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Fifty Four Years of Togetherness Through Thick And Thin

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Ali Peter John

She was crazy about Mary legendary actor even as the little girl. Her love for him kept growing even when she was studying abroad and her love reached new heights when she saw his film, “Aan” and as floored by his personality and made up her mind that she would marry Dilip Kumar and no one else.

She came back to Bombay and made her debut as a leading lady with Shammi Kapoor in “Jungli”. She was only sixteen. She soon signed other films like “Shagird”,“Purab Aur Paschim” and the one star she signed the maximum number of films was Rajendra Kumar with whom she did some very successful films like “Jhuk Gayaa Aasmaan”,“Aayee Milan Ki Bela” and “Aman”. There were rumours about the jubilee star and Saira falling in love, but Saira’s grandmother Shamshad Begum, a singer of the fifties and her mother, the beauty queen Naseem Banu were entirely against the relationship since Kumar was a Hindu and moreover he was married and had two children.

Dilip Kumar was the most eligible bachelor in the country who had not got married till he was forty-four. He was supposed to have had affairs with several women, especially Kamini Kaushal and Madhubala.

Saira’s family were very worried and is said to have sought the help of Dilip Kumar who was a family friend.

This led to several meetings between the forty-four year old legend and the twenty-two year old rising star, Saira Banu. They fell in love in spite of the big age gap.

Dilip Kumar was to do “Ram Aur Shyam”and the makers who were from the South wanted to cast Saira as one of the leading ladies, but Dilip Kumar was against the idea as he thought Saira was too young to play his heroine. The role went to Mumtaz and Saira was very upset…

The family and Dilip Kumar were however busy making plans and ultimately “the tragedy king’ and ‘the beauty queen’ got married on October 11,1966.

Dilip Kumar left his own bungalow in the same lane on Pali Hill and shifted to Saira’s bungalow, 34, Pali Hill where they have been living for the last fifty-four years. They have had no children, which has been a major subject for discussion among their relatives, friends, admirers, fans and even critics. I have seen learned writers having heated discussions and even having fights over why Dilip Kumar could not have a son.

Saira, who had taken a break came back to films with only one ambition and that was to work only with her husband and they did big films like “Gopi”,“Bairag”(in which Dilip Kumar played his only triple role) and “Sagina Mahato” (which was directed by Tapan Sinha). They had started shooting for Chandra Barot’s(the maker of “Don”) version of eygmallion which was left incomplete due to Saira’s falling sick.

The couple has had a very long and happy life, but the only hitch came when Dilip Kumar was said to be having an affair with a woman from Hyderabad called Asma. It looked as if there could be rift, but the couple had developed a great deal of faith in one another in spite of their differences and the storm was blown away…

For the last ten years, Dilip Kumar has not been keeping very well. He has been fighting a life and death battle with age-related ailments like Alzheimers and Parkinsons and has been in and out of hospitals, with Saira standing by him as the Florence of Nightingale in his life and playing the real-life role of the best nurse in the world.

Only this morning, I called Sairaji to tell her that I was with them like always. She thanked me proufusly and asked me to play for them in this most critical time of their lives together. She said that in addition to her Sahab’s health problems, she also had to face all the harassment of the builders who have been trying to grab Dilip Kumar’s bungalow and some other property. She however sounded very positive when she said, “It was god’s plan to bring us together and I know God will be with us like he has always been”.

As she told me she had to rush to her Sahab’s bedside as he was being ‘frighteningly sick’ during the last two weeks, I was flooded with memories of the times I had spent with the couple and I sent up one huge prayer for them. Will we have another couple like them, a couple which has done both love and the institution of marriage great and incomparable service?

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Tags: Bollywood, Bollywood News, Bollywood Updates, Television, Telly News, Dilip Kumar, Saira Banu, Marriage Anniversary

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