Dilip Kumar an iconic living legend
DILIP Kumar, the iconic living legend of Indian cinema, passed away quietly in the city of Bombay in India. With him ends a great saga of the Indian film industry and the end of an era.
Dilip is definitely the greatest actor in the history of the Indian cinema. He is the holder of Guinness world record for winning the maximum number of awards by any actor. He got eight film fare awards as best actor and one life time achievement award.
The Indian Government honoured him with the second highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan and then the third highest civilian award the Padma Bhushan for his contribution to Indian cinema. The Pakistan Government honoured him with the highest civilian award Nishan-i-Imtiaz.
From independence to the late 2010s Dilip Kumar held the record of having the highest number of box office grossing films until his record was broken by Salman Khan delivering 10 films.
His great historical movie called Mughal-i-Azam is still the highest grossing film. He was also elected to the Upper House of the Indian Parliament and was also appointed the sheriff of Bombay in 1979.
After independence the Indian film industry was dominated by Dilip Kumar and two other stars — Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand.
Even in this trio of great actors Dilip Kumar stood out as an icon who had broken free from the silent movie style of acting popularized by super stars like Sohrab Modi and Prithvi Raj Kapoor.
He was India’s earliest method actor and was often compared to the Hollywood legend Marlon Brando.
Dilip Kumar in his autobiography “The Substance and the Shadow” stated “I learned the importance of studying the script and characters deeply and building upon my own gut observations and sensations about my own and other characters” In the Indian movie industry his attention to detail and his preparation for roles became the stuff of legend.
For his death scene in the 1961 super hit “Gunga Jumna” he ran around the studio so that he could enter the set at a point of exhaustion.
For the song sequence in the film “Kohinoor” he learnt to play the sitar and the movie “Mashal” he drew from memories of when his brother died, recalling the pain registered on his father’s face.
While out job hunting, one of his former teachers introduced him to the Indian actress Devika Rani who had founded the Bombay Talkies Studio and it was Devika Rani who gave Yusuf Khan his screen name of Dilip Kumar.
His firstfilm “Jwar Bhata” was a total flop but then his appearance in “Jugnu” with Nur Jehan received better reviews and then hits started to come like “Nadiya Ke Paar”, “Andaz” and the tragic love story “Daagh” that won him the best actor award.
He was given the title of “tragedy King” after acting in a series of tragic dramas such as “Deedar” and “Devdas”
With his dark dusky looks and a magnetic screen personality and, of course, his super star status he was for many years the great heart throb of the Indian Cinema.
His romantic interludes or his love life also made headline news and became the subject of gossip columns all over the sub-continent.
He had relationships with Kamini Kaushal, Madhubala, and Saira Bano whom he finally married in 1966 when he was 44 and she was 22. In the 1980s while still married to Saira Bano he married Asma Rehman in secret.
The news of this marriage became a big scandal and soon enough this union ended in divorce.
Dilip Kumar and Saira Bano remained together until his last breath. Dilip and Saira did not have any children.
In his autobiography it has revealed that Saira Bano had conceived in 1972 but developed complications during pregnancy leading to the death of their child. After this they did not try to have children again believing that it is God’s will.
The living legend Dilip Kumar is no more. News of his death has left the entire film industry in India and Pakistan in a state of shock.
Millions of his fans and admirers are heart broken and all the big names in the movie world have paid glowing tributes to the legend while expressing shock and grief at his demise. He was an icon, a legend and an institution rolled into one.
With Dilip’s heart breaking passing we are reminded of the time when another super star Shah Rukh Khan stated “You can’t imitate Dilip Kumar” and it is a fact that generations of actors have tried to copy him but nobody could come even close to the great movie legend.
From his film debut in 1944 in a career spanning over five decades he acted in over 65 movies except that he took a five year break from acting in 1976 and returned with a character role in the film “Kranti” and continued his brilliant performance in films such as “Shakti” “Mashall” “Karma” “Saudagar” and his last movie “Qila” in 1998. Dilip Kumar is gone but his legacy will endure.
—The writer is Professor of History, based in Islamabad.