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Clans in Indian Cinema: Dharmendra, Hema Malini and the Deol Heavyweights

By: Bohni Bandyopadhyay


Last Updated: April 15, 2021, 13:00 IST

Clans in Indian Cinema: Dharmendra, Hema Malini and the Deol Heavyweights

Taking a look at the icons of the Deol family - from Dharmendra and Hema Malini to Sunny Deol - in today's article from our film families series.

Hailing from a small village in Punjab, Dharmendra touched the heights of stardom in Hindi cinema in the ’70s. Called the ‘He-Man’ of Indian cinema, Dharmendra was popular for his handsome face and machismo, even before ‘macho man’ became a thing in Bollywood. Dharmendra and Hema Malini were co-stars in several hit films on screen. Their professional partnership evolved into marriage, pairing up two of the most loved icons in Hindi cinema. Dharmendra’s older son Sunny Deol established himself as a prominent action star in the ’80s, while younger son Bobby Deol gained popularity in the ’90s with his good looks.

Here’s a look at the Deol clan and their presence in Hindi films spanning 60 years.

1st generation:

Dharmendra: He made his debut with Dil Bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere in 1960, and starred in films like Bandini, Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi, Ayee Milan Ki Bela and Phool Aur Patthar. Dharmendra formed a successful pairing with Meena Kumari and shared the screen in 7 films. His most successful pairing was with Hema Malini. The couple acted together in many films including Raja Jani, Seeta Aur Geeta, Sharafat, Naya Zamana, Patthar Aur Payal, Azaad and Sholay. His most notable acting performances include Satyakam with Hrishikesh Mukherjee, and Sholay, a blockbuster hit which paired him with Amitabh Bachchan as the parallel male lead. Having played romantic as well as action hero parts, Dharmendra was known for his versatility.


Dharmendra’s first marriage was to Parkash Kaur at the age of 19 in 1954. He had two sons from this marriage, Sunny and Bobby, and two daughters, Vijeeta and Ajeeta. His nephew Abhay Deol is also an actor. Dharmendra and Hema Malini have two daughters, Esha Deol and Ahana Deol.

He launched both his sons in films - Sunny Deol in Betaab (1983) and Bobby Deol in Barsaat (1995) as well as his nephew Abhay Deol in Socha Na Tha (2005). The legacy continues with Sunny launching his sons Karan in Bollywood in 2019.

Hema Malini: Introduced as the Dream Girl opposite Raj Kapoor in Sapno Ka Saudagar, Hema Malini has lived up to that tag all through her film career. Starring with icons of her time, from Dev Anand to Amitabh Bachchan, Hema went on to become one of the most successful actresses in Hindi cinema. She played the lead in Johnny Mera Naam (1970), Andaz (1971) and Lal Patthar (1971) which established her as a leading actress. Seeta Aur Geeta, Pratigya, Sholay and Trishul are some other films that showed she was a top entertainer, prolific in both acting and dancing.

In the ’80s she continued to star in big budget films like Kranti, Naseeb and Satte Pe Satta. She did several heroine-centric roles after becoming a mother, in films like Aandhi Toofan, Durgaa, Ramkali and Jamai Raja. Hema also ventured into filmmaking later. Hema is a trained Bharatanatyam dancer and performs with her daughters Esha Deol and Ahana Deol, who are trained Odissi dancers. Madhoo Raghunath, who played the female lead in Phool Aur Kaante, Roja and Annayya, is Malini’s niece.

2nd generation:

Sunny Deol: His debut film Betaab opposite fellow debutante Amrita Singh was a hit. He went on to star in numerous successful films in the 1980s and 1990s. With Rajkumar Santoshi’s Ghayal in 1990, Deol gained wide recognition and praise. His other memorable performances include ChaalBaaz, Arjun, Vishwatma, Damini – Lightning, Border, and Gadar: Ek Prem Katha. Sunny appeared alongside his father Dharmendra and brother Bobby Deol together for the first time in Apne (2007).

Sunny is married to Pooja Deol (aka Lynda Deol) and the couple has two sons, Karan and Rajveer. Karan was an assistant director on Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 and has made his Bollywood debut with Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas. Rajveer is also set to make his acting debut soon, in a coming-of-age love story backed by Rajshri Productions.

Bobby Deol: With his initial films like Barsaat, Soldier and Kareeb, Bobby Deol gained considerable popularity in Bollywood. His good looks and the hummable tunes from his films added to Bobby’s charm and appeal. He appeared in several commercially successful films including Gupt (1997), Soldier (1998), Badal (2000), Bichhoo (2000), Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya (2000), Ajnabee (2001) and Humraaz (2002). His career saw a decline in the 2000s. He has been seen in ensemble films lately, and has also appeared in projects for OTT platforms. Bobby is married to Tania Deol and has two sons – Aryaman and Dharam.

Abhay Deol: He made on-screen debut in 2005 with Imtiaz Ali’s romantic comedy Socha Na Tha, which has garnered a following of its own over the years. Abhay’s notable films include Manorama Six Feet Under, Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, Shanghai and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. His biggest success was Anurag Kashyap’s black comedy Dev.D. Abhay’s genre is considerably different from that of his other famous family members – he chose complex characters and independent films over mainstream masala.

Esha Deol: She made her debut in Koi Mere Dil Se Poochhe (2002), and starred in Na Tum Jaano Na Hum, Kuch Toh Hai and LOC Kargil. She is the original Dhoom girl, that being her most successful film to date. She is also a trained Odissi dancer and performs with her mother often. Esha married businessman Bharat Takhtani in June 2012. The couple has two daughters – Radhya and Miraya. Her sister Ahana did not step into films.

3rd generation:

Karan Deol: Sunny’s elder son made his Bollywood debut with Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas in 2019.

Rajveer Deol: Dharmendra recently announced that Sunny’s younger son is all set to make his debut with a coming-of-age love story backed by Rajshri Productions, to be the directorial debut of Sooraj R Barjatya’s son Avnish S Barjatya.

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first published:April 15, 2021, 13:00 IST
last updated:April 15, 2021, 13:00 IST