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

Senior Journalist Jyothi Venkatesh remembers Dilip Kumar who passed away today



Dilip Kumar

By Jyothi Venkatesh

The legendary actor Dilip Kumar popularly known as the tragedy king of Bollywood, passed away at the age of 98 today morning due to prolonged illness. He is survived by his wife veteran actress Saira Banu. Dilip Kumar had been admitted to Hinduja Hospital after he complained of breathlessness.

A legend was born 98 years ago in Peshawar in Pakistan. His proud parents named him as Muhammad Yusuf Khan. The same guy later blossomed into the talented thespian Dilip Kumar and straddled the screens in Bollywood for over 60 years as a leading actor who could get into the skin of any and every character with effortless ease as well as aplomb.

Dilip Kumar, born Yusuf Khan was a trendsetter in terms of his acting style and has inspired generations of actors across the various streams of Indian Cinema. Hailed as one of the greatest actors in the history f Indian Cinema, his career spanned  over five decades. He was considered a master of understatement and eschewed the loud and theatrical elements of acting.

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

To the credit of Saira Banu, though a big scandal had ensued but she had the last laugh. Her perseverance and ability to veer her strayed husband towards her paid big dividends and Kumar left Asma to be with Saira. “When two individuals are living together, misunderstandings do crop up but you have got to veer towards the perfect unison”, Saira had said then.

I attended the book release party of The Substance & The Shadow written by senior journalist Udaya Tara Nayar, hosted by his wife Saira Banu. Dilip saab’s health too had started deteriorating by then and though he was seated centre stage, when I went to the stage to wish him, along with Johny Lever who was also seated next to me, he could not at all register my face.


Jyothi Venkatesh with Dilip Kumar years ago

Dilip and Saira was literally Ek Duuje Ke Liye- an inseparable entity, accorded much respect and adulation in the industry. Saira, who used to call him saab, was fiercely protective of him though sadly Dilip saab was tied to his bed and looked after by Saira Aappa. Dilip saab even filled in as anchor, though he had always disliked the idea of facing the camera for television or endorsing products as a model till date. With stress dominating and commercial considerations outweighing human emotions, it looks like God up there has stopped making such loving/lovely couples any more in Bollywood.

Also read: “Come rain, come shine, I do not at all let my actor read my script”, Adoor Gopalakrishnan tells Jyothi Venkatesh

Dilip Kumar had made his debut in films with Jwar Bhata way back in 1944. It was however 1947’s Jugnu that gave him recognition. What made him a mega star was the film Andaz also starring Raj Kapoor and Nargis released in 1949. Dilip Kumar was listed in the Guiness Book of World Records for winning the maximum number of awards by an Indian actor though he had acted in no more than 60 films in his entire career. He is also credited as the first ever Method actor in India. Dilip Kumar was also honored with the Dadasaheb Phalke award in 1994 and Padma Vibhushan  in 2015.

Once I got the shock of my life when Dilip saab rang me up on my landline and asked me if I could convince the Filmfare guys to give him four more invitation cards for the Filmfare award function though he had already received two from the Editor, since he felt shy to call up the Editor who he knew personally and I remember though I had stopped receiving the invitations after the awards function shifted to Film City from Shanmukhananda Hall, I had called up the Editor to pass on Dilip saab‘s request.

Also read: Senior scribe Jyothi Venkatesh revisits memories of Rahul Dev Burman a.k.a Pancham da on his birth anniversary

It was the most sensational ever marriage way back in 1966 when a young 22 year old Saira Banu who was the dream girl of every young man in town proposed to the matinee idol Dilip Kumar and what’s more, married him too. Like today Salman Khan is at 55, at 44, Dilip Kumar was the most eligible bachelor boy around at that point of time when every other top actor whether it was Raj Kapoor, or Dharmendra or Sunil Dutt or for that matter, Manoj Kumar was hooked, booked and married. Post-honeymoon: They made appearances together in Gopi and Sagina and Ramesh Talwar’s Duniya.

Not many are aware of the fact that Dilip Kumar had also released his second home production in Bhojpuri titled Ab To Ban Ja Sajanwa Hamaar starring Ravi Kishen, Naghma and Mona Thiba and directed by Arshad Khan under the banner of his own Sharp Focus. Dilip Kumar had also thrown a lavish party at his bungalow to celebrate the completion of the film where all of us journalists were wined and dined in the typical Dilip Kumar style. Later on, Dilip Kumar’s official attempt at directing a film called Kalinga for producer Sudhakar Bokade did not bear fruit and the film couldn’t be completed.

Also read: “We will miss you Chandrashekhar saab, the guy who had given Helen her first break”, says Jyothi Venkatesh

Among his best known films are Devdas, Mughal E Azam, Gunga Jamuna, Ram Aur Shyam, Madhumati, Naya Daur, Yahudi, Kranti, Vidhaata, Shakti and Mashaal to name just a few. Dilip Kumar was extremely jovial as well as witty too. Since I was younger to him age-wise by almost thirty years, there was a certain safe distance that had to be maintained by me whenever I was sitting with him and talking to him. Dilip saab had this habit of pinching my cheeks with both his hands and asking me how I was whenever I used to meet him and ask him whether he remembered my name. It was his way of cleverly not letting me know that he had forgotten my name though he had met me many times earlier. Dilip Kumar was last seen in the 1998 film Qila. His death has left a big gap in the annals of the film history of India.