Dressed in a white cotton shirt and loose jeans, Dharmendra seems as excited about his upcoming release, Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 (YPD2) as he would have been about his very first. “YPD2 is a very different sequel compared to others,” says the 76 year-old actor at his Juhu residence. “After YPD last year, I was motivated to work in a sequel with a different story. Most of the film is being shot in London, and is directed by Sangeet Sivon.” YPD2, like its prequel, stars Sunny, Bobby and Dharmendra.
So, what is the film about? Dharmendra smiles, “I cannot reveal the story at this stage. It is very ‘Indian’ at heart, but shot in foreign locales. Sangeet has an eye for detail and handles his actors well. I play a character with a blend of emotions, comedy and reason. Sunny and Bobby also have mature characters and are performing well according to the demands of the script. The film is very contemporary with realistic layers to the story.”
Critics feel Dharmendra’s present films lack the depth of his past classics such as Anupama (1966), Satyakam (1969) and Chupke Chupke (1975). Tell him that, and he ponders for a while before saying, “Tell me how many films now are at the level of Bandini (1963), Satyakam or Chupke Chupke anyway? Where are scriptwriters such as Nabendu Ghosh, directors such as Bimal Roy and Hrishikesh Mukherjee? I have never claimed YPD2 is a ‘classic’. It is a modern-day entertainer which is wholesome and is made well.”
And why, according to him, are classics not being made anymore, unlike in the ’50s and ’60s? Dharmendra answers, “That’s a difficult question. Times, tastes and values have changed a great deal. The concept of entertainment is not what it used to be when I first entered films. Most of the films made today are made for a very urbane audience — there’s too much grandeur because they target the multiplex-going audience. Of course, some good films are still being made.”
Dharmendra candidly admits that he is a director’s actor through and through. “The viewers still expect a lot from the Dharmendra of Bandini. It is very difficult to find actors of the calibre of Motilal, Dilip Kumar and Uttam Kumar today. They will always remain my idols. So will Suchitra Sen and Meena Kumari.”
His war classic Haqeeqat (1964) is all set to be re-released in colour this Diwali. Mention the film and you see Dharmendra turning rather nostalgic, “It is the mother of all war films. I still have fond memories of shooting war scenes in Ladakh. Sometimes, we even went without food. I think Chetan Anand directed an evergreen film. My role of Captain Bahadur Singh is one of my best performances till date.”
You just cannot think Dharmendra and not think about all those dance sequences. At this, he laughs his heart out, “Initially, I was awkward performing song sequences. But I worked hard and hopefully improved. The best number I ever danced to is Ya Dil ki Anupama sung by Hemant Kumar.”