Wonderful Memories of Dilip Kumar’s Movies

By Nauman Ahmad Qureshi

Wonderful Memories of a Seven Year Old

The passing of the greatest screen legend and tragedy king, Dilip Kumar, brought back some wonderful memories of when I was seven. I snuck out with one of my cousins in the afternoon. We were in my maternal grandparents house in Quetta. All the elders were having siesta. Somehow we found our way to DELIGHT cinema which was less than a kilometer from the house and watched I my first movie TARANA,ترانہ, तराना  in which Dilip Kumar plays the part of a doctor who survives a plane crash and is given refuge by an old blind man in the village. He falls in love with Madhubala, his rescuer’s daughter.

The Movie TARANA, ترانہ, तराना

TARANA,ترانہ, तराना is a romantic love story with amazing songs and music, and that was the moment  I fell in love with the movies and especially songs.

Poster of Dilip Kumar in Tarana

Dilip Kumar, the undisputed tragedy king of Bollywood

Dilip Kumar, the undisputed tragedy king of Bollywood was born as Muhammad Yousuf Sarwar Khan on 11 December 1922 in their family home in the QISSA KHAWANI BAZAAR of Peshawar in the present KPK. He was one of the 12 children of Lala Ghulam Sarwar Khan and Ayesha Begum.

Qissa Khwani Bazaar, Peshawar, Pakistan- (franek2)

Gregory Peck, Sir Laurence Olivier and Marlon Brando in one person

For his admirers, Dilip Kumar was Gregory Peck, Sir Laurence Olivier and Marlon Brando packed in one person. In one of his interviews, he mentions that he was inspired by Jimmy Stewart and Ingrid Bergman. His dialogue delivery reminds me of Ingrid Bergman, particularly her slow and calculated choice of words. He proved to the Bollywood actors of the time that performing does not require shouting or over-acting. Since most of the actors who joined the film industry were theater performers, they tended to be loud and over dramatic.

His first film Jawar Bhata ( 1944) was a flop and so were a few other movies. His first hit was Jugnu (1947), in which he was paired with another legend, Noor Jehan. He then had a series of hits like the romantic tragedy Andaz (1949), Tarana (1951), the swashbuckling (1952), the social drama Daag (1952) and the dramatic Devdas (1955).

A good actor feels and lives their roles in the movies and Dilip Kumar briefly suffered from anxiety and depression due to portraying many tragic roles and on the advice of his psychiatrist, he also took on light-heated roles like a thief in the comedy Azzad (1955), and as a royal prince in the romantic musical Kohinoor (1960).

His masterpiece was the portrayal of Prince Salim

His masterpiece was the portrayal of Prince Salim in the historical epic Mughal e Azam (1960), which turned out to be the highest grosser in the history of Indian cinema until it was surpassed by 1971 film Haathi Mere Saathi and later by the 1975 film Sholay. If adjusted for inflation, Mughal e Azam was the highest-grossing Indian film through to the early 2010s, equivalent to over 1000 crore rupees.

In 1961, Dilip Kumar wrote, produced, and starred in Ganga Jamuna opposite his frequent leading lady Vyjayanthimala and his brother Nasir Khan. This was the only film he produced which won several National and International awards.

English Movies

In 1962, British director David Lean offered him the role of Sherif Ali in his movie Lawrence of Arabia (1962), but Dilip declined the role and it eventually went to Omar Sharif, the Egyptian actor. Dilip Kumar was also being considered for a leading role opposite Elizabeth Taylor in a film that David Lean was working on called Taj Mahal, but the project was cancelled.

In the 80s and 90s, he started playing character roles in movies like Saudagar, Kranti and Mukti. The debate whether Dilip Kumar is a better actor or Amitabh was decided once and for all when both these actors starred in the blockbuster Shakti (1982). Both were nominated for the Filmfare award for the best actor category, but Dilip got the award for the record 8th time, which was equaled much later by Shahrukh Khan.

Dilip Kumar and his Heroines

Although Dilip worked with almost all the leading ladies of his era but I would like to mention a few.

Love blossomed between Dilip Kumar and Kamini Kaushal on the sets of movie “Shaheed”, but Kamini was already married to her late sister’s husband. In his autobiography, Dilip revealed that he was indeed attracted to Kamini Kaushal and that she was his first love.

Dilip wanted to marry Madhubala but after doing after reading a lo of material on this topic, my view is that Madhubala’s father was a typical greedy to be father-in-law. His list of demands grew with the passage of time, which Dilip didn’t like.

A much-quoted incident with Suraiya

This incident dates back to the time when Suraiya’s career was at its zenith. Whenever a film producer used to visit Suraiya’s residence to sign her for his film, Suraiya’s mom used to say with pride “Give one Jubilee (hit film) to him too as Dilip Kumar was an upcoming star at that time. His friendship with K. Asif was legendary and he had already worked in K. Asif’s Hulchul (1951).

Dilip Kumar in Devdas
Public Domain
File:Devdas (1955) Dilip Kumar.jpg
Created: 1 January 1955
Dilip Kumar

Therefore, Dilip requested K. Asif to sign him opposite Suraiya, and K. Asif obliged by producing a film with the name of Jaanwar. According to the requirement of one of the scenes, Suraiya gets bitten by a snake on her shin, and Dilip has to suck the poison from her leg. This scene was rehearsed continuously for 4 consecutive days. Suraiya got suspicious and was quite convinced that Dilip Kumar was doing this to satisfy his urges and K. Asif was his partner in crime. Suraiya discussed this matter with her mom, and her mom brought this matter to Zahoor (Suraiya’s Uncle) attention.

Next day, when the same thing happened, Suraiya pulled her leg and started to cuss at Dilip Kumar. Zahoor tried to attack Dilip, but Asif came in between and tried to cool him down. After this incident, Suraiya immediately refused to work in this film. Asif said to her “Who will pay for the loss? Suraiya wrote a check and left the sets immediately. Hence, the film was never completed, and the two great legends were never paired again.

Dilip Kumar’s memoir, The Substance And The Shadow

In his memoir, The Substance And The Shadow, Dilip Kumar, described the moment he realized that Saira Bano, the love of his life, was ‘no longer a young girl’. “When I alighted from my car and entered the beautiful garden that leads to the house, I can still recall my eyes falling on Saira standing in the foyer of her new house looking breathtakingly beautiful in a brocade sari. I was taken aback because she was no longer the young girl I consciously avoided working with because I thought she would look too young to be my heroine. She had indeed grown to full womanhood and was more beautiful than I thought she was. I simply stepped forward and shook her hand and for us time stood still,” he wrote.

The couple married in 1966, despite initial apprehensions regarding the 22-year age gap and they remained married till his passing away recently.

There was and there never will be another thespian and tragedy king of the caliber of Dilip Kumar.


Create Cultural Memories through Literature and Art

Read more about Dilip Kumar in his autobiography, The Substance and the Shadow.

Dilip Kumar: The Substance and the Shadow

Nauman Ahmad smiling

Nauman Ahmad Qureshi is an educator with almost forty years in teaching and educational management. He is a musician and vocalist and a movie buff. A Forman Christian College graduate, he also attended several teachers training courses in the UK. He has taught students from all over the world, worked in institutions both in Pakistan and abroad, and finally retired as Principal, Sadiq Public School in 2017.

Memoir of a Sadiqian, by Nauman Ahmad Qureshi, is available in books stores in Pakistan.

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