Dilip Kumar died at the age of 98. The tributes will not stop. He was after all the Marlon Brando of Bollywood. The original Badshah of the Bombay film industry.
Already Prime Minister Narendra Modi is leading the nation in praising one of the country’s cinema greats.
Dilip Kumar’s death will have a sound of fury, as will his very remarkable journey – from the son of a fruit merchant Pathan to a colossus who straddled India’s cultural firmament for nearly six decades – and was seated on his high throne.
Perhaps it was this fairytale transformation that captured a nation’s imagination because Dilip Kumar’s story has been – in many ways – the story of India as well.
An India that many feel today is not the same. Here is a legend, who changed his name from Muslim to Hindu and voila, no one is blinking. He was loved, worshiped, honored, idolized and exalted in the imagination of a nation.
Keep the heart of his father
Born December 11, 1922 in Peshawar, present-day Pakistan, Dilip Kumar’s real name was Mohammad Yusuf Khan. Her strict father, Lala Ghulam Sarwar, disapproved of the films. The old man had no idea that his son was going to become one of the leaders of one of the biggest film industries in the world.
It was a time when India and Pakistan were one country. Khan’s family moved from Peshawar to Nasik in Maharashtra in the 1930s. He attended school in Deolali. Mumbai, then Bombay, was not too far away. Strapping and swashbuckling, he was introduced to a film producer.
The actor adopted the screen name Dilip Kumar, in part not to offend his father, when producer Devika Rani offered him the lead role in the film. ‘Jwar Bhata’ in 1944. Filmmakers of that time believed that a Hindu screen name might offer Khan more acceptance among the masses, who were predominantly Hindu.
A star Is Born
And the rest is history, as they say. The boy from Peshawar never really looked back. He went on to appear in hits like ‘Jugnu’, ‘Shaheed’, ‘Andaz’, ‘Jogan’, ‘Daag’, ‘Aan’, ‘Devdas’, ‘Naya Daur’ and ‘Mughal-e-Azam’. A star Is Born. At 25, Dilip Kumar was India’s biggest star.
A refined man, he was quite gentle, suave, usually seen in bespoke indigo suits and Oxford ties. However, there was one thing he never forgot: his sense of connection. Whether it was his immediate family of fruit merchants at Bombay’s Crawford Market or his legendary romance with a young Saira Banu (who remained steadfast by his side until the end), the comedian has remained close to his parents and his public.
The love, adulation, and social media trends we see today are an acknowledgment of his decency and artistry. Imagine this: the generation that’s in on fashion and paying homage to it this morning on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and more includes Millennials and Gen Z. It’s the enduring power of cinema.
Dilip Kumar received a whopping 8 Filmfare Awards, in addition to 19 Filmfare nominations. He also received the Dadasaheb Phalke Award and the Padma Bhushan Award for his contribution to cinema. Pakistan bestowed its highest civilian honor, the Nishan-e-Imtiaz, on Dilip Kumar in 1998.
There is no doubt that he has given a new identity to the Indian film industry. It was craftsmanship, not glamor, that mattered to him. Dilip Kumar understood the psychological acuity of the human condition and how to enhance it. In doing so, he made the audience waltz with him.
He will be buried today at 5 p.m. at Juhu Qabrastan in Santacruz, Mumbai. Artists belong to the world and they are our collective heritage.
By burying Dilip Kumar, a Kohinoor, would be buried. No exaggeration that.
His death is a piercing loss.