Adieu, sweet prince! | Sunday Observer

Adieu, sweet prince!

8 August, 2021

“There is a bit of Dilip Kumar in everyone’s life. A veritable cultural icon, he passed away on July 7, 2021, but his legacy will live on forever. The actor had carved out his own niche in the Indian film industry with his emotive portrayal of characters on the screen. He was a complete actor,” said Nagalingam Kumarakuruparan, an Indologist based in Hyderabad, India in an email interview with the Sunday Observer.

Dilip Kumar was born as Yusuf Khan in Peshawar on December 10, 1922. He was one of the 12 children of Lala Sarwar Khan and Ayesha Begum. His father was a trader and his family moved to Nasik, a place close to Bombay in the early 1940s. Dilip Kumar studied at Barnes School and grew up in the same neighbourhood along with Raj Kapoor, his schoolmate and later colleague in the Bombay film world.

Dilip Kumar’s childhood ambition was to become an actor. He realised his dream in 1944 when he was discovered by the well-known actor and producer Devika Rani of the Bombay Talkies. For the first time he acted in ‘Jwar Bhatia’ produced by the Bombay Talkies in 1944. Unfortunately, the film was a flop and his acting did not make an impact on the audience. After a few more unsuccessful films, he acted in ‘Jugnu’ which became a box office hit in 1947. His major breakthrough came when he acted in Mehboob Khan’s ‘Andaz’ in 1949. He acted alongside Raj Kapoor and Nargis. It was another noteworthy film.

Thereafter, Dilip Kumar played main roles in several box office hits in a career spanning over five decades. Altogether he has acted in more than 65 films. With his brilliant acting in films such as ‘Andaz, Daag, Devdas, Mughal-E-Azam, Madhumati, Ganga Jamuna, Karant’ and ‘Karma’, Dilip Kumar became a household name. Some of the films established his screen image as the tragedy king. However, he had to pay a price for his fame when he suffered from depression due to portraying many tragic roles and on the advice of his psychiatrist, he also took on lighter roles. Eventually, he played the role of a thief in ‘Azaad’ and as a prince in ‘Kohinoor.’

Best actor award

Dilip Kumar was the first actor to win the ‘Filmfare Best Actor Award’ for his role in ‘Daag.’ Then he went on to win the same award on seven occasions which confirmed his thespian abilities. On screen he paired with many of the top female actors such as Madhubala, Vyjayanthimala, Nargis, Nimmi, and Meena Kumari. He fell in love with Madhubala during the shooting of ‘Taran’ and continued their relationship for seven years. However, it came to an abrupt end when he testified in a court case against Madhubala’s father.

When he started acting with Vyjayanthimala, gossip columnists and cine magazines did not spare him. There were reports that Dilip Kumar personally selected the saris for Vyjayanthimala to be worn when she acted in ‘Ganga Jamuna.’ However, Vyjayanthimala vehemently denied the story. ‘Ganga Jamuna’ was the only film produced by Dilip Kumar. Not only did he act in the film but also wrote the story and the script. When he acted with Vyjayanthimala in ‘Madhumati’ filmgoers found them to be a perfect match.

In 1966 Dilip Kumar got married to Saira Banu, a Kashmiri beauty who was only 22 years old. At the time of his marriage, he was 44 years old. By the time Dilip Kumar met Saira Banu, he had established himself as an actor. However, at first, he refused to act with Saira Banu as she looked too young. The situation changed in later films. In his autobiography ‘The Substance and the Shadow’ Dilip Kumar wrote, “My thoughts about Saira Banu changed suddenly one day when I saw her in a beautiful brocade sari outside her house.” He ignored the age difference and married her. They lived happily but had no children.

Marriage to two wome

Without putting an end to his marriage with Saira Banu, Dilip Kumar got married to Asma Sahiba too, a socialite from a Hyderabad noble family. He met her at a cricket match in Hyderabad. She was introduced to him by her two sisters Fauzia and Saeeda. In his autobiography he recalls his second marriage as a “grave mistake.” He also wrote, “One episode in my life that I would like to forget is that Saira Banu and I have pushed into eternal oblivion.”

In 1962, the British director David Lean offered Dilip Kumar the role of ‘Sherif Ali’ in his film “Lawrence of Arabia.” However, he declined and the role eventually went to Omar Shariff, an Egyptian actor. In his autobiography Dilip Kumar says, “Omar Shariff had played the role far better than him if he had acted in the film.” Dilip Kumar was also considered for a leading role opposite Elizabeth Taylor but the movie did not see the light of day. In 1967 he played a dual role of twins separated at birth in ‘Ram aur Shyam. ’However, he regarded M.G. Ramachandran’s performance in the original Tamil film ‘Enga Veetu Pillai’ better than his role in ‘Ram aur Shyam.’ Dilip Kumar acted in ‘Qila’ in 1998 and that was his last film.

Dilip Kumar had no formal training in acting but aspiring young actors wanted to imitate him. Before acting he studied the character. His only advice to young actors was: “Simply act. Do less and convey the most.”

Apart from being a talented actor, Dilip Kumar was fluent in many languages. He was a great music lover. Once he sang a song with Lata Mangeshkar for a film. The Indian Government honoured him with the ‘Padma Vibhushana Award’ in 2015. When he died on July 7, 2021, he was buried with State honours. Amitabh Bachchan who had heard the sad news of Dilip Kumar’s death said, “An institution has gone. Whenever the history of Indian cinema will be written, it shall always be ‘before Dilip Kumar’ and ‘after Dilip Kumar.’”

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