Celebrating the Tragedy King of Bollywood

98th birth anniversary of actor Dilip Kumar

Cinema

December 11, 2020

/ By / New Delhi

Celebrating the Tragedy King of Bollywood

Kumar was born as Mohammed Yusuf Khan on December 11, 1922, in Peshawar

Legendary Bollywood actor Dilip Kumar, turns 98 today. Known as the ‘tragedy king’ of Hindi cinema, Kumar himself is a ‘walking-talking film school’, according to many in the industry.

“In Bollywood, you cannot become a star if you don’t have a bit of Dilip Kumar in you,” says filmmaker Imtiaz Ali, in an interview on a chat show.

“From Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan down to Aamir Khan, Govinda and Shah Rukh Khan, Kumar’s influence can be felt in every generation of stars who came after him,” he adds.

With his looks, acting skills, dialogue-delivery, he is not only idolised in India, but also across the world. Be it Devdas (1955), Madhumati (1958), Mughal-e-Azam (1960), Kranti (1981) or Shakti (1982), he left audiences spellbound. While actors Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan describe him one of the “greatest actors ever”, the late Satyajit Ray had described him as “the ultimate method actor”.

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Dilip Kumar married actress Saira Banu in the year 1966

A recipient of the Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan (India’s third and second highest civilian honours respectively) and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, Kumar was born as Mohammed Yusuf Khan on December 11, 1922, in Peshawar, to a Pashtun family that traded in dry fruits. Hindi writer Bhagwati Charan Varma gave him the screen name Dilip Kumar, which he used professionally later on.

Around 1940, Kumar left home for Pune where he started his career as a canteen owner and a dry fruit supplier. In 1943, actress Devika Rani, and her husband Himanshu Rai, who owned Bombay Talkies spotted Dilip Kumar in Aundh military canteens in Pune and cast him with a lead role in their film Jwar Bhata (1944), which marked Dilip Kumar’s entry into the Bollywood film industry.

After remaining unnoticed in his few initial films, he got his breakthrough role in 1949 with Mehboob Khan’s Andaz, in which he starred alongside Raj Kapoor and Nargis. Shabnam also released in the same year and was another box office hit.

He went on to appear in many hit films including Deedar (1951), Devdas, Yahudi (1958) and Madhumati. These films established his screen image as the ‘Tragedy King’. The trio of actors Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar, had become the formula for any successful film, be it comedy or tragedy, in the mid-90s.

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Kumar portrayed Prince Salim in the historical film Mughal-e-Azam

In between, his continuous tragic roles gave a high handedness to his characters from which he consciously tried to break free. He began to accept more light-hearted films and excelled at it. His versatility is seen in films like Ganga Jamuna (1961) and the comedy Ram Aur Shyam (1967), two of the best roles of his career, wherein he plays a double role.

In 1960, he portrayed Prince Salim in the historical film Mughal-e-Azam, which was one of the highest-grosser in Hindi film history. The following year he produced and starred in Ganga Jamuna in which he and his brother Nasir Khan played the title roles. This was also the only film he produced.

In 1981, he returned with the multi-starrer Kranti which was the biggest hit of the year. He went onto play character roles in hit films including Shakti (1982), Vidhaata (1982), Mashaal (1984) and Karma (1986). In 1991, he starred alongside veteran actor Raj Kumar in Saudagar, which was his last successful film. Dilip Kumar married actress Saira Banu in the year 1966.

In a career spanning over five decades, the veteran actor worked in over 65 films and with his fine performances, has found a place in the world of Hindi films that few could vie for, though he retains that his first love was never cinema but soccer.

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