Friday, April 11, 2008


Yay, I'm stoked to be doing another Dharmendra post (it's been ages)... and this one is also my first 'Faces' post, so... double-yay!

Being the die-hard Dharam fan that I am, I am always interested in his onscreen pairings. The romantic kind, I mean. So far, I've seen him opposite his beautiful wife Hema ('Sholay', 'Jugnu', 'Dillagi', 'The Burning Train', 'Seeta aur Geeta'), the lovely Mala Sinha ('Anpadh'), the sexy Zeenat Aman ('Ram Balram'), the graceful Nafisa Ali ('Life in a... Metro'), the intense Rekha ('Ghazab'), the charming Jaya Bhaduri ('Guddi'), the elegant Kirron Kher ('Apne')....

All of the above couples (bar none) I have loved (ok, so Dharam/Zeenat was unexpectedly a little bit weird, but still not bad). Dharam/Hema, in particular, is always cute, energetic and very charming, and is probably my all-round favourite. I have to say though, that for sheer hotness, my No. 1 'Dharam + 1' couple so far is probably Dharam/Sharmila. There's something about Dharmendra and Ms. Tagore together - they are both so gorgeous and stylish, they complement each other so well, you always believe in their mutual attraction, and they are both so sexy and good-looking. Really.

She has those fabulous dimples and that supreme mastery of the mischievous-sexy-and-yet-guileless look; he has those eyes, and that hair, and those... you know I could go on and on forever on what Dharmendra's got, so I won't.

My first taste of the Dharam/Sharmila hotness was with 'Chupke Chupke' (1975), a cute comedy about a newlywed couple playing an intricate practical joke on the dulhan's 'genius jijaji'. In 'Chupke Chupke', Dharmendra is the playful Professor Parimal Tripathi, an academic with a mischievous sense of humour, and Sharmila is his fun-loving college-student biwi, Sulekha. They are a cool, smart, middle-class couple - the kind you'd expect to find in this low-key, charming Hrishikesh Mukherjee film. And I think they're utterly adorable.

What I didn't know, until recently, is that years before 'Chupke Chupke', Dharam/Sharmila made a very different type of film together. 'Mere Humdum Mere Dost' (or 'Mere Hamdam Mere Dost' or MHMD, released in 1968) is more "conventional" Bollywood. In MHMD, Dharam is Sunil, a sweet, naïve young man from a humble background, and Sharmila is Anita, a shallow, spoiled rich kid who starts out teasing Sunil, but eventually falls for him (he falls first, but when he realises he's rich, he has second thoughts - because he has a weird phobia of wealth).

Rounding out the cast of major characters are the lushly gorgeous siren Mumtaz as Anita's faithful companion Meena, and Om Prakash as Dhand, a rather annoying busybody who plays a pivotal role in the prem kahani of our two leads (interestingly, Om Prakash is also in 'Chupke Chupke', as the well-fooled genius jijaji. And interestingly, both films end with his character speaking into the camera, saying something cute to the audience).

MHMD, as I said before, is conventional Bollywood - there is the familiar jodi-separated-by-wealth device, the familiar horrible and lecherous villain device, soaring romantic songs performed while running across the hills and meadows in lovely clothes, etc etc. The plot of MHMD is a bit ridiculous and has a lot of silly, random and pointless twists. But as the viewer, I somehow found myself forgiving it these flaws and just enjoying the ride for the most part... and I'll tell you why in a minute.

The major difference between the Dharam/Sharmila of MHMD and the Dharam/Sharmila of 'Chupke Chupke' is that in MHMD, they're really not very cool, not particularly smart, and... just not very bright. I mean really, the things Sunil and Anita do in the name of love just get progressively stupider and stupider. And even when Meena tries to help, even her ideas are hare-brained (Sunil and Anita are at least fools in love,but Meena has no excuse whatsoever).

Again, watching MHMD, I found myself forgiving all this foolishness. Kyun? Because they're hot. I mean, sure they're rather daft, but they're also young, amazingly gorgeous, sexy, uber-stylish, fun and utterly harmless. What's a little daftness compared to a ton of hotness? Eye candy to the power of a hundred. Nay, a thousand. They're so hot that they can afford to act any which way they want to - and do they? At some point in the film, Mumtaz performs a very memorable qawwali in honour of the lead couple - 'Allah Yeh Ada Kaisi Hai Haseenon Mein' (from what I understood, it means something like - 'Oh wow, the ways of these beautiful people!'). Indeed.

Not only do they look tres hot, the leads in MHMD also get to wear really cute sixties fashion - check out the back of one of Sharmila's cute cholis below - I love it.

(Sharmila does repeat one outfit in the film, which is of course anathema for a real Bollywood 'young heiress', but again, she's so cute that it's easy to forgive her). And our hero Dharmendra is in gorgeous, well-cut suits (as in the picture above), and a cute kaftan or turtle-neck here and there. Ultra fab. Dharam's clothes are all so gorgeous. Except for this silly smoking-jacket-and-lazy-cat look he tries on at a very memorable dinner - one of the very, very silly things he does for love and a marvellous example of Dharmendra's wonderful aptitude for comedy.

Something else that's really great about MHMD - the songs, by Laxmikant-Pyarelal. From soaring, romantic ones to slow, passionate ones to cheeky, sassy ones... there are great songs here, performed beautifully by Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar and a few others. The soaring song from which the film's title is taken ('Naa Jaa, Kahin Ab Naa Jaa') is a brilliant example of Rafi's vocal virtuosity, and is beautifully picturised. I love all the picturisations in this film, actually - 'Chhalkain Jaam' has to be one of the best sharaab sequences I've seen so far, and in 'Huyi Sham Unka Khayal Aa Gaya' the camera focuses on Dharam sitting alone in a very bare room - and somehow it's enough. So even though I can't really recommend MDMH in the true sense of the word, what I can do is recommend the songs - watching the picturisations (almost all are available on YouTube) will allow you to enjoy the beauty of the actors and the music, without having to endure the film's flaws.

I say this because, as I mentioned earlier, MHMD certainly does have its negatives... the characters are really just caricatures, and the weakness and fragility of the female characters (as with many films from this era), as well as the unquestioning manner in which their feelings are ridden roughshod over by the male characters, can be really quite grating and appalling. Also, the storyline really is quite ridiculous.

But back to Dharam/Sharmila. It's quite fitting, I think, that MHMD came quite a few years before 'Chupke Chupke'... in the latter they are still extremely gorgeous (for me Dharam is crazy handsome in 'Chupke Chupke'and I don't think I've seen him looking cuter in any film so far; whereas I adore Sharmila's stunningly (over-)styled MHMD look - but I digress) but they are also older and wiser, more mature, more sophisticated. Less pretty, less doll-like, less 'whitewashed' (in 'Chupke Chupke' you can see their real skin, thank God!), more relatable, more human. But still ultra-fab. It's a great transition. And best of all, in 'Chupke Chupke', Dharmendra and Sharmila are playing partners (Parimal clearly respects Sulekha and they are presented as equals) in a plot that, while frivolous in terms of subject matter, actually makes sense.

Here are some pictures from both films... note the change in Sharmila's look, from the big hair and dramatic eye make-up with a full, nearly nude-toned lip in the late sixties, to sleeker hair, thinned-out eyebrows and darker, more defined lips in the mid-seventies. You can see the maturing of her face - it's slimmer, more defined and less 'soft' in 'Chupke Chupke' than in MHMD; and I say she looks totally gorgeous and fab in both films...

And here's my Dharam; at the time of MHMD he is stunningly handsome but almost 'too much' so; it's a little too 'perfect' - by 'Chupke Chupke' his face has matured really beautifully....

To conclude, one more picture... Sharmila and Mumtaz in MHMD....

PS I'm on the lookout for any other Dharam/Sharmila pairings (apart from 'Satyakam', which I'm already looking for), so any reccies would be welcome. Thank you!