Dilip Kumar: The legend lives on
Known for his ‘method acting’, he learnt to play Sitar in order to appreciate classical music required in a film. He is said to have gone without sleep for shots that required him to appear exhausted
Decorated by both India and Pakistan, he was given Pakistan’s highest civilian award, Nishan-e-Imtiaz, in 1998 and was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 2015. He had earlier been conferred the Padma Bhushan and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. The legend turned down David Lean who offered him a role in Lawrence of Arabia, the role that made Omar Sharif a household name in Hollywood.
He spoke more than a dozen languages including English, Hindi, Urdu, Pashtu, Gujarati and Marathi. He was well-read with deep knowledge of Philosophy, Theology and Poetry. A foodie who relished both kebabs and Vada Paav, he would say when it came to food he had no class, that he ate everything.
His heart in the right place, he unhesitatingly participated in charity shows to raise funds for the industry and for relief funds. When fellow actor Mukri was ailing with gangrene, he got him shifted to Lilavati Hospital. Gracious, he would ask beneficiaries of his benevolence not to speak about it in public.
Known for his ‘method acting’ and realism, he once ran around the studio for several laps and returned panting to give a shot where he was to look exhausted. Fellow actors in Kalinga, which was canned, he put off a shot several times till he could show genuine grief by recalling his elder sister, who was no more. He learnt to play the Sitar in order to appreciate classical music required in a film. And he is said to have gone without sleep for shots that required him to appear exhausted.
The ‘King of Romance’ was romantically linked with Kamini Kaushal, Madhubala and Waheeda Rahman before at the age of 44 he got married to Saira Banu who was just 22 at the time. He married again Asma, a mother of three from Hyderabad but divorced her after first denying the marriage.
While it is believed Yusuf Khan changed his screen name to Dilip Kumar because of the communal tension that preceded and followed Partition, he told his biographer that he had done so to avoid getting thrashed by his father, who was a prosperous fruit merchant. Kumar concealed his new assignment from his father and quietly made his debut with Jwar Bhata in 1944.
Filmindia editor Baburao Patel, known for his acerbic tongue, in his review of Jwar Bhata was scathing in his criticism of the actor and wrote that the actor “needs a lot of vitamins and a prolonged treatment of proteins before another picture can be risked with him”. But undaunted, Dilip Kumar studied the work of his idols Ingrid Bergman and James Stewart and developed a minimalistic style.