He is one of the biggest stars of Hindi film industry, but Dharmendra had his fair share of struggles during his initial days in the movies. The actor says his career-defining moment was when legendary filmmaker Bimal Roy felt he was good enough to play Devendra in Bandini. The actor, who turned 83 on Saturday, reveals he was transfixed and could not eat his food when Roy casually broke the news that he was doing "Bandini", over a shared meal of "maach" (fish).
The anecdote finds mention in an upcoming biography of the actor, "Dharmendra: Not Just a He-Man", by Rajiv Vijaykar.
Dharmendra (Dharam Singh Deol) had went to Bombay, as Mumbai was called in the 1950s, tried luck and even left for home unsuccessful. Five years later, still dreaming of making a mark in showbiz, he returned to participate in the Filmfare-United Producers' contest for new entrants when luck shined on him.
"I remember restlessly waiting for the results on the day of the final test during the Filmfare contest. The great Bimal Roy was one of the judges, and his assistant Debu Sen (who later directed Roy's 1968 production 'Do Dooni Chaar') was very fond of me. Debu sized me up and simply said, 'Hai baat! (There is something special in you)' while I waited," the actor is quoted as saying in the book.
A little later, Sen called him inside, stating that Bimal Da wanted to see the newcomer.
"I went in, and Bimal Da said, 'Come, come, Dharmendu' the name he stubbornly called me (by) stating that he was saying Dharmender in his Bengali way 'Your boudi (sister-in-law) has sent maach (fish)'," he said.
Dharmendra recalled that he was unable to swallow his food, as he was tense about the results and a few minutes later, Roy casually stated, "Aur Dharmendu, tum Bandini kar rahaa hai (And Dharmendra, you are doing 'Bandini')!"
"Now I was unable to eat because I was so happy!" quipped Dharmendra, according to the book.
"There is always that moment that comes after months and years of struggle that you catch and do not want to let go! All my years of struggle coalesced into that one moment! I wanted to live it forever!" he added.
However, since Bandini took a while to launch, it finally became his sixth movie to release. But that short role which begins and ends in the first half of this iconic film is extremely dear to the actor.
"Getting a role in a Bimal Roy film was not a small thing, and my other director was to be Guru Dutt, but that film, sadly, never happened. But I was starting out with the best!" Dharmendra said.
The book, by Rupa Publications, also reveals that two different climaxes were shot for the 1963 film which starred Nutan and Ashok Kumar.
"See the beauty of the story!" the book quoted Dharmendra as telling the author during an interview a few years ago.
"I, a doctor who also visits a jail, fall deeply in love with the girl prisoner (Nutan), the Bandini, despite coming to know everything about her past, as well as the fact that she is in jail for killing the wife of her lover. She also feels for me, but does not wish to spoil my life, which is just taking off," the actor said.