Tell Dad you love him: Dharam
The choice of Guest Editor for this Father’s Day issue, fell on the Big Daddy of them all… Bollywood’s evergreen He-Man,Dharmendra.The question was, would a rugged and retiring actor like him be up to the sensitive task? As you will see over these pages, Dharmendra was — and how!
He drove up on the appointed day, Sunny Deol sitting in the back and looking much like garam Dharam himself must have 50 years ago, when the Frontier Mail deposited him at VT Station to become a Filmfare hero for Bollywood. Except that Sunny’s right arm was in a sling, nature’s mischievous payback for violent roles in all his films from Ghayal and Damini to Gaddar and Jo Bole So Nihal. Dharmendra, fortunately, came out with both arms swinging. Age has been kind to him, at 73, he looks like he could take on Salman Khan, John Abraham and Hrithik Roshan together.
They were a riot at the edit meeting. The canteen boy was sent packing with his cutting chai . The Deols drink rich and frothy lassi. You can take the farmer out of Punjab but who is going to take Punjab out of the farmer? Dharmendra started by confessing with the honesty that only a strong and simple man can possess that he didn’t know what Father’s Day was. “As a boy, I feared my father who was a disciplinarian, and was naturally close to my mother. The day my father showed me a little affection, it was Father’s Day for me,” he said simply.
Sunny, however, is a 21st century dad, he has teenage boys who run up huge cell phone bills on calls to girls! He knew what Father’s Day was all about. But, he too agreed that in the Deol home, he and brother Bobby had their own fear of Dharmendra. “Mum was our friend, but when we ran out of control… she would threaten to tell papa, and that was enough for us,” he recalled. “But we grew up fearless because we were Dharmendra’s kids. We knew papa would take care of any issue. Even now, he’s our shelter and strength.”
They both had almost the same interpretations of what a father meant. “He was the lakshman rekha, which I broke through my mother,” said Dharmendra. “While my father’s love for my sisters was unconditional and special, he always stopped short of me… but yet today, I miss him more than anybody else.” And Sunny said, “We are still uncomfortable around papa. It’s difficult to be his friend. If there is friendship, then the element of the father is lost. Friends you can always have outside. There is great love between papa and us… but it’s not expressed, it only comes when difficulties face the family.”
They both talked as fathers about the role of the man of the house in 21st century India. “Fathers should try to be close to their children, they should make time for them, but still maintain a distance to keep the kids on track. That’s a sacrifice fathers have to make. And give them love. Because when you give love, you get love,” said Dharmendra. What was the biggest lesson Sunny had learned from him? “That humanity is greater than any religion,” the Deol puttar replied.
Dharmendra explained, “My message to fathers today is, teach your children to live in harmony. We are not Hindus and Muslims. We call India our motherland. But do we believe in that? If we do, then we ought to behave like true sons to our mother and be honest with her. Everything comes with honesty.” And what was the most important thing Dharmendra had learned as a father? He paused, tears in his eyes now, the pain of a strong man unashamed to show his emotions, then said, “I learned not from my own sons, but from Fardeen Khan recently that you should tell your father you love him before it is too late.