In private life, Dharmendra had a reputation as a drinker...up until he fell in love with Hema Malini during the filming of Sholay, an actress he had worked with several times before. He was already married (to Prakash Kaur, since 1954), and religious and cultural issues prevented him from getting a divorce. He married Hema anyway, and supported two separate households, one for each wife. Hema encouraged him to quit drinking and look after his health.
Perhaps remembering the crazier things that went on in his time, Dharmendra has gone on record saying he does not believe that the Mumbai film industry is a suitable place for girls to work. He was unperturbed by his sons Sunny and Bobby joining the industry, but was vocal about his displeasure regarding his daughter Esha's choice of profession.
In 1997 he received the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to Hindi cinema. He is also the father of actors Sunny Deol, Bobby Deol (with his first wife) and Esha Deol (with his second).
His best-known films include
- Seeta Aur Geeta: made several years before Sholay. He plays the love interest of the Girly Girl half of Hema's Tomboy and Girly Girl dual role.
- Jugnu: a complicated soap opera type story.
- Sholay: the curry western where he fell in love with Hema.
- Dharam Veer: a wacky swashbuckler involving long-lost brothers, incredibly silly costumes, and Sheru the Wonder Falcon.