Insights: Film too violent for him

As a child he had witnessed the savagery and brutality of Partition in his home town in Peshawa. Dilip Kumar escaped the bloodshed by hiding under a bed without food and water for many days

Dilip Kumar (Photo Courtesy: (Social Media)
Dilip Kumar (Photo Courtesy: (Social Media)
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NH Web Desk

Kamal Haasan wanted to remake one of his most successful Tamil films Thevar Magan into Hindi with Dilip Kumar and himself as father and son. But Dilip Kumar declined. Even when Kamal Haasan offered to withdraw from the film and engage actors preferred by Dilip Kumar, the legend declined. And then finally he explained his reason for not doing the film. It was far too violent.

Reveals Kamalji, “As a child he had witnessed the savagery and brutality of Partition in his home town in Peshawar. His family was butchered. He escaped the bloodshed by hiding under a bed without food and water for many days. And you know what kept him alive? A little sparrow that perched itself near his hiding place and reminded him there was life outside. But Yusuf Saab could never face violence after that even on screen.” (As told to Subhash K Jha)

Amitabh Bachchan recalls, “Our first shooting scene in Shakti was in a jail sequence, where the police official but also my father in the film comes to visit me and tries to convince me that I was taking a wrong path in life and I disagree. It was tough to stand in front of one whom you have admired for ages, and disagree with. But it was a job I had to do. (As told to Subhash K Jha)

Namrata Joshi: Dilip Kumar has been the instigator of many an argument and a marker of generational conflict. The most ferocious one I have had was over Ramesh Sippy’s father-son saga, Shakti. My father was all for the principled, stoic father Dilip Kumar. I thought Amitabh Bachchan was brilliant in the way he grounded the resentment of the son.

But his logic was that Bachchan had internalized the role and made it come alive from within; like Dilip Kumar. I had to let my father have the last word: “It’s an ultimate tribute by an actor to Dilip Kumar while working in the same film alongside him.” Actor’s actor after all.


Nasreen Munni Kabir: In 1988, I interviewed Dilip Kumar for a documentary and remember spending an hour discussing the difference between sentiment and feeling. He was thoughtful and curious about the finer shades of emotion and it is with the same intense enquiry that he approached the role of Devdas in Bimal Roy’s 1955 film. In that soothing voice of his, Dilip Kumar spoke in a mix of Urdu and English about what Devdas would have felt as he travelled by train to Kashi at night. Could he have gone to sleep? And if Devdas had not slept, what was he preoccupied with?

He added: “This was just an exercise to induce the artist to become introspective. We have institutions these days where people go and learn how to act. There weren’t any acting institutions in those days, and all we could only learn was through instruction and persuasion, and then by one’s own personal application. The question in Devdas was quite often of trying not to do rather than doing.” (In her tribute in Scroll)

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