One of the legends of Hindi cinema Dharmendra completed 60 years in the film industry. He made hist first appearance in Dil Bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere which released on 4th November 1960 on 26 cinemas across the country. The film saw a release in 12 cinemas in Mumbai circuit while the other 14 were in East Punjab, CPCI and Nizam. The main cinema in Mumbai was Central.
Dil Bhi Tea Hum Bhi Tere released in Delhi / UP and East later on but did not do that well grossing around 8 lakhs nett across the country. The early sixties had Dharmendra working in many films but it would have been impossible to predict that he would go onto be one of the biggest stars ever (the biggest ever if we count the number of HITS and successful films). The first succeses came in 1961 with Shola Aur Shabnam while the first SUPER HIT film came in 1964 with Ayee Milan Ki Bela in but it was a negative role with the then superstar Rajendra Kumar leading the way..
The big breakthrough was the huge BLOCKBUSTER success of Phool Aur Patthar (1966) which was one the biggest grossers of that decade and is probably around the 400 crore nett mark in terms of busines today. It put Dharmendra among the top five stars gave him the image of that physical macho star which was to set the box office fire in the 70's. The late sixties saw many huge hits like Aankhen (1968), Shikar (1968) and Aaya Sawan Jhoom Ke (1969) but they did not capatalise on the image that Phool Aur Patthar gave.
The rubber stamping of the image came with Mera Gaon Mera Desh in 1971 which was a bigger BLOCKBUSTER than Phool Aur Pathar. This film also changed the direction of Hindi cinema as prior to Mera Gaon Mera Desh the big films were mainly romantic dramas shot in the Kashmir valleys with super hit music. The mega success of this film made the industry shift to action and it was actually a prelude to another Dharmendra starrer Sholay (1975) which had a very uncanny resemblance to Mera Gaon Mera Desh but it was a superior film in terms of everything barring the music.
Mera Gaon Mera Desh was released at the same time of another BLOCKBUSTER Haathi Mera Saathi and this film was actually running ahead of Mera Gaon Mera Desh in the first 6-8 months of release but post 1972 Mera Gaon Mera Desh was a phenomena and went ahead with the film racking up 6-7 and more repeat runs across the country be it Ajmer, Agra or Akola (this city had its 13th repeat run of the film in 1978) in just a few years. It was this business that made the industry shift hugely to making the dacait film but barring Sholay all the others could not get near Mera Gaon Mera Desh.
The peak of Dharmendra came in the mid 70's with films like Sholay (1975), Pratiggya (1975) and Dharam Veer (1977). After this the quality of films of dropped but that initial draw remained intact and was driving films to sucess till the early 90's. Eventually the career saw around 60 jubilee HITS and over 100 successful films, these figures are way ahead of the rest and it can be said with almost 100% certainty that it wont be beaten unless Akshay Kumar or Ajay Devgn (these two have volume of films today) start giving 3-4 HITS a year for the next ten years. Even if this miracle was to happen the level of sucesss of Dharmendra HITS is far superior with many films having historic sucess.Many of these HITS are solo films but in the 70's there was a trend of multistarrers and Dharmendra worked in many of these also. The difference here between Dharmendra and the others in the 70's was that when Dharmendra was in a two or three hero film it became his film and it could be seen by the audience he was main lead and the others were in supporting or lesser roles.
The blockbuster and hits depend a lot on the quality of film but in tracking box office numbers of Hindi cinema since Independence there have been two instances of what can be called pure poster power where the the films are practically Z grade and have nothing barring the actor. In 2004 a film called Yeh Lamhe Judaai Ke released with Shahrukh Khan and the film is a total zero in all respects but it opened at almost £50k in UK and this is just pure poster power as its a totally nondescript film but getting numbers comparable to better films like Aitraaz and Garv in the same year which are A grade films. This happened in UK and the only other time it happened was in India and with Dharmendra.
In early 1976 there was a very low grade tacky film Apne Dushman where he had this extended guest role and probably shot for a few days. It was a tacky Z grade film and these could sometimes find some audience when the prints went down into the C centres but never on release in the big centres. It released in Delhi / UP and East Punjab on 31st January 1976 with the face of Dharmendra looming large on the posters and it had a opening day share of 52k (16 prints) in Delhi/ UP and 28k (7 prints) in East Punjab. A month later an A grade Kabhi Kabhie released which practically had half the industry and its equivalent numbers were 59k in Delhi / UP (20 prints) and 26k in East Punjab (7 prints). This is a comparison of a star studded SUPER HIT film and a nondescript film which had just poster power and earnt commission on the basis of the star.
Dharmendra had the masculinity, machoism, looks and personality which is must for that huge all India megastar, what this meant was that many sub standard films were pushed to success as it was not about the film or acting but the public coming to watch the star. Today the only similar star is Salman Khan and its the personality and machoism which puts him above the others, HIT or FLOP the fan following will remain the biggest until age catches up.
Dharmendra was one of those rare superstars who never shouted his achievements but the numbers and stats say it was a phenomenal career especially between 1970 and 1990 with 1973 being the best year anyone has ever seen. 1973 saw Dharmendra give two huge BLOCKBUSTERS, two SUPERHITS and two HITS and also a plus film to go with the HITS.