Dharmendra talks about his toughest scene
MUMBAI MIRROR (April 6, 2012)
I have done any number of scenes, both serious and comic. In my time, we just did what the director asked, to the best of our ability. However, one particular scene where I am on the death bed, in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Satyakam comes to mind as having been extremely challenging.
I remember that film vividly because its theme of corruption in the country remains more relevant today than ever before. I played Satyapriya, an idealist who won’t compromise even if it means losing out on a life of reasonable comfort for his wife and son.
In the scene in question, my character, who is suffering from cancer, has lost his ability to talk. I had to convey Satyapriya’s anguish wordlessly, through my eyes only. At some point, my spiritual guru, portrayed by Dadamoni (Ashok Kumar) walks into my room and says “Now I can berate you to my heart’s content without any retaliation from you”. The words are bitter but they convey his love for me. I had to express I understood what my guru was saying, and that it was out of sheer love he was admonishing me.
Next, my wife, essayed by Sharmila Tagore, who has been a silent witness to my uncompromising life, walks into the room with incriminating papers for me to sign that could relieve my family of poverty in the event of my death.
For the sake of my wife and son, I agree, for the first and last time in my life, to sign the papers. But before I can actually do it, Sharmila snatches the papers out of my hand and tears them up. My character had to convey his deep undying love and gratitude for the woman who has stood by his side, through thick and thin, helping him uphold his lofty ideals. It was a very tough scene to do. I thank Hrishida for the faith he reposed in me. When I look back at the scene, I wonder how I managed it! And I believe Hrishida later said no other actor could have played Satyapriya in Satyakam.
In a day and age when compromise is key I feel playing an uncompromising character like Satyapriya was a privilege. I’m glad I sailed through it. I sincerely think Satyakam should be screened at the school level. It shows honesty can never become outdated.
–As told to Subhash K Jha
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