He is probably, along with the late Shashi Kapoor, the handsomest actor ever in Hindi cinema.
Dharmendra has been a favourite actor of the masses since his debut back in 1960. What made Dharmendra special was his versatility. He could be a romantic hero in one film, or an action man in another.
He has great sense of timing for comedy and can be cold and ruthless as a gangster too. Though he has cut down his appearances in recent years due to age, he still manages to grab attention when he does show up on screen.
Here are five of his earlier works which shows what a good actor he is:
Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya (1966)
Cast: Dharmendra, Nutan, Rehman, Jeevan, I S Johar
Director: C L Rawal
Ashok (Dharmendra) and Amjad (Rehman) are very good friends who work in a toy store. Ashok wants to marry a village girl Ashoo (Nutan) and when he goes to meet her, he finds she has been abducted by his brother.
Amjad, meanwhile, is in love with Shabnam and he postpones his wedding so that Ashok and Ashoo can make it to the ceremony. But the train is which the couple was travelling meets with an accident. Ashok escapes but Ashoo dies. Amjad finds his friend in a state of shock and lets Shabnam, who looks like Ashoo, to help him out. Will friendship or love win the day?
Phool Aur Patthar (1966)
Cast: Dharmendra, Meena Kumari, Shashikala, O P Ralhan, Jeevan, Madan Puri
Director: O P Ralhan
Shaka (Dharmendra) is forced to become a criminal due to circumstances. When plague hits one of the towns and the inhabitants flee, Shaka takes the opportunity to rob a house there. To his horror he finds the young daughter-in-law of the house, Shanti (Meena Kumari), has been left there to die.
Showing his good side, he tries to nurse Shanti back to health. But her relatives return to inflict more torture before Shaka flees with her and sets up house with her. This angers the neighbours but Shaka is determined. Shanti tries to bring out Shaka’s good side but that is not met with approval by former colleagues.
Cast: Dharmendra, Ashok Kumar, Sharmila Tagore, Sanjeev Kumar, Asrani
Director: Hrishikesh Mukherjee
This is a complex story dealing about idealism, dreams and truth just a year before India achieved Independence. Satyapriya (Dharmendra), an engineer, is out to seek a new India. But he faces a lot of issues and conflicts and not many believe in his idealism.
His ideals stem from his grandfather Dadaji (Ashok Kumar) who lives in isolation. He meets Ranjana (Sharmila Tagore) who is raped by a corrupt prince while Satyapriya watches helplessly. He later marries Ranjana but there is a lot of conflict. Then Satyapriya falls fatally ill.
Cast: Dharmendra, Rakhee, Shatrughan Sinha, Madan Puri, Iftekhar
Director: Vijay Anand
An eccentric scientist comes up with a formula to produce electricity from sunlight and that threatens the livelihood of businessman Mehta. The latter hatches a plot with Jeevan (Shatrughan Sinha) to get his daughter Asha (Rakhee) married with the scientist’s nephew Kailash (Dharmendra) to save his business.
Asha marries Kailash but things go awry as the latter suspects that she is meeting someone in the night. This creates a lot of marital discord before the truth about the stranger is revealed. The film has lovely songs and Vijay Anand’s direction is classy.
Cast: Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini, Jaya Bhaduri, Amjad Khan
Director: Ramesh Sippy
A retired policeman Thakur Baldev Singh (Sanjeev Kumar) calls upon two small-time crooks Veeru (Dharmendra) and Jai (Amitabh Bachchan) to capture notorious bandit Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan) in Ramgarh. The crooks thwart Gabbar’s raids but later they get cornered and the Thakur does not help them.
The duo plan to quit after this but stay after learning that the Thakur was helpless as his arms were cut by Gabbar. Veeru falls in love with the talkative Basanti (Hema Malini) while Jai is attracted by Radha (Jaya Bhaduri), the Thakur’s widowed daughter-in-law. A major battle ensues before Gabbar finally meets his end. Dharmendra and Amjad Khan steal the show in this epic film which is a classic and rated among the best-ever.