Dilip Kumar, the king of Bollywood tragedy, died on Wednesday at Mumbai’s PD Hinduja Hospital. The 98-year-old actor died of a variety of age-related illnesses. Dilip Kumar’s multi-award-winning career lasted more than five decades, and his performances in more than 65 films during Hindi cinema’s golden era enchanted millions of hearts.
He was also renowned in Bollywood as the “First Khan.” He began his acting career under the screen name Dilip Kumar after being born Muhammad Yusuf Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan.
Dilip Kumar holds the record for the most Filmfare Awards he has received. He was the first recipient of the award and has won the Filmfare Award for Best Actor eight times. During his five-decade career, he made numerous contributions to Hindi cinema, including the development of the method acting style.
His first several films, including his debut in Bollywood, ‘Jwar Bhata,’ released in 1944, failed to connect with audiences. However, his electrifying performance in ‘Jugnu,’ released in 1947, captured hearts and made the film his first huge smash.
Dilip Kumar was one of 12 siblings born on December 11, 1922. The former actor received his education at Barnes School in Deolali, Nashik, where he grew up in a mixed neighbourhood. Raj Kapoor, a boyhood friend, eventually became a collaborator in the film industry.
Dilip Kumar decided to start a company in Mumbai after manning a sandwich booth at Pune’s Army Club in 1943. He wanted to help his father and contribute to the household income. His father was a fruit dealer and a landowner in Peshawar and Deolali, near Nashik, with orchards. But fate had other ideas: Dilip Kumar met Dr Masani at Mumbai’s Churchgate Station, who introduced him to actress Devika Rani, who was then the owner of the legendary Malad film studio Bombay Talkies, which has since closed.
Because of his Urdu language expertise, Dilip Kumar previously assisted in the scripting and story-writing departments. Muhammed Yusuf Khan changed his professional name to Dilip Kumar at Devika Rani’s insistence. After that, he started acting with Bombay Talkies in the film ‘Jwar Bhata.’
He remembered in his book, ‘The Substance and the Shadow,’ that “I had no idea what it was like to perform in front of a camera. It was something that needed to be researched, learned, and put into practise.”
He met actor Ashok Kumar, who was a star at the time, while working at Bombay Talkies. He learned that acting was not about being dramatically bombastic, as was the fashionable style at the time, from Ashok Kumar.
Following ‘Jugnu,’ he appeared in a few more hits, like ‘Shaheed’ and ‘Mela,’ before gaining his breakout role in Mehboob Khan’s ‘Andaz.’
Dilip Kumar was noted for his meticulous screenplay selection, and it was clear that he was more than just an actor, writer, filmmaker, poet, or philosopher. His erudition enabled him to stand out and develop a fresh acting style. His subdued style was defined by respectful silences, thoughtful pauses, and beautiful dialogue delivery.
Dilip Kumar starred alongside two other golden stars of the era, Raj Kapoor and Nargis, in the 1949 film ‘Andaz.’
‘Babul,’ ‘Devdas,’ ‘Hulchul,’ ‘Yahudi,’ ‘Daag,’ ‘Sairat,’ ‘Naya Daur,’ and ‘Deedar’ were among his significant songs in the 1940s, but it was in the 1950s that he achieved genuine popularity with a run of singles: ‘Babul,’ ‘Devdas,’ ‘Hulchul, Dilip Kumar earned the moniker ‘The Tragedy King’ thanks to his work in these legendary tragedies.
Despite being a teetotaller himself, he nailed the spirit of the self-destructive man driven to drunkenness by unrequited love in ‘Devdas.’ Through his foggy eyes and profound silences, he showed his character Devdas’ pain.
The social drama ‘Daag’ was the first film to win the iconic actor a Filmfare Award in the major category of the lead actor, making him the first recipient of the award since its creation in 1954.
After that, he won the prestigious award multiple times and, with his eight Black Lady awards, he still holds the record for the most Filmfare wins. He shared the position with Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, who has won eight Filmfare Awards.
Though his professional success came from tragedy films, Dilip Kumar became so engrossed in the roles he played that it harmed his mental health, causing him to suffer from depression.
He then went on to do a few light-hearted parts on the advice of a psychotherapist. He began with Mehboob Khan’s ‘Aan,’ which was also his first technicolour feature.
Despite the actor’s efforts to perform in a variety of genres in order to shed the moniker of ‘The Tragedy King,’ his epic depictions in these films have left such an indelible impression on his admirers that he is still known by this moniker.
He had a few minor roles until earning the lead role of Prince Salim in the big-budget magnum opus ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ in 1960, which was re-released in full colour 44 years later in 2004.
The late actor also became a film producer in 1961, co-producing and starring in the film ‘Ganga Jamuna’ with actor Vyjayanthimala, though he did not produce any additional films after that. The picture, which used aspects from ‘Mother India,’ went on to inspire a number of other films in which one brother becomes an outlaw and the other a cop.
Dilip Kumar had an outstanding performance as a rural villager forced to become a dacoit owing to unforeseen circumstances. The film’s music and lyrics were written in a rural dialect, and the film’s music and lyrics reflected it.
In the 1960s, he had a few more outstanding performances, including his dual role in ‘Ram Aur Shyam,’ Waheeda Rehman’s ‘Aadmi,’ and the superhit film ‘Sunghursh,’ in which he once again acted opposite Vyjayanthimala.
The iconic actor married the then-Bollywood queen Saira Banu, who was 22 years his junior, in the year 1966. Dilip Kumar had a connection with the queen of elegance Madhubala before married Saira Banu. He was also associated to Kamini Kaushal and Vyjayanthimala, two Bollywood actresses.
He was known affectionately as Dilip Saab and was one of the most sought-after superstars among ladies. It is reported that his popularity among women was so great that they would stand in front of his car and wish to be run over. A girl from the industry who was meant to be his girlfriend allegedly took sleeping medication on the day of his engagement. Dilip Kumar had to convince her that he was head over heels in love with Saira Banu. He only returned to his engagement ceremony when she had been appeased.
Dilip Kumar’s career slumped in the 1970s after multiple back-to-back triumphs, with only a few films like ‘Bairaag’ and ‘Gopi’ selling well at the box office. He co-starred in ‘Gopi’ with his real-life wife, Saira Banu.
Between 1976 and 1981, Dilip Kumar had a five-year break from acting in films. He made his comeback in 1981 with the multi-starrer film ‘Kranti,’ in which he played a key role among an ensemble cast that featured Shashi Kapoor, Shatrughan Sinha, Manoj Kumar, and Hema Malini.
After starring in the 1982 film ‘Vidhata,’ directed by Subhash Ghai and starring Shammi Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, and Sanjeev Kumar, he then starred in the film ‘Vidhata,’ directed by Subhash Ghai and starring Shammi Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, and Sanjeev Kumar.
He received his eighth and final Filmfare Award for best actor in the 1982 super-hit ‘Shakti,’ directed by Ramesh Sippy, in which he co-starred with Amitabh Bachchan. His next film, the 1984 social crime thriller ‘Mashal,’ directed by Yash Chopra, was a box office flop, despite his critically acclaimed performance.
Later, he co-starred with Rishi Kapoor in the 1984 film ‘Duniya,’ and with Jeetendra in the 1986 film ‘Dharm Adhikari.’
In 1986, he teamed up with Subhash Ghai once more for the ensemble action film ‘Karma.’ He was teamed for the first time with renowned actor Nutan, despite they had previously worked together in an unfinished film called ‘Shikwa’ three decades ago. For the 1989 film ‘Kanoon Apna Apna,’ he was teamed with Nutan once more.
Dilip featured alongside veteran actor Raaj Kumar in the 1991 film ‘Saudagar,’ which went on to become his final box office smash and his final collaboration with director Subhash Ghai.
In 1994, he received the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the cinema business over a five-decade period. In the same year, he received the renowned Dadasaheb Phalke Award, and in 2015, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan.
In 1992, film producer Sudhakar Bokade declared the film ‘Kalinga’ as a formal comeback for the actor, but the production was delayed for several years and subsequently shelved. In 1998, he made his final appearance in the film ‘Qila.’
Dilip was nominated to the upper house of parliament by the Indian National Congress after his acting career ended. From 2000 until 2006, he was a member of the Rajya Sabha representing Maharashtra.
In addition to acting and politics, the star has done charitable activities. He used his MPLAD cash to improve the gardens of Bandra Fort and Bandstand Promenade while in the Rajya Sabha.
Dilip Kumar was a flamboyant figure who propelled Bollywood to new heights. His persona could never be duplicated by anyone else after living numerous lives in a lifetime.
Poetry and composure are two words that come to mind while thinking of Dilip Kumar. No other actor has had such a long career in front of the camera and still managed to maintain an everlasting positive image in the minds of the public.
Whether it was his alleged love affairs with Madhubala and Kamini Kaushal, his first marriage, or other controversies such as his 1993 Nishan-E-Imtiaz award (Pakistan’s highest civilian honour), which raised questions about his patriotism, he handled everything with grace and maturity.
He rose to a level of prominence never seen before in Indian cinema as one of the early stars of Bollywood.
Dilip Kumar has left a legacy for many acting enthusiasts to enjoy and learn from. He was a role model for many, a star, a legend, and the king of the golden era of cinema.
The news of his demise has left a void in the hearts of many, including several former and current Bollywood celebrities.
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