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Iconic ‘tragedy-king’ Dilip Kumar loved to make people laugh, off-screen

Legendary mega-celeb thespian Bollywood actor Dilip Kumar has now exited into the immortal zone!



Dilip Kumar

By Chaitanya  Padukone

Legendary mega-celeb thespian Bollywood actor Dilip Kumar (also fondly called Yusuf-saab—his real name) has now exited into the immortal zone! But for millions of his loyal fans he will always ‘come alive’ through his inspiring iconic-film-scenes and in dozens of chartbuster songs.  Without any formal training in acting (there were no ‘acting academies’ during Dilip-saab’s era ) he set brilliant benchmarks in histrionics in every screen-performance. Hailed by every superstar hero and top actors as their ‘acting-Guru’ right from Amitabh Bachchan to Shah Rukh Khan, from Dharmendra to Rajesh Khanna, and from Anil Kapoor to Anupam Kher, the modest Dilip-saab was known for his flawless Urdu-Hindi dialogue delivery, his agile dancing and of course his sterling award-winning performances in a variety of contrasting screen-characters.


Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu

Unfortunately, there were “no birthday celebrations this year” on December 11 when he turned 98. Dilip-saab’s dignified wife (former lead Bollywood actress) Saira-jee, had shared “The year 2020 has been so terrible. Besides the sense of prevailing gloom everywhere ,my brothers-in-law ( Ehsan-bhai and Aslam-bhai ) lost their lives due to the corona infection. Frankly speaking, Dilip-sahab never plans anything for his own birthday. It is a very super-joyous event for all of us, but for him, it’s just that he has turned a year older. Sahab’s legion of loyal fans and well-wishers call up and send messages and even huge flower-bouquets. We have both been in self-isolation at our Bandra bungalow,” she had revealed.

Also read: Dilip Kumar’s death has left a big gap in the annals of the film history of India, writes Jyothi Venkatesh

As a senior film-journalist, I had the privilege to meet the iconic Dilip-saab personally multiple times either at film parties (‘Lekin’ movie music-launch where he was the chief guest), on the sets of his movies ‘Mazdoor’ (1983 ), and ‘Duniya’ (1984) or at his Pali Hill bungalow and even at pre-release private parties of  his movie ‘Izzatdaar’(1990), hosted by producer Sudhakar Bokade.


From L to R: Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand

What struck me was Dilip-saab always ensured that he put the person or group of people sitting across at ease, with his witty sense of  humour and by sharing funny jokes. I still recall him saying “ Janaab, pataa nahin kyon, people have frequently tagged me only as the ‘tragedy King’ . Even film-distributors used to be ‘dying’ (curious) to know at private preview-shows of my movies whether my screen-character dies or gets killed in the climax. At the same time I have acted in numerous breezy movies like ‘Azaad’ (1955) and ‘Aan’ (1952), where there is no tragedy,” he would laugh.

Also read: 8 memorable films of the legendary Tragedy King Dilip Kumar

Being an ardent sports-lover Dilip-saab used to be an excellent badminton-player and he had his own select filmy group-team . Once Dilip-saab who had that royal aura, quizzed me, “ Do you know why badminton is a romantic game ? Because the game-score starts with ‘Love All’ followed by ‘Love One’ ,”  quipped the thespian super-actor who has enacted ‘triple roles’ of a father and his twin sons in ‘Bairaag’ (1976) and dynamic contrast ‘double-roles’ in the landmark movie ‘Ram Aur Shyam’ (1967) which was the obvious inspiration for more similar-subject movies including Hema Malini’s ‘Seeta Aur Geeta’(1972)!


Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu chat with Chaitanya Padukone at their bungalow

The charismatic Dlip-saab always had a collection of  jokes with him and would effectively use them to arouse laughter. During the launch of  producer-singer Lata Mangeshkar\s ‘Lekin’ he said on stage that he would make only a ‘very brief’ speech.  As invitees-guests wondered what could be the reason, Dilip-saab  nonchalantly said. “Last time at some  other event where I was speaking for a bit too long, my begum Saira-jee sent across a small hand-written note  to me which read ‘K.I.S.S.’

Also read: Film Legend Dilip Kumar Passes Away at 98; Bollywood Pays Tribute

I was delighted to read it. But after the event, Saira told me that actually ‘KISS’ stood for ‘Keep It Short Stupid’! All the invitees at the event which included top celebs burst out laughing heartily. One would love to always treasure this image of  exuberant Dilip-saab—the screen-tragedy-king,  who also loved to make people smile and laugh off-screen. (Top Ten Dilip Kumar iconic movies : Devdas,  Kohinoor, Mughal-e-Azam,  Madhumati,  Ram Aur Shyam,  Aan , Azaad, Ganga-Jamuna, Saudagar and Shakti )    

( The writer of this article-story Chaitanya Padukone is an eminent senior film-journalist columnist-author,  who is also a Dadasaheb Phalke Academy ( 2012) award recipient. At this same 2012 event  Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu were honoured on stage with the Phalke Academy Ratna Awards) .