Today, on December 11, a legend was born 98 years ago in Peshawar in Pakistan. His proud parents named him as Muhammad Yusuf Khan. The same guy later blossomed into the talented thespian Dilip Kumar and straddled the screens in Bollywood for over 60 years as a leading actor who could get into the skin of any and every character with effortless ease as well as aplomb. By Jyothi Venkatesh
Actors like Mukesh Khanna and Sudesh Berry too had fooled in the footsteps of Amitah Bachchan
They say that in Bollywood, you cannot become a star if you don’t have a bit of Dilip Kumar in you. From Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan and Rajendra Kumar down to Aamir Khan, Govinda and Shah Rukh Khan, to even Aman Verma. They say that about Amitabh Bachchan and his impact in the film industry too. Actors like Mukesh Khanna and Sudesh Berry too had fooled in the footsteps of Amitah Bachchan as far as their mannerisms were concerned. Amitabh Bachchan and Dilip Kumar’s influence can be felt in every generation of stars who came after him.
Dilip Kumar had almost stopped acting and taking it easy
Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor were the ruling triumvirate in the golden era of Bollywood way back in the 60’s and 70’s. Though luckily I could meet and talk to Raj Kapoor quite often thanks to his friendly PR person Bunny Reuben as well as Dev Anand, because he was a lively self effacing PR person himself, as a new journalist, I had very few opportunities to meet Dilip Kumar because by the time I had become a free lance film journalist, Dilip Kumar had almost stopped acting and taking it easy and there were several new actors who had invaded the scene, like Rajendra Kumar, Vinod Mehra, Amitabh Bachchan, Shatrughan Sinha, Randhir Kapoor , Rishi Kapoor Vinod Khanna etc etc.
Dilip Kumar was extremely witty
Off and on I had the proud privilege of meeting and talking to Dilip Kumar not only at parties like the one held for his film Qilla as well as on the location shooting of Sudhakar Bokade’s film Izzatdar . I should say that listening to the great actor was like attending a lecture on acting since he was knowledgeable and had the gift of the gab. Not only that, Dilip Kumar was extremely witty too. Since I was younger to him by almost thirty years, there was a distance that had to be maintained by me whenever I was sitting with him and talking to him. Dilip saab had this habit of pinching my cheeks with both his hands and asking me how I was whenever I used to meet him and ask him whether he remembered my name. It was his way of not letting me know that he had forgotten my name though he remembered having met me earlier.
When Dilip saab sit on Banana leaf in Chennai and waiting for food
At the location of the shooting of Izzatdar at Chennai, when it was lunch time and Dilip Kumar and all of us journalists who had been flown to the location from Mumbai by PR person R R Pathak joined him for lunch. In those days in the 80’s, there was no system of the so called vanity vans or managers and secretaries tagging to the super stars, like today. I luckily got the opportunity to sit bang next to Dilip Kumar and when we were waiting for the staff to come and serve us the typical South Indian lunch on our banana leaves on the table.
Dilip saab quipped to me, “The first time I had come to Madras as Chennai was called then, I had made a fool of myself when we were all asked to sit on the floors as was the traditional custom down South when one has lunch and being a Peshawar born guy who did not know that I would be working in several South Indian productions on my career later on, I comfortably sat flat on the banana leaf itself though I was supposed to actually sit in front of it . Producer Nagi Reddy who was standing next to me for lunch quietly whispered in my ears that the food would be served on the banana leaf and we had to sit opposite it.”
Dilip Kumar –Saira Banu has been a married couple for the last 54 years, though Bollywood is notorious for its break ups. Like Jeetendra-Shobha Kapoor (almost 43 years) Manoj Kumar-Shashi (married for over 53 years), it is a marriage that has stood the test of time. As far as the Dilip Kumar- Saira Banu prem kahani is concerned, it wasn’t exactly a kissa of boy meets girl
“I was a shy school boy, Saira was literally the flavor of the season in the 60” Dilip saab
He was the intractable tragedy king. She was the sassy Kashmiri lass in Junglee. Heart-broken after his failed affairs with Kamini Kaushal earlier and Madhubala, Dilip Kumar fell for Naseem Bano’s daughter Saira Banu. The wedding bells rang on October 11, 1966, when most of the teenyboppers’ hearts were broken when they came to know that their favorite actor Dilip Kumar, who had shot to dizzy heights of fame with the success of his romantic films like Devdas and Mughal E Azam, had married Saira Banu. When I was a shy school boy, Saira was literally the flavor of the season in the 60”s with hit films like Junglee, Purab Aur Paschim etc.
Their marriage has been free of scandal, except when he briefly married Asma
It was the most sensational ever marriage way back in 1966 when a young 22 year old Saira Banu who was the dream girl of every young man in town proposed to the matinee idol Dilip Kumar and got married too. Like today Salman Khan is at 54, at 44, Dilip Kumar was the most eligible bachelor boy around at that point of time when every other top actor whether it was Raj Kapoor, or Dharmendra or Sunil Dutt or for that matter, Manoj Kumar was hooked, booked and married. Post-honeymoon: They made appearances together in Gopi and Sagina and, Ramesh Talwar’s Duniya. Their marriage has been free of scandal, except when he briefly married Asma. This hardly caused a stir, as Dilip gained much sympathy for his desire to father an heir.
Dilip Kumar’s official attempt at directing a film called…..
Not many are aware of the fact that Dilip Kumar had also released his second home production in Bhojpuri titled Ab To Ban Ja Sajanwa Hamaar starring Ravi Kishen, Naghma and Mona Thiba and directed by Arshad Khan under the banner of Sharp Focus. Dilip Kumar had also thrown a lavish party at his bungalow to celebrate the completion of the film where all of us journalists were wined and dined in the typical Dilip Kumar style. Dilip Kumar’s official attempt at directing a film called Kalinga for producer Sudhakar Bokade did not bear fruit and the film couldn’t be completed.
Once I got the shock of my life when Dilipsaab rang me up and asked me if I could convince the Filmfare guys to give him four more invitation cards for the Filmfare award function since he felt shy to call up the Editor who he knew personally and I remember though I had stopped receiving the invitations after the awards function shifted to Film City from Shanmukhanada Hall, I had called up the Editor and passed on Dlipsaab ‘s request.
had to brush up my Urdu and left no stone unturned to learn the depth of the language…” Dilip Saab
In spite of having been in the industry for so long, there remain certain underlying facts unknown to most. Saira reminisces how, as a graduate from London University, she had cherished dreams of meeting Dilip Saab during her childhood days. “I had to brush up my Urdu and left no stone unturned to learn the depth of the language as I heard Saab was too good in Urdu. I am in love with the man right from the beginning. He is a linguistic, I am very lucky to have been with him. In fact all my dreams and aims have been not only fulfilled but have been achieved to the fullest,” the blushing Saira Banu used to gush.
“Way back in 1962 I had actually launched a film titled Palkon Ki Chhaon Mein with my mother and brother. Since we were new to production, everything went well except the dates of the stars and finally the project was shelved. Sometime back, with Saab, we established our own production banner Sharp Focus which has produced content-oriented stuff for television too.
“Saira Banu had also gone on record to me once” Dilip Kumar
Bhojpuri has been used in films during 60’s also and I and Saab have done a lot of films that had an essence of Bhojpuri language. We like this language so I thought of producing a Bhojpuri film. If you remember our earlier films together as a star pair, especially Bairaag and Sagina Mahato also had the flavor of Bhojpuri”, Saira Banu had confided to me. Saira Banu had also gone on record to me once.”Though I have no intention to stage my come-back as an actress my dream is to produce films written by Dilip Saab, if only Saab’s health permits him and he agrees to my proposal of acting in any of these films”.
Saira Banu and Dilip Saab were against making remakes and remixes of any kind, as a producer. “Can you make any yesteryear films as they were made then at that point of time? You will not believe a few young boys who were relatives of B.R. Chopra who live in America came to Mumbai and called me and asked me to send the DVD of old Devdas. Though the new version of Devdas with Shah Rukh Khan was being shown here in the theatres, they liked the older version starring Saab”.
Dilip saab didn’t stop Saira from acting in films
The marriage proved professionally lucky with both notching up individual hits soon afterwards. The best thing about Dilip Kumar is that he has never been a male chauvinist who had prevented his wife from continuing to act in films, after their marriage. Dilipsaab didn’t stop Saira from acting in films and in fact glamorous roles like in in Purab Aur Paschim and Victoria No 203 came after her wedding. In the mid-1970s, she took on the Mrs Dilip Kumar mantle full-time, and in the early 1980’s the childless couple successfully weathered a storm about Kumar’s clandestine marriage with a woman named Asma.
Our married life has worked out because of one word- it is mohabbat
To the credit of Saira Banu, though a big scandal had ensued but Saira Banu had the last laugh. Her perseverance and ability to veer her strayed husband towards her paid big dividends and Kumar left Asma to be with Saira. “When two individuals are living together, misunderstandings do erupt and it is very difficult for this institution to be carried on for eternity. Yes, it is a tough preposition. However, thanks to Alla Taala, our married life has worked out because of one word- it is mohabbat,” was Saira Banu’s refrain.
Today, Dilip and Saira are an inseparable entity, accorded much respect and adulation in the industry. Saira, who calls him saab, is fiercely protective of him though sadly Dilipsaab is tied to his bed and being looked after by Saira Aappa. Dilip saab even filled in as anchor, though he had always disliked the idea of facing the camera for television or endorsing products as a model till date. What with stress dominating and commercial consideration outweighing human emotions, it looks like God up there has stopped making such loving/lovely couples any more in Bollywood.
May Dilip Saab recover from his ailing health at the ripe age of 98 and live for another 100 years, because God does not make actors like him anymore!