category of non-feature films at the 69th National Film Awards. Interestingly, her mother, Hema Malini, celebrated her 75th birthday this year on October 16.



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