Over five decades in the film industry and still going strong. Dharmendra has just had a new release but admits to being media shy and is clearly uncomfortable in the movie world of today where good films suffer because they are not promoted and where everything is commodified.
When celebrities are looking for extra media mileage, the veteran actor, whose "Tell Me O Kkhuda" released Friday, says he is not game for too much exposure.
"They (people) call me media shy: I am media shy because I don't want so much exposure. We make films, they work and people like them, that's enough for me. I try to maintain my privacy; that's why we don't make so many public appearances," Dharmendra told IANS in an interview. His sons Sunny and Bobby Deol too avoid the limelight.
"In our times, people were very curious to know about stars like Nargis, Madhubala, Dilip Kumar - how they used to live, who they were. But we don't see that today, as there has been a lot of exposure. Everyone today knows how actors live, what they do," added the 75-year-old, who has been part of Bollywood for 50 years.
Bollywood's original He Man entered showbiz in 1960 with "Dil Bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere" and went on to work in all kind of films -- from the lyrical "Bandini" and the serious "Satyakam" to comic classics like "Chupke Chupke" and, of course, the cult entertainer "Sholay".
Dharmendra remained a private person through the decades of fame and stardom.
"Everything has become more of a drama. We have started commodifying things. Someone in Bikaner has opened a studio in my name and is enjoying his work. People organise my birthday parties and call me to attend my birthday celebrations. I don't feel comfortable doing all these things," he said.
"We have started taking advantage of everything. Love has also been commodified; people have started exploiting love. I miss the time when everyone used to stay together with all the love, exchanging things with neighbours.
"I still live in that environment. That is still in my roots. It has given me life and I have the same environment at my home. Even my kids have stuck to their roots," he added.
Born in a Jat family, Dharmendra had girls swooning over his looks during his heyday.
"I connect with everyone and I want everyone to be happy," said Dharmendra, who will be seen in his actress wife Hema Malini's directorial venture "Tell Me O Kkhuda", which marks his daughter Esha's re-launch in films.
Promotions have become an inevitable part of the film industry due to which other good films do suffer, rues Dharmendra.
"Filmmakers have made the audience so used to promotions that if a film is not promoted at a certain level, people feel that the film is not worth watching," he said.
Giving the example of two of his films, he added: "Good films fail to work because they are not promoted the way they should have been. 'Apne' was a bigger film than 'Yamla Pagla Deewana' but the producer did not have enough money to promote the film.
"We extensively promoted 'Yamla Pagla Dewana'; moreover the script was also good and people enjoyed it completely. However, it's true if the films today are not promoted in the right way, they tend to stay behind."
Even after so many years, the actor is unable to understand what the audiences want.
"I have still not been able to understand today's audience. Everything is so hyped. Now we can see heroines using abusive words on screen, which doesn't suit them. I feel really sad," he said.
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