During the making of Mashaal (1984), Dilip Kumar would routinely call screenwriter Javed Akhtar and ask him to narrate the script repeatedly. One half of the iconic screenwriting duo “Salim-Javed”, Akhtar had previously penned Shakti (1982) with his former partner Salim Khan that featured the thespian in the lead, and as a result, knew how the actor approached his characters. Yet Akhtar couldn’t put his finger on why Dilip Kumar constantly asked for a narration. Kumar’s body of work included some of the landmark films in Hindi cinema—Andaz (1949), Aan (1952), Amar (1954), Devdas (1955), Naya Daur (1957), Madhumati (1958), Mughal-e-Azam (1960), and Ganga Jumna (1961)—and he excelled at playing complex characters. Akhtar finally asked the actor why he insisted on endless narrations, and he was surprised when the actor told him that the intensity of his character “Vinod Kumar” was unlike he had ever encountered. Anyone who followed Hindi cinema from the 1950s onwards would assume that someone like Dilip Kumar would find a film like Mashaal to be a cakewalk. After all, he was the “tragedy king” and peerless when it came to the genre Mashaal fell into, but the actor still gave it his all. Dilip Kumar’s death at 98 brings down the curtains on not only a glorious career as a screen legend but also marks the end of an epoch in more ways than one could count.
Born “Yusuf Khan” in 1922 in Peshawar, Dilip Kumar hailed from a well-to-do family of fruit merchants. In the shadow of the looming Second World War, his father, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, began exploring business opportunities in Bombay. Initially, Sarwar Khan’s family stayed back in Peshawar, but a stray incident where he picked up a baby in a pram because he reminded him of his son, Yusuf, started a chain of reactions leading the entire family shift to Bombay. Sarwar Khan set up a thriving business in Bombay’s Crawford Market but Yusuf’s elder brother, Ayub Khan, developed a respiratory disorder, and the family shifted to the hilly terrains of Deolali, an Army station located at a distance of 180 kilometres from Bombay. In Deolali, Yusuf enrolled in Barnes School, learnt to speak English, fell in love with football, and for the rest of his life referred to himself as a Deolali boy. During vacations, the family went to Peshawar, and Yusuf spent time with his grandparents and cultivated a lifelong friendship with someone who would become one of his most famous contemporaries—Raj Kapoor. In Peshawar, the Khan family was friendly with the family of Dewan Basheshwarnath Kapoor, Raj Kapoor’s grandfather, and many years later, Yusuf and Raj would meet again in then Bombay’s Khalsa College. Family hardships forced Yusuf to leave home and work as manager of a British Army canteen. He set a sandwich business for a while and even took over the family’s fruit supply operations before landing a contract with Bombay Talkies in 1942 for a monthly salary of a princely sum of Rs 1,250.
Devika Rani, the prima donna of India films and the boss of Bombay Talkies, gave Yusuf Khan his screen name “Dilip Kumar”. It was in the first meeting that Devika Rani spotted Yusuf’s potential, she had done this on another occasion a few years ago when she transformed Kumudlal Kunjilal Ganguly into “Ashok Kumar”. Unlike Raj Kapoor, who was trying to break into films and got a monthly salary of Rs 170, Dilip Kumar was a star from the moment he set foot in Bombay Talkies. He maintained that aura all through the course of his career. His debut Jwar Bhata (1944) did not create the kind of dent Rani would have imagined, however, he zoomed past the likes of Ashok Kumar, Dev Anand, Motilal, and Raj Kapoor in a short period. Kumar’s first box office success came in the form of Jugnu (1947), and although films such as Shaheed (1948) and Mela (1948) were successful, nothing announced his arrival as Mehboob’s Andaz (1949). Mehboob’s Andaz featured Nargis and Raj Kapoor as well, and the casting couldn’t have been better, but Dilip Kumar stood out, and there was no looking back. Dilip Kumar possessed the star quality that filmmakers often seek. This is why the likes of Mehboob Khan and Bimal Roy, arguably two of the most prominent filmmakers in Hindi cinema in the 1940s and the 1950s, picked him over the others. Kumar featured in Mehboob’s technicolour extravaganza Aan and Amar and was the first choice to play the role of Birju in Mother India (1957). Kumar wanted to play the double role of the father Shamu, later played by Raaj Kumar as well as the elder son, Ramu, eventually played by Rajendra Kumar as he couldn’t wrap his mind around playing son to Nargis, a heroine that he had romanced on screen. Bimal Roy’s version of Devdas (1951) cemented Kumar’s status as the unparalleled tragedy king of Hindi cinema, a style first noticed by the fans in Deedar (1951).
Nehruvian socialism heavily influenced the hero of post-Independence popular Hindi cinema. Dilip Kumar, along with Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand, often imbibed certain personality traits of India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in one way or the other while portraying characters. Kapoor’s early films—Awaara (1951),Shree 420 (1955), and Boot Polish (1954)—drew a lot from classic Soviet literature and ideas and his loveable tramp was supposed to represent the average Indian with a heart of gold despite the hardships that seemed to stem from the institutional model of the country. Dev Anand represented the modernism of Nehru, but it was Dilip Kumar who was nestled in between and offered the ideal mix of traditions and modernity. In films such as Naya Daur and Ganga Jumna, Kumar enmeshed all the qualities that defined the socialist model that Nehru’s pitched with the right balance. The dacoit-saga Ganga Jumna was the first film that Kumar directed, although Nitin Bose was credited, and the Censor board nearly stopped its release until Kumar approached Nehru to help him out. Both the film and Kumar’s performance are counted amongst the greatest to date and have inspired films such as Deewar (1975). The other aspect that separated Dilip Kumar from the ilk was that unlike the other two, Anand and Kapoor, or even the later stars who followed, he and his films did not seem interchangeable. The dark underbelly of newly-independent India’s commercial capital Bombay explored by Kapoor in Awaara or Shree 420, and Dev Anand in films like Baazi (1951), CID (1956), Jaal (1952), Kala Bazar (1960), Jaali Note (1960)seem to be near-perfect substitutes. On the other hand, Dilip Kumar films were his own, unique, and singular in every aspect of the word, and the fans knew this and remained steadfast to Kumar even when he reduced his output.
Right from the onset of his career, Dilip Kumar was never hurried or rushed. He refused more films than most of his contemporaries put together and was more adept at shifting gears than everyone else. Kumar’s career peaked between 1947 and 1964, a period where 36 of his 58 films released, and there was hardly anything left for him to prove. He had achieved more than what could have been expected from a film star. Perhaps that is why he refused Pyaasa (1957), as it seemed to remind him of some of his tragic roles and even said no to David Lean. The latter wanted to cast him as Prince Sherif Ali in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) as he felt he would not have been comfortable in the Hollywood setup. This was when Dilip Kumar agreed to do lighter roles in Kohinoor and Ram Aur Shyam (1967), reportedly at the suggestion of his psychoanalyst. In his autobiography, The Substance and the Shadow, Kumar writes how he almost decided to quit acting after the success of Ram Aur Shyam, but was dissuaded by his wife, Saira Banu. The advent of Rajesh Khanna and later Amitabh Bachchan changed the template of Hindi films, and like most stars of the earlier generations, Kumar had a tough time finding his space. No matter what Dilip Kumar did, he would always be larger than life. Perhaps this is why the mainstream everyman roles in the 1970s, dominated by the angst-driven Angry Young Man persona popularised by Salim-Javed films, were a kind of misfit for him. The 1970s were not too kind to Kumar with films like Gopi (1970), Dastaan (1972), Sagina (1972) and Bairaag (1976) that hardly mattered, and he took a sabbatical before returning with Manoj Kumar’s Kranti (1980). Kumar rediscovered his rhythm in the 1980s not because he found his sweet spot but thanks to the filmmakers who finally came up with scripts that would justify his talent and stature without being ostensibly larger than life. The decade saw him featured opposite younger and up and coming stars such as Amitabh Bachchan in Shakti, Sanjay Dutt in Vidhaata (1982) and Kanoon Apna Apna (1989), Anil Kapoor in Mashaal (1984), and Karma (1986) that also had Jackie Shroff and Sridevi, Rishi Kapoor in Duniya (1984), and Govinda and Madhuri Dixit in Izzatdaar (1990).
A true pioneer, Dilip Kumar’s films in the 1980s had created a space where a former superstar could manage to feature in meaningful roles. However, the 1990s with Saudagar (1991) and later Qilla (1998), Kumar’s last film, did more harm as the template went back to the larger-than-life template both in terms of the film’s scope and the character. Through the 1990s, Kumar tried to complete his directorial venture Kalinga, the story of a judge and his two sons played by Raj Kiran and Raj Babbar, but the film went over budget and the producer, Sudhakar Bokade backed out. Off-screen, there were some instances where Kumar’s actions generated controversy as well; such as in the early 1980s, when he publicly declared his second marriage to a divorced Hyderabad-based socialite Asma Sahiba or the time where he refused to return the Nishan-e-Imtiaz, Pakistan’s highest civilian honour, in the wake of the Kargil war in 1999.
When one thinks of Dilip Kumar, the peerless legacy that he left behind as an actor, something that continues to shape the craft of acting to this date, comes to mind. The path that he blazed was followed by generations of actors right from Manoj Kumar, who took his screen after a character played by Dilip Kumar, to Kamal Haasan, who considered him one of the finest ever. There is more to Dilip Kumar than his onscreen persona that inspired people in real life. He was not without his flaws, no human can ever be, but his demeanour and how he conducted himself in public life was far greater than the screen icon that he was. Dilip sahab’s grace and dignity are what many would remember him for besides his brilliance in front of the camera.
Gautam Chintamani is a film historian and author of the bestselling ‘Dark Star: The Loneliness of Being Rajesh Khanna’, ‘The Film That Revived Hindi Cinema’ and ‘Pink: The Inside Story’. His last book, ‘Rajneeti’ was the first biography of Rajnath Singh. His upcoming book ‘The Midway Battle: Challenges at Home and Abroad for Modi 2.0’ will release in 2021.
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BILL AND MELINDA GATES ARE OFFICIALLY DIVORCED
WASHINGTON: The divorce between Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates has been finalised. As per CNN report, filing with the King County Superior Court in Washington made the move official. Melinda French Gates filed the petition for divorce in King County, Washington.
Bill and Melinda announced in May that they would be ending their marriage after 27 years, saying, “we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”
However, the duo said they will continue to work together at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Meanwhile, the foundation said last month that the organisation was planning a two-year trial period to see if the pair could continue working together effectively.
“If after two years either decide they cannot continue to work together as co-chairs, French Gates will resign her position as co-chair and trustee,” CEO Mark Suzman said. In the weeks following the initial announcement of the divorce, Bill faced allegations of questionable workplace conduct in the early years at Microsoft.
BLINKEN ANNOUNCES US REFUGEE ADMISSIONS PROGRAMME FOR AFGHAN NATIONALS
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a US refugee admissions programme Priority 2 designation for Afghan nationals on Monday. The US is weeks away from completing military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Blinken, during a press briefing, said, “The State Department is announcing a new resettlement program for Afghans who assisted the United States, but who do not qualify for special immigrant visas. We’ve created a Priority-2 or P-2 designation, granting access to the US refugee admissions program for many of these Afghans and their family members.”
He said that even as the US forces withdraw from Afghanistan, the US will remain deeply engaged with the country.
“We’ll continue to work toward an Afghanistan, where all Afghans can live in safety and security, and we will continue our support for Afghan institutions, and for the gains that the Afghan people have made over the past 20 years,” said Blinken.
“We will keep engaging intensely in diplomacy to advance negotiations between the Afghan government, the Taliban, with the goal of a political solution, which we believe is the only path to lasting peace. And we’ll keep working closely with countries in the region, which all have a stake in a stable, peaceful, democratic Afghanistan,” he stated.
Blinken said that Afghans who work with the United States or the International Security Assistance Force at some point since 2001 are facing acute fears of persecution or retribution that will likely grow as coalition forces leave the country.
He further added that “We have a special report the responsibility to these individuals. They stood with us. We will stand with them. Over the past 13 years, the State Department has issued more than 73,000 Special Immigrant Visas to eligible Afghans who have helped the United States, and also to their families. We’ll continue to welcome Afghan immigrants and refugees as our neighbours in gratitude for helping us, despite the danger. We won’t forget it.”
AFGHAN PRESIDENT GHANI’S TIME HAS RUN OUT: TALIBAN
KABUL: Taliban said that Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani’s “time has run out” on Monday. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, while reacting to Ghani’s remark that the ongoing war is an external intrigue imposed on the people of Afghanistan, accused the President of lying and spreading false information.
A tweet by Mujahid said that his (Ghani’s) time is over and the announcement of warfare will not survive him. “Speech by @ashrafghani is nonsense, an attempt to control his fears & dire situation. Nation has decided to pursue & bring national traitors to justice. Declarations of war, accusations & lies cannot prolong Ghani’s life, his time has run out, God willing,” said Mujahid.
INDIA WANTS PEACEFUL RELATIONS, ONUS IS ON PAKISTAN: TIRUMURTI
WASHINGTON: India’s Permanent Representative to United Nations, T.S. Tirumurti said that India desires to have peaceful and normal relations with Pakistan but in an atmosphere free from terror.
The Indian Ambassador to the UN informed that issues between the two countries should be resolved in an atmosphere free from terror, hostility, and violence and the onus is on Pakistan to create such an environment. “Pakistan should take credible and verifiable action not to allow any territory under their control to be used for cross border terrorism against India,” said Tirumurti. He also informed that India wants to keep a spotlight on counter-terrorism.
US-China seek alignment of Afghan interests: Ned Price
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price has said that China’s interest in Afghanistan could be ‘an alignment of interest’ when it comes to what the US and China seek in Afghanistan.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) interest in Afghanistan could be “an alignment of interest” when it comes to what the US and China seek in Afghanistan, said US State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Monday. “There’s an alignment of interest in at least some areas when it comes to what we seek, what China seeks and what the broader international community seeks in Afghanistan,” Price told ANI on being asked what is US’ assessment of meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Taliban delegation led by its Chief Negotiator Abdul Ghani Baradar.
Experts say thay although the US might once have fiercely resisted Chinese attempts to increase their influence inside Afghanistan, now Washington’s priority appears to keep away a civil war. Spokesperson Price also affirmed that is in no one’s interest to see Afghanistan descend into an all-out civil war. “It is in everyone’s interest to see a solution to the conflict that is just as durable as Afghan-led, and Afghan Owned,” he concluded.
AMID COVID PANDEMIC, PMGKY REDUCES WORRIES OF THE POOR: PM MODI
Gandhinagar: Annotsav Day was celebrated on Tuesday on the occasion of the completion of five years of the Rupani government, as part of which a state-level program was organized in Dahod district in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a virtual dialogue with the beneficiaries of the grain welfare scheme. He asked whether the beneficiaries of Dahod and Rajkot have any problem in taking up the scheme or not. Modi said in a dialogue with the beneficiaries that the poor would get free foodgrains till Diwali. Modi praised the performance of the Gujarat government.
Prime Minister’s Poor Welfare Food Scheme is being praised all over the world. More than Rs 2 crore is being spent by the government under this scheme. The aim is that not a single person in India goes to bed hungry. Under this scheme, ration cardholders are being given double the amount of foodgrains than before. The plan is to run till Diwali.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday addressed the beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana and said this scheme has reduced the worries of the poor and increased their confidence. Three and a half crore beneficiaries in Gujarat are getting the benefit of free foodgrains. “I commend the Gujarat government for this. Preference is given to workers from other parts of the country. Workers have benefited from this scheme. Gujarat is the first to offer the benefit of One Nation One Ration Card,” said the Prime Minister.
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