Dharmendra has been active in Indian cinema for almost 6 decades. That is a long time for any active career. More so in a medium that is visual and where your looks play a big role. His journey from a village, very close to where I was born, is incredible. The fact that he still maintains the ways of the village is interesting even if you do not agree with him.
Rajiv Vijayakar starts chronologically by taking the reader back to Sahnewal, Dharmendra’s village in Punjab and his early days. He narrates how watching a Hindi Film prompted the young Deol to become an actor. Most people know that Filmfare talent hunt took him to Mumbai. But what I did not know is that he had already tried his luck in Mumbai before that. Difference between success stories and failures is the persistent effort. And the story of actor Dharmendra proves it time and again.
Chronology of Films
After a brief tour of his childhood days, Rajiv Vijayakar takes you through a chronology of his films giving details of each and every film. Now, what I was expecting was back stories and not really the cast and crew of the films and their release dates. To be fair, there are small anecdotes here and there, but they are far too less to present a cohesive narrative. Given that the author is in touch with Dharmendra and met him many times for the book, I expected the building of the journey.
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What Rajiv Vijayakar delves more into is the characters played by Dharmendra. I guess being a film critic came in the way of a biographer. He forgot that biography is usually to write about the life of a person of which his body of work is a small part.
The films are listed chronologically. It is like a walk through the history of Hindi Films from a Dharmendra Lens. The good part is that he brings out some of the best Dharmendra films that many in the current generation may not know. Even I saw Anupama very recently which is probably one of his best films. He also truthfully takes the readers through his failures. And his working in B and C grade films for a couple of decades. Which is probably when he lost the respect he earned earlier.
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There is a lot of focus on presenting him as a large-hearted man. Whose home is open to anyone, especially for people from Punjab. There are industry people talking about his generosity and naïve nature. He subtlety lets you know the irony too, where no one is allowed to see or meet his wife and daughters. The author is delighted when he got to see a glimpse of his wife at the actor’s home. He almost felt he won himself a trophy.
While Rajiv Vijayakar does talk about the Hema Malini chapter in his life or even the Meena Kumari Chapter. There is no version from the actor’s side. All that he mentions is from the publicly available resources including the biography of Hema Malini. Since the author mentioned that both the actors deny converting to Islam for getting married, it is obvious that the reader is keen to know the legal status of the marriage. This is even more relevant as one of them is a Member of Parliament – representing people of India in the law-making body. Even if you overlook that considering that the parties involved seem to be settled in their situation, I am sure there would have been problems with his first family. There is stoic silence, which one would not expect in a biography.
Dharmendra, Not Just A He-Man – A Biography by Rajiv Vijayakar at Amazon
Details of the films like the year of release, who produced it, how are they related to actor etc are repeated far too many times. Every time the film is mentioned, the same gets repeated. They are annoying when they come in the middle of some interesting anecdote.
Language is that of a reporter. Something that you usually see in the books by journalists. They are so used to writing for the moment, that not many transitions well to the long form narrative that can be read after a few years too.
If you are a fan of the actor, you would like the book. Others, please take your call.