Dimple has been very lucky, to have one of the longest lasting movie star romances in Hindi film. But we don’t talk about it, because technically her boyfriend is married.
Usual Disclaimer: I don’t know these people, I have no special knowledge. This is just what is known based on commonly available sources. It may or may not be the “truth”.
Sunny Deol was born in 1956. He is slightly less than 21 years younger than his father. That’s a very unusual age gap for the film industry families, but a common one for the farming families and villages where Dharmendra came from. Sunny’s whole life kind of straddles that boundary between where Dharmendra came from and where he ended up.
Sunny was 4 before Dharmendra got his first film role. He was still a baby when Dharmendra left for the city to follow his dreams. He was 9 when Dharmendra’s affair with Meena Kumari was at its height. He was 16 when Meena died. He was 19 (or younger) when Hema and Dharmendra’s affair reached the publicly known and acknowledged point. He was 24 when his father remarried, 25 when his first half-sister was born. And he was 26 when he filmed his first movie, 28 when he got married, and 28 when he fell in love. With a woman who wasn’t his new wife.
It’s a stranger kind of life, to me, than Dharmendra’s. Dharmendra had a settled childhood, he knew who he was by the time he grew up. He was a village boy with morality and standards and rules for life that had never really left the village. He saw everyone as his friend, was humble and respectful to his elders, and judged not lest he be judged. And when he felt something was right, he did it, without concern for what others thought.
Sunny didn’t have that. He spent half his childhood in the village, with his traditional private mother, hidden away from fame. And then they moved to the city and he was thrown in with the filmi kids, children of the other stars, treading the line between his father’s world of fame and glamour and his mother’s home life of tradition and security.
Sunny never quite fit with those filmi kids. I say that because he doesn’t quite fit in now. I don’t hear about him in the childhood stories of the children of his father’s contemporaries. Maybe it is just an age thing? Sunny was born in 1956, the filmi kids around his age would have been Rishi Kapoor, Mohnish Behl, Sanjay Dutt. But their parents were a generation away from his father, Dharmendra was working and socializing with Amitabh Bachchan, Yash Chopra, Salim-Javed. Sunny was betwixt and between, too late an arrival to become friends with the older crowd of kids and too old to be friends with the younger.
It’s more than not having an age group to spend time with at parties, Abhishek and Saif and other star kids remember going on sets as babies, before they were old enough for school. And then spending school vacations on location shoots when they were young, playing with the older actors. By the time Dharmendra became a big enough star to schedule location shoots around his kids’ school breaks, Sunny was too old for school breaks. He grew up with a father in his life, but not a movie star father in his life, if that makes sense. And maybe that is why, to this day, he is a bit of an outsider in the film world. People are friendly with him, they know him, they work with him, but they don’t love him like you would expect for a film kid raised in the industry.
The media doesn’t love him either, which is why I have surprisingly little information to share about his personal life. Sunny was 26 when his first movie, Betaab, released. That is old for a star kid launch. Especially because I have minimal data about what he was doing before that. Was he in college, training as an assistant director in preparation for his launch, being a worthless spoiled brat until his father told him to shape up? No idea!
I’m also not sure when and where he met his wife. Sunny’s wife Pooja, according to most reports, is from London. Sunny has two sons with his wife, one of them (Karan) is supposed to be launched this year. But even as part of launching Karan, Sunny still has not talked about his personal life. I can’t even find a reliable age for Karan, which is pretty much basic information for a new young star. The closest I can find is a guess at 1990, and a brother Rajvir a few years younger. Kind of young for their son if Sunny and Pooja married in 1984 (as some accounts say).
Without further information, I am going to take a wild leap and say that this is how it looks to me. Sunny supposedly got married around the time he launched in his first film, at age 26. He had a son with her 6 years after the marriage, and another son a few years after that. And she has the occasional credit on his films, most recently with Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 she was credited as helping with the script. Dharmendra described her involvement as coming up with the idea and helping the official scriptwriter to flesh it out based on her knowledge of England. Karan on instagram posts some photos of him with his mother, she looks unglamorous and like any other mother. Based on all of this, my guess would be that Sunny has a marriage similar to his father’s marriage. They are good co-parents, they care for each other, they respect each other. But they never had the kind of bond that would make him want to share his film world with her, make her necessarily expect romantic fidelity from him. She lives at home and takes care of his children and has her own life, he goes out in the world and works and has his life. Again, this is a leap. I have no real data. I could be completely wrong. But this interpretation is what feels right to me.
Sunny has been married since the start of his career, but at the same time there have been stories of romances. Sunny keeps his personal life, his wife and sons and even his childhood, very very quiet. And he treats his romantic relationships outside of his marriage in the same way. It doesn’t feel like he is ashamed of them, more that they are private like everything else in his life and so he would prefer not to talk about them to the media. It’s an old-fashioned way of handling these affairs, it is how Raj Kapoor acted with Nargis, or Gemini Ganesan with Savitri. Their wife is their wife, their girlfriend is their girlfriend (and possibly eventually their second wife), and there is nothing really shameful there.
Plural marriage is still deeply embedded in Indian culture. NOT specific to any particular religion or region, most places through out India and most religions in India have a history of plural marriages. And part of that is an understanding of the role of “first wife”. Your first wife is someone you respect, the mother of your primary children, the beloved daughter-in-law of your parents and the female head of your household. And if you fall in love with someone young and pretty, that does not effect her position in any way. She is still “first wife” and always will be. We see that even in the Ramayana, Dasharatha’s favorite wife is Kaikeyi, Bharat’s mother and his second wife. But Ram’s mother Kausalya is his First Wife, she is the one whose son will be heir, and she is the head of the wives.
This isn’t to say that a “first wife” will accept additional marriages without hurt or without understanding. But it does mean that it is possible for her to feel that she has no right to that hurt, that society is telling her she has lost nothing so long as she still has her position in the household. And it means that it is also possible for a “first wife” to truly not feel hurt by her husband falling in love and spending time with other women, so long as he does not shame her or remove her place in the household. The same is true in any culture, “wife” is a public role as well as a private one, there can always be marriages where a woman or man does not care about the private concerns so long as the public remain the same. But in India, there is a social framework for that, the idea of the man falling in love many times after marriage while the first wife remains within her role, unchanged and unaffected.
And so we have Sunny. He married Pooja (or “Lynda” in some records) for whatever reasons he had, and then they mutually decided she would be tucked away in his home raising his children (sometimes it seems tucked away in England, half a world away from him) while he went into the world. In his first film, he was cast opposite Amrita Singh, young and beautiful and confident, and they started a relationship.
Sunny almost certainly had a relationship with Amrita, but not necessarily a terribly deep one. They were both young people in their first movie, play acting love onscreen and play acting love a little bit off screen as well. Supposedly it fell apart when Amrita found out about his wife. He had married Pooja in London and she still lived in London.
What is clear and generally accepted is that Sunny moved on from Amrita to Dimple Kapadia during the filming of their first movie together, Manzil Manzil. It was less than two years after his marriage, within months of the end of his brief relationship with Amrita. Dimple was 27, married for over a decade, with a daughter about to turn 13. She had a life as odd and confused as Sunny’s, raised as a nice girl daughter of a businessman, thrown into the film world as a teenager, married to a man twice her age after a whirlwind romance and then pushed into a life as a wife and mother of two before she was 20. And then returning to the film world to co-star with Sunny Deol, recently married and recently launched, part of but not part of the film world in a similar way as Dimple.
One small part of their relationship is the power dynamic needed for Dimple to be “safe” moving on from her husband Rajesh Khanna. Rajesh and Dimple never divorced, she was always and forever his “first” wife. Rajesh took a series of girlfriends, some of them live-in girlfriends, but it is a different thing for a woman to fall in love outside of her marriage (even a marriage that was currently dead). But Sunny is the son of Dharmendra. Dharmendra has at least as much power and respect in the industry as Rajesh Khanna. Dimple Kapadia can move on with Dharmendra’s son without fear of being excluded or shamed in the industry.
But mostly, I think they just fell in love. Again, this is based on almost nothing. Their relationship has never been publicly acknowledged, legally and officially Dimple was married to Rajesh until he died in 2012 and Sunny is married to Pooja. They have never lived together, they have never gone to events together, they have never even given interviews discussing their love. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Dimple is some one who learned early on the price of a public life, had to suffer through a “perfect” marriage that was not perfect at all, and finally broke free and rediscovered herself. Why would she risk losing control again by falling into another public relationship that would define her? And Sunny is someone who hates publicity, hates making his private life public. And who watched his father navigate a public second romance and marriage. Why would he choose a public romance when he can be just as happy with a private one?
At the time Dimple and Sunny got together, they were both at the peak of their careers. Sunny was young and powerful and had a kind of grinning grace to him. He was the hero of the younger generation, he had a series of films playing the cheerful innocent broken by life and coming back stronger than ever. He made an impact all on his own, without his father’s help, right from the start. And Dimple had returned from her exile sexier than ever, mature, intelligent, very different from the pretty young actresses in other films. That these two talented popular and very attractive people would come together was almost inevitable.
In 1995, 11 years after Sunny and Dimple were first rumored to be dating, Dharmendra launched Sunny’s brother Bobby in the same movie that served as a launch for Dimple’s daughter Twinkle. In 2006, 22 years after they were first rumored to be dating, Sunny’s co-star Amisha Patel was asked if Sunny was at her on-set birthday party, and she casually said no, of course not, because “Dimple Ma’am’s” birthday was the day before, so he had to be with her. In 2017, 33 years after their rumored relationship started, they were spotted by a fan sitting in a bus stop in London, casually holding hands.
Dimple and Sunny have been together now from 27 to 62, over half their lives. That’s remarkable. And in a strange way, admirable. At least, to me. Neither of them have compromised in love or in life. Dimple never wanted to be married again, and she wasn’t. Sunny wanted kids and a family, and he got that. And they also never wanted to stop loving each other, and they have that too, very quietly, without fame or fanfare, a love that doesn’t need a label, it just exists.
What else is there to say about Sunny? His own career chugged along in fits and starts through the early 2000s. His youthful energy kept up into the early 90s, and then he hardened into more of a seasoned tough guy hero. He had his biggest hits in the early 2000s, Gadar: Ek Prem Katha and Hero: Love Story of a Spy. But then the public took a turn away from him, towards younger action heroes (coincidentally, one of them being Dimple’s son-in-law Akshay), and he has floundered a bit in the years since. He’s still working, but his films aren’t really noticed as much as they used to be. Most recently he stood for election (BJP of course, almost all the film folk are), a dignified second career now that his acting years are more and more behind him. And he is about to launch his son Karan in the traditional Deol family way, one film produced for you and then you sink or swim on your own.