Dilip Kumar – the greatest tragedian of golden age of bollywood films.
Yusuf Khan, better known as Dilip Kumar is one of the greatest legends who had glorified the golden age of bollywood films with his everlasting appeal as a tragedian. Being one of the most popular actors for the last last six decades both in India and Pakistan, much had been said about the grand icon of hindi cinema. What has not been said is that there are few personalities in the film world whose performances are so effortless and natural that it is a wonder how can real life characters be provided living identity with such ease, the way Dilip Kumar had done.
Born in December 11, 1922, in Peshawar, he had seen the transformation phase of hindi cinema during the pre-independence and post-independence period. His films in the 40s starting from Jowar Bhatta in 1944 and including Jugnu, Azaad, etc. showed that he possessed inherent acting skills which got immense exposure in the 1949 blockbuster of Mehboob Khan titled Andaz, where the other notable personality named Raj Kapoor faced Dilip Kumar. Dilip Kumar’s path of sacrifice in triangular affair-based films became a hall mark for other notable actors in the later years and at the end of the film he won all the sympathy of the audience who considered him as deserving Nargis equally like Raj Kapoor.
His films in the early 50s titled Aan (the first coloured film in India) opposite Nadira, Deedar, Babul, etc., had diverse subjects. But he formed a very successful pair with Madhubala, one of the most glamourous actresses in the golden age of hindi cinema, and the tragic-oriented roles in Tarana, 1950, Sangdil, 1951, Amar, 1954, provided him the title of tragedy king where the audience had identified themselves within the romantic characters of Dilip Kumar and Madhubala.
In the mean time, Dilip Kumar created a hat trick by winning filmfare awards one of the other in 1956, 57, 58, for the films Azaad, Devdas and Naya Daur. Devdas probably provided Dilip Kumar the everlasting identity of the tragic hero whose romance never blossoms into successful destinations and the failure haunts him throughout his life. Sarat Chandra Chatterji’s epic literature depicted him as the Bengali Brahmin who falls in love with Parbati a neighbouring girl, who could not cross the social barriers and were married to a wealthy family in the same village. Devdas accompanied Chunnilas played by Motilal and went to a Kotha where alcohol and the company of Chandramukhi acted as the sedative which could enable Devdas to forget his unsuccessful romance. The unfettered consumption of alcohol led to his death and he died in front of the house of Parbati. The feeling of a frustrated person, who is almost at the verge of death, who cannot breath due to failure of health is very difficult to portray which Dilip Kumar had done in an extraordinary manner. Talat Mehmood’s song titled “Mitwa” which was played when Dilip Kumar’s body was lying on the ground created pensive and sombre mood for all sections of the society. The film has been remade a number of times, but still Dilip Kumar’s appeal is everlasting even after 50 years of the release of the film.
His tragic oriented roles also include Daag, Footpath, Uran Khatola, Yahudi, had created an immortal appeal in the minds of numerous filmlovers across country where Talat’s song “Koi Nahi mera is duniya me”, Rafi’s song “woh dur ke musafir humko bhi saath lele re”, Mukesh’s song “yeh mera diwanapan hai” brought tears in the eyes of the audience. The tragic stories followed in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Musafir, 1957, and Bimal Roy’s Madhumati, 1958. Dilip Kumar almost penetrated the soul of the characters he used to display and the doctor advised him to stop acting in these types of films as his health was getting affected due to them.
Dilip Kumar switched over to comedy based films and music oriented films and his performance in Kohinoor opposite Meena Kumari, 1960, and Mughal –i-azam opposite Madhubala, received critics acclamation. His lips in Rafi’s songs “Madhuban me radhika nache re”, “do sitaron ka zameen par hai Milan aaj ki raat” showed the other dimension that he had extraordinary command over classical music.
He started his production in 1961, with the film Gunga Jumna, opposite Vaijayantimala and there too he mesmerised the audience in a role of a dacoit and acting with Bhojpuri accent. The following years provided Dilip Kumar’s epic performances in coloured films with strong musical background like Leader, 1964, and films opposite Wahida Rehman including Ram Aur Shyam, 1966, Dil Diya Dard Liya, 1966, and Aadmi, 1967. the combination of Rafi, Naushad and Dilip Kumar was bolstered in all these films with songs like “teri husn ka kya tareef karoon”, “aaj ki raat mere dilki salami lele”,“ koi sagar dil ko behlata nahi”, “ aaj purani raho se koi mujhe awaaz na de”. The double role of Dilip Kumar in Ram Aur Shyam, showed all the elements of a successful matinee idol including innocence in the role of Ram, fighting skills in the role of Shyam, choreographic skills and romantic skills. The success stories of jubileekumar Rajender Kumar in that decade and other young actors did not create any impact on Dilip Kumar’s domination in hindi films as he became a legendary star.
Dilip Kumar was admired by Bengali Directors during an age when Bengali Film industry in Tollygunge also reached its zenith in the 50s and 60s. His performance as a jailor in the film Paari and a trade union leader in Tapan Sinha’s “Sagina Mahato” opposite Saira Banu, which was remade in hindi, requires special mention because he spoke in broken Bengali the way the tribal and hilly people speak in the hilly regions of West Bengal.
In the 80s when Amitabh Bachhan dominated Bollywood with his angry young man image, Dilip Kumar’s exhibition of personality in films like Shakti, 1982, Mashal, 1984, Karma, 1986, etc, with his soft style of dialogue delivery showed the audience of the new generation that his style is unparallel in different ages. His running with a private car in the film Mashal, when Wahida Rehman died with the dialogue “koi hai” is a performance which neither can be learnt, nor can be imitated. He received 8 filmfare awards as best actor, Dada Saheb Falke Award for his life time contribution to hindi films and “Nishan-i-imtiaz”, the greatest civilian award of Pakistan after Morarji Desai, India’s Ex-Prime Minister. He did not learn acting from Pune Institute or Delhi School of Drama from where modern giants of bollywood like Om Puri, Nasiruddin Shah have come. One of the great aspect of Dilip Kumar lies in his understanding of the characters which he depicted which led to natural performances. An archive should be created where the immortal works of Dilip Kumar can be restored for future generations to cherish for generations and generations.