BY SALIM KALOO
Dilip Sahab is no more. The Legend whose eminence never faded till his last breath. Possibly the Greatest actor of sub-continent, holding the attention of cinema goers and critics in the same breath and that too for decades together. In fact, it won’t be an exaggerated statement if we say that Hindi cinema is synonymous with Dilip Kumar, the man who embodied, embellished and shaped the biggest film industry in the world.
Before jotting down a few lines on the Thespian, one recalls the words of a brilliant American film critic Robert Ebert who would believe that cinema is the greatest art form conceived for generating emotions in its audience. That said, we are primarily moved by an actor’s ability to stir that emotion in us, and that’s before we think of the director’s skills.
This statement could aptly be associated with Dilip Sahab because he would move the audience with such feelings and that puts him in a different class. Imagine 1940s and 50s when there was no theatrical tradition and training, still an actor like Dilip Kumar and his contemporaries had terrific understanding of film acting, bringing instinctive and natural presence to the screen, knowing the art that sound of sobbing could create the sadness moment and the close-up without words could say it all and there lied the beauty & class of an actor called Dilip Kumar who did it excellently.
I won’t talk about his entry into the Maya Nagri when Bombay talkies owner Devika Rani interviewed him for his first film and chose her name as Dilip Kumar offering Jawar Bata in 1944 as that is known to everyone. Rather I would talk about his rising to the occasion of grand success with his first huge hit Shaheed in 1947 against kamini kaushal and successive hits post independent era as he crossed over into a newly formed nation, and blazed into the consciousness in the 1949 ‘Andaaz’, Hindi cinema’s first ‘triangle’ love story, sharing the space with childhood friend Raj Kapoor and Nargis. And when the success was tasted by him and he got firmly established then it was a steady stream of hits accompanied by critical acclaim and the never-ending adoration of a public hungry for stories with substance and resonance, and a star they could both revere and emulate.
The decade of 50,s proved a turning point in the history of Dilip Saab as he rose to pinnacle of his career with movies like ‘Aan’, and ‘Daag’, (Fetching him first ever Filmfare Award as Best Actor). Watching Ace Filmmaker Mehboob Khan’s lavish spectacle AAN in which Dilip Kumar is a brightly-costumed sword-waggler gave a sensational new urban Hero to the audience and his fan base had new numbers. And the same actor acts in Amiya Chakravarty’s ‘Daag’ a very desi romantic drama which has a poor boy trying to make good and win the heart of fair lady. It was almost as if he was prepping for Bimal Roy’s ‘Devdas’ (1955), in which the most famous lover in the movies turns to the bottle whenever he gets a chance, splitting his attention between his bachpan-ki-mohabbat Paro (Suchitra Sen) and adult fancy Chandramukhi (Vyajanthimala) and spouting dialogues still in vogue like ‘kaunkambhakt bardaasht karnekeliyepeetahai, main to peetahunkisaans le sakoon’. And don,t forget the same actor/director produced another gem Called Madhumati during the same period.
The magnum Opus “Mughal E Azam” gave a new dimension to the actor’s career and the industry itself. It changed the myth that Dilip Saab could be a stereotype as his royal presence in the blockbuster K.Asif Movie was a testament to the fact that he could play anything, rather he could play everything. And let’s not forget, he proved the critics wrong on many other occassions/films like in “Kohinoor” and “Ram aur Shyam” It was simply on the basis of his varied acting skills that Ace Fimmaker Satyajit ray had to describe him as the ultimate “Method Actor” who could bring in life any character on the screen.
I wonder, if Dilip saab had romanced with great Hollywood actress Elizabeth Taylor in a project called “Taj” what would have been the reaction of the audience across the globe. Or for that matter how people would have taken it if he had accepted Guru Dutts “Pyaasa”. But then Dilip Kumar still remained The Greatest as his persona changed the discourse of Hindi Cinema. Each star aspirant had a little bit of Dilip Kumar in him. With the passage of time, he became an Institution. He influenced everyone, be it Amitabh or Shah Rukh.
Today Dilip Kumar may be physically dead, but his legacy shall continue.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.