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Dilip Kumar! Emperor of Emotions and God of Popularity

Mirza Suhaib Ikram

The oldest city in South Asia is Peshawar, whose history dates back to 7,000 years ago. The city has endured many ups and downs, many religions and civilizations have seen greatness here and over times mankind, saw many cultures disappeared here. This historically significant city was ruled by the Bakhshalis to the Pashkalavats, from the Kushan tribe to the Greek Bactrian period, from the Gandhara civilization to the Arabs and then from the Pashtuns, Marathas and Mughals to the Sikhs and finally by British. It is said that in every age, some crazy fellows of the past used to tell the coming generations bright lessons and bitter memories in the form of stories, tales and fables.

This famous and promising place which was known all over the subcontinent after massacre of the British government in 1930 has been preserved in the memory for generations and books. The famous place where storytellers used to sit and share the sorrows and grief of the times is now known as Qissa Khawani Bazaar. It is said that every traveler who came here for centuries would bring some stories with him and also took some fables with him in his heart. This great bazaar of knowledge was called the center of unwritten history due to its literary breadth. Some tourists even named it Piccadilly.

In the same Qissa Khawani Bazaar, 98 years ago today, on a bright day of December 11, 1922, a boy named Muhammad Yusuf Khan was born in the house of a landlord, Ghulam Sarwar Khan. On the bright and glowing morning of December 11, who knew that a man was being born in this bazaar today, after which the 7,000-year history here, which stretched from the poor to the kings, could fade in front of this great man. From this bazaar, a man will come out whose fame will spread from the confines of India’s borders to every country in the world where art and artist are worshiped. Who knew that it was birth of a star, whose light will rule the hearts of filmgoers in the subcontinent in the next century?

Epitome of acting Dilip Sahib spent his childhood days in Mumbai / Deolali. He got his early education from Barnes School Deolali. After that, he studied at Anjuman School in Mumbai. The famous and un-parallel city where came as a traveler and a student, did not know that King Bhoj had arrived to rule in this city in the years to come. This city was unaware that Prince Saleem was growing up in these streets. The wheel of time was running with its full fierce. Dilip Kumar was struggling financially being unaware his inner talent. In 1940, at an early age, he was having a hard time running an army canteen in Poona.

He was very fond of playing Soccer. Raj Kapoor had been a childhood friend of Dilip Sahib. In the film world, he never had any opponent. He married Saira Bano in February 1966. At that time, Dilip Kumar was 44 years old and Saira Bano was 22 years old. Then in 1943 he started working for Devika Rani, the owner of Bombay Talkies. Due to his good command of Urdu language and expression, he got a place in the field of writing.

In 1944, Devika Rani cast Yusuf Khan as the hero for her debut film “Jawar Bhata” and named him Dilip Kumar. Who knew that after this Devika Rani’s name will be associated with Dilip Sahib and will become an adornment of those pages of history which would never fade away over time. Jawar Bhata was not a film but the beginning of an era in which he lifted Indian cinema from the ground to the unimaginable heights.

Before and after 1944, there were many tides in Hindi cinema but one tide came after which there was no ebb. That man shone so brightly in Hindi cinema that he never saw the decline again. The waves of this tide did not let everyone who came later go above the ebb. Everyone had to look up at this sky to get their right position. The world knows him as Dilip Kumar.

After Jawar Bhata, the films Prateema and Milan could not impress the audience, but the subsequent film Jugnu changed the history of Hindi cinema. In 1947, a lamp was lit in the Hindi industry, a Juagnu was lit which erased the darkness of the path and filled it with such light that every artist who came later got burnt with his status.

Babu Rao, a well-known film critic of the time, had initially criticized Dilip Sahib, saying that the young man could not act. But while embarking on an everlasting journey of success with Milan and Jugnu, Dilip Kumar gave the art of acting such a height that people had to watch Dilip Sahib’s films to understand the meaning and nuisance of acting. Film Jugnu with Melody Queen Noor Jahan then “Shaheed” and then Mehboob Sahib’s “Andaz” heralded a bright future for Dilip Kumar.

The decade of 50’s was memorable for Hindi cinema, at the same time, luck was on his side and goddess of honor and film power was in favor of Dilip Sahib. His films took Hindi cinema to many parts of the world and set new standards. In these ten years, Dilip Kumar brought such masterpieces to moviegoers that no one hadever seen before and no one has seen such classic movies since.

After great films like “Jogan”, Babul”,”Shikast”,”Daagh”, “Amar”,”Deedar”, “Uran Khatola”, “Madhumati” and “Devdas”, Dilip Sahib was given titles like “emperor of emotions,” “painter of sorrow” and “god of popularity”.

The great actors who made every hidden detail of the characters a part of his personality would go so deeply and dominate the characters that it all felt like reality. But the disadvantage of this dedication was that Dilip Sahib suffered from severe depression. Then, following the advice of his doctors to strengthen his mental health and to be mentally normal, Dilip Sahib played a few light roles. And a new dimension was introduced in the film industry. When the great star, known as an emperor of emotions and the king of tragedy, acted in films like “Aan”, “Azad” and “KoheNoor”, then the words humor, timing, speed, laughter, gracefulness, unpretentiousness, fluency, facial expressions, laughter, sweetness and humor gained their new meaning. The one who made the viewer weep for so long presented such fresh and delightful humor that the tears in the eyes of the people this time were of laughter and joy.

The journey of next decade began with Asif’s great film like “Mughal-e-Azam” which was one of the most expensive films in the history of Hindi cinema. Contrary to people’s expectations, Dilip played the role of Saleem in such a memorable way that, it was not possible to see anyone else in this role later. The “Mughal-e-Azam” was the film after which it was impossible to make and show any such a film, in years to come by. In this film, where every department was at its best, in the role of Saleem, in his heavy and strong voice when Dilip Sahib (Saleem) said to Prithviraj Kapoor (Akbar) “Mera dil aap ka Hindustan nahi jis per aap hakumat kar sakein”. Then it became the voice of every loving heart that our heart will not become the kingdom of a ruler where the flowers of love could not bloom.

Then film “Ganga Jumna” came which had a status of a textbook for commercial Hindi films. Not only did the commercial cinema of the 70s and 80s use the theme of this film again and again, but also the acting of Dilip Kumar was an example for the actors to come. The story of this film was written by Dilip Kumar himself. And this is how Hindi cinema got its first real angry young man that fought with the system with pretext of revenge. The film went on to become a classic in its time as well as a trend setter. Ganga Jumna was the first film to be filmed completely in Poorbi accent, along with its songs. It was a new history in itself.

Also in the 60’s came films like “Dil Diya Dard Liya”, “Sangharsh”, “Leader “, “Aadmi” and “Ram aur Shyam” which did not do well at the box office but today are considered classics. An idea of these films has been recycled till date. He also won the Bengali Journalist Award for Best Actor from his first Bengali film.

This decade has also been named after Dilip Kumar with three Film Fare Awards. This was the second consecutive decade in which Dilip Kumar remained at the top. Dilip Kumar has acted in a total of four films in the 70’s. These include “Dastaan”, “Gopi”, “Sagina”, and “Bairag”. For three of the four films, Dilip Kumar has been nominated for the Best Actor Award. From 1976 to 1980 Dilip Kumar took a break from movies.

After a great comeback from a blockbuster like “Kranti” in the 80’s, he delivered successful and blockbuster films like “Vidhata”, “Shakti” and “Karma”. At the same time, he played such brilliant roles in super hit films like “Mazdoor”,” Dunya”, “Mashal”, “Qanun Apna Apna” and “Dharma Adhikari” that the film viewers came to know that the film with which Dilip Kumar’s name is associated is simply Dilip Kumar’s film and it doesn’t matter if Dilip Sahib’s role was that of a hero or a character. The film in which Dilip Kumar appeared is called Dilip Kumar’s film.

In film “Shakti”, when Dilip Kumar and Amitabh had a great battle, Dilip Kumar won the Film Fare Award and at the same time, he was so at such high level in acting in the film that Amitabh could not stand in front of him.

In the 90’s, Dilip Kumar acted in “Saudager” in which Dilip Sahib and Raj Kumar teamed 32 years later. The film was a huge success. After this Dilip Kumar’s only one film was released 7 years after “Saudager”. Apart from these, few incomplete films like “Chanakya”, “Shikwa”, “Kalanga” and “Aag Ka Darya” were eagerly awaited by audience but “Qila” Dilip Kumar’s last film so far proved to be.

The great actor’s film journey which started from 1944 and continued till 1998 and then the “Qila”came and in fact this fort is the fortress of Dilip Sahib’s ascension, greatness. A fortress on whose throne sits only one man, whom people consider to be the god of art. Everyone can see this fort, can be jealous, can take refuge in its shadows and burn themselves with its fire. But the courage of conquering this fort never came to anyone. The fort belonged to Saleem, belonged to Salem and remained Saleem’s. Because this is the love story where Saleem comes before Akbar and where love is mentioned before hatred.

Dilip Kumar is known and considered as the best actor of Hindi films. In Bollywood, only Dilip Kumar is such a great actor that everyone from later generation was impressed by him. From Manoj Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, Dharmendra to Naseeruddin Shah, Amitabh Bachchan, from ShahRukh Khan to Nawazuddin Siddiqui, there is hardly an artist who is not influenced by Dilip Kumar. Impacting the many generations cannot be done only by great acting skills; it involves hard work and dedication. And the pursuit of perfection has to be part of it as well. Then, centuries later, a field finds its Idol which becomes example for every generation to come.

Dilip Kumar introduced method acting in Hindi films. He was so immersed in the field of acting that it becomes hard to separate acting from reality. He played each character so vividly and strongly that his style became a model for the role. Everyone learned from him how to play any role in a way it deserves. In Ganga Jumna and Gopi, Dilip Kumar’s accent and style was like that of a villager, then to keep his mouth open and shout like ordinary uneducated person will do.

And when he played the role of a prince in the “Yahudi”, “Mughal-e-Azam” and “Kohinoor”, he became a figure of civility and sophistication. His style was that of a prince speaking firmly and gracefully which makes him looks like a new Dilip Kumar. Seeing the drunkard of “Devdas”, it does not seem that this man has ever been conscious. His drinking was such that it didn’t seem like acting. As an alcoholic his style and body language was a combination of both alcohol and grief.

When “Deedar’s” Shyamu becomes a blind beggar, he doesn’t look like an actor because for this, Dilip Kumar observed a blind beggar for a while. That’s why watching them in a movie feels like a real blind man begging. The personality and manners of the poor played out in full.

In the scene of playing the sitar in “Kohinoor”, not only did he ran his fingers on the sitar, in fact, he learned to played sitar and made his fingers bleed.

The educated officers from films like “Amar”, “Babul” and “Madhumati” or the Shankar tangewala from “Naya Daur” or the illiterate and innocent villager Gopi in every role we don’t see Dilip Kumar the actor but see the actual character.

Many actors imitated the style of Dilip Kumar; some of them imitated his dialogue delivery some copied his mannerism but one thing only Dilip Kumar had and no one else could replicate his poise and his way of speaking through silence. Be it romantic scene with Madhubala in “Mughal-eAzam” which is still called the best romantic scene of Hindi Cinema without uttering a single word or a look given to Prithvi Raj in the famous song “Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya” or death scene at Paro’s doorstep in “Devdas”, they are all memorable without words … and when dialogue are delivered, the emperor of emotions takes them to another height.

Devdas is a failed man who can’t make any decisions in life and ends up drowning in his own intoxication of failure. Who can forget this dialogue from the film when Dilip Sahib says “Kaun Kambakth bardasht karne ke liye peeta hai”.

Thirty-two years later, Dilip Kumar’s memorable role in “Saudagar” with Raj Kumar and the great dialogue played in Haryanvi accent is still fresh today that “Haque hamesha sar jhuka kar nahi sar utha kar maanga jaata hai”.

For the first time in Shakti, a police officer and a victimized father, while trying to defend himself in front of his son, said that “Jo log sachchai ki tarafdari ki qasm khate hain, zindagi un ke bade kathin imtehaan leti hai.” Dilip Sahib immortalizes this moment and that frame of the film becomes memorable.

As an honest officer in Karma, he does not give up even after losing everything when he says, “Rana Vishwa Partap Singh naam hai mera aur sher ko apne bachchon ki hifazat ke liye kutton ki zaroorat nahi hoti”, the thunder of accent never forgotten by listeners.

The poor Shankar tangewala of the “Naya Daur” who struggle to prove the superiority of human beings in the war of man and machines delivers this dialogs and his dialogue is still true today.

“Jab ameer ka dil kharab hota hai na Sahib to gareeb ka dimaagh kharab hota hai.

Dilip Kumar did very few multi-starrer films in the early part of his career but he always dominated the few big starts he paired with. For example Raj Kapoor in “Andaz” , Raj Kumar in “Paigham” and “Saudager”, Dev Anand in “Insaniyat”, Sanjeev Kumar in “Sangharsh” Amitabh in “Shakti”

Dilip Kumar is fluent in many languages like Urdu, Hindi, English, Hindko, Punjabi, Marathi, Bhojpuri, Gujarati, Bengali and Pashto. Famous actor and host Tom Alter says about his Urdu and poetic tastes.

“When Dilip Kumar was asked at the beginning of his career what is the secret of his beautiful acting, he said poetry and poetry … because when an actor says something and how he says is influenced by poetry and literature to a huge extent.

Dilip Kumar is listed as the highest award winning actor in the Guinness Book of World Records. Apart from Dada Sahib Phalke and Nishan Imtiaz to first Filmfare Awards, and many international awards are included in this long list. He is the only hero to receive the Best Actor award in two different languages. He received awards from both Hindi and Bengali films.

Awards and honors have been running after Dilip Sahib all his life but he has been immersed in his work without paying any attention to them. India’s first award is the Bengal Film Journalists’ Association Awards. Dilip Kumar received it three times. Twice for Hindi film and once for Bengali film Sagina.

With 8 Film Fare Awards, Dilip Kumar is at the top of the list of highest award recipients till date. In the 8 years from 1944 to 1951, Dilip Kumar’s 17 films came out but the awards were not released then, so his 17 great films could not be listed for awards.

Dilip Sahib was nominated for Film Fare award 19 times. From the beginning of Film Fare in 1952 to 1976 when Dilip came as a hero, he was nominated every year except 1972. From 1952/1953 to 1976, he was nominated for every film which makes it 16 nominations in those 17 years. There were 9 years from 1981 to 1998 in which Dilip Sahib’s film came and was nominated three times.

Dilip Kumar has been the highest award winner of the 50’s and 60’s. Ganga Jumna only film produced by Dilip Kumar, won the second best national film award and several international awards.

Dilip Kumar has also been a Mumbai Sheriff and a member of the Rajya Sabha. In the 54 years from 1944 to 1998, Dilip Kumar acted only in  56 films. The effect of so few films is so profound that it proves the real significance lies not in quantity but in quality. His films are a torch bearer for past and future artists. He continued to convey the civilizations and societies of his time and earlier to the film-goers. An ordinary movie is usually like a current affair or a fresh newspaper that becomes stale the next day but books are never old because they do not cover a single thing, art or era.

In the limelight of showbiz, where the heroes themselves forget about their work Dilip Sahib provided such a great body of work that will not only server single era or generation, rather these films are living films of every era, fulfilling every literary standard. This is why even today they are cherished and hopefully more work will be done on his films in the days to come and this star, which shone almost a century ago, will continue to shine on the film horizon.

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