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HomeEntertainmentDilip Kumar, 'Tragedy King' of Bollywood, dies at 98

Dilip Kumar, ‘Tragedy King’ of Bollywood, dies at 98

Dilip Kumar breathed his last at 7.30 AM in Mumbai's Khar Hinduja Hospital. He is survived by his wife Saira Banu, a veteran actor herself

Legendary actor Dilip Kumar (Mohammed Yusuf Khan) died early on 7 July after a long and protracted illness in Mumbai. He was 98.

Dilip Kumar breathed his last at 7:30 AM in Mumbai’s Khar Hinduja Hospital. He is survived by his Saira Banu, a veteran actor herself.

Informing fans of the tragic news, a family friend of Dilip Kumar, Faisal Farooqui tweeted from the actor’s official Twitter handle, “With a heavy and profound grief, I announce the passing away of our beloved Dilip Saab, few (sic) minutes ago. We are from God and to Him, we return. — Faisal Farooqui (sic),” the last sentence being a translation of the Islamic text a Muslim recites on hearing the news of someone’s death: “inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.”

Dilip Kumar will be buried at Juhu Qabrastan at 5 PM today. The news was shared on the official Twitter handle of the actor, The tweet read, “Burial today at 5:00 PM. Juhu Qabrastan at Santacruz Mumbai (sic).”

Dilip Kumar was hospitalised twice in June. He was rushed to the hospital on 6 June, when he complained of breathing issues. After being diagnosed with bilateral pleural effusion and getting the proper treatment done, Dilip Kumar was discharged on 11 June. However, he started facing similar breathing issues on 30 June and was again hospitalised.

Just two days ago, Saira Banu had been spotted outside the Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai. She had waved to the paparazzi gathered there and assured them that Dilip Kumar is doing well. She had requested everyone to remember Dilip Saab in their “duas”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Dilip Kumar would be remembered as a “cinematic legend”. “He was blessed with unparalleled brilliance, due to which audiences across generations were enthralled. His passing away is a loss to our cultural world,” Modi tweeted. 

Amitabh Bachchan said, “An institution has gone”. “Whenever the history of Indian Cinema will be written, it shall always be ‘before Dilip Kumar, and after Dilip Kumar’,” Bachchan tweeted.

The legendary actor played prominent roles in several classic Hindi language films in the 1950s and 1960s. Some of these films include Mughal-E-Azam, Devdas, Naya Daur, Ganga Jumna, Ram aur Shyam, and others.

Dilip Kumar was honoured with in 1991 and Padma Vibhushan in 2015.

Kumar had a long relationship with actress Madhubala but never married her. He married actress Saira Bano in 1966. He resided with his in Bandra, a suburb of Mumbai in the state of Maharashtra in India.

Dilip Kumar faced a scandal when the media reported that he had married a Pakistani woman Asma in 1981 without the knowledge of Saira Banu who appeared for a few interviews with magazines where she said she felt betrayed, insulted and humiliated. However, Kumar’s marriage with Asma did not last long and they divorced within two years.

Dilip Kumar debuted as an actor in the film Jwar Bhata (1944), produced by Bombay Talkies. In a career spanning over five decades, Kumar worked in over 65 films. Kumar is known for roles in films such as the romantic Andaz (1949), the swashbuckling Aan (1952), the social drama Daag (1952), the dramatic Devdas (1955), the comical Azaad (1955), the epic historical Mughal-e-Azam (1960), the social dacoit crime drama Gunga Jamuna (1961), and the comedy Ram Aur Shyam (1967).

In 1976, Dilip Kumar took a five-year break from film performances and returned with a character role in the film Kranti (1981) and continued his career playing leading roles in films such as Shakti (1982), Mashaal (1984), Karma (1986) and Saudagar (1991). His last film was Qila (1998).

Obituary: Dilip Kumar

Dilip Kumar was born on 11 December 1922 at his family home in the Qissa Khawani Bazaar area of Peshawar, British India, one of the twelve children of Lala Ghulam Sarwar Khan and his Ayesha Begum. He was named Mohammad Yusuf Khan, His father was a fruit merchant who owned orchards in Peshawar at that time, and later in Deolali near Nashik.

Mohammad Yusuf Khan was schooled at Barnes School, Deolali, Nashik. He grew up in the same religiously mixed neighbourhood as Raj Kapoor, his childhood friend, and later his colleague in the film industry.

Dilip Kumar filmography

1940s

Dilip Kumar’s first film was Jwar Bhata in 1944, which went unnoticed. After a few more unsuccessful films, it was Jugnu (1947), in which he starred alongside Noor Jehan, that became his first major hit at the box office. His next major hits were the 1948 films Shaheed and Mela.

He got his breakthrough role in 1949 with Mehboob Khan’s Andaz, in which he starred alongside Raj Kapoor and Nargis. Shabnam released the same year was another box office hit.

1950s

Dilip Kumar went on to have success in the 1950s playing leading roles in several box office hits such as Jogan (1950), Babul (1950), Hulchul (1951), Deedar (1951), Tarana (1951), Daag (1952), Sangdil (1952), Shikast (1953), Amar (1954), Uran Khatola (1955), Insaniyat (1955) in which he co-starred with Dev Anand, Devdas (1955), Naya Daur (1957), Yahudi (1958), Madhumati (1958) and Paigham (1959). Some of these films established his screen image as the “Tragedy King”.

The actor briefly suffered from depression due to portraying many tragic roles and on the advice of his psychiatrist, he also took on light-hearted roles. Mehboob Khan’s big-budget 1952 swashbuckling musical Aan featured him in one of his first lighter roles and marked his first film to be shot in technicolour and to have a wide release across Europe with a lavish premiere in London. He had further success with lighter roles as a thief in the comedy Azaad (1955), and as a royal prince in the romantic musical Kohinoor (1960).

He was the first actor to win the Filmfare Best Actor Award (for Daag) and went on to win it a further seven times. He formed popular on-screen pairings with many of the top actresses at the time including Vyjayanthimala, Madhubala, Nargis, Nimmi, Meena Kumari and Kamini Kaushal. Nine of his films in the 1950s were ranked in the Top 30 highest-grossing films of the decade.

In the 1950s, Kumar became the first actor to charge Rs 1 lakh per film.

In 1960, he portrayed Prince Salim in K Asif’s big-budget epic historical film Mughal-e-Azam, which was the highest-grossing film in Indian film history for 11 years 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 Rs 1,000 crore in 2011.

In 1961, Dilip Kumar produced and starred in Ganga Jamuna opposite his frequent leading lady Vyjayanthimala and his brother Nasir Khan. This was the only film he produced. Kumar chose the shade of saree that Vyjayanthimala would wear in every scene. In 1962, British director David Lean offered him the role of Sherif Ali in his film Lawrence of Arabia (1962), but Kumar declined the movie. The role eventually went to Omar Sharif, the Egyptian actor. Kumar comments in his much later released autobiography, “He thought Omar Sharif had played the role far better than he himself could have”. Kumar was also being considered for a leading role opposite Elizabeth Taylor in a film that Lean was working on called Taj Mahal before the project was cancelled.

His next film Leader (1964) was a below-average grosser at the box office. He was the co-director alongside Abdul Rashid Kardar of his next release Dil Diya Dard Liya in 1966 but was uncredited as director. In 1967, Kumar played a dual role of twins separated at birth in the hit film Ram Aur Shyam. In 1968, he starred alongside Manoj Kumar and Waheeda Rehman in Aadmi. That same year, he starred in Sunghursh with Vyjayanthimala which was their last film together which created a total of seven hit films together.

1970s

Kumar’s career slumped in the 1970s with films like Dastaan (1972) failing at the box office. He starred alongside his real-life Saira Banu in Gopi (1970). They paired again in his first and only Bengali language film Sagina Mahato (1970). A Hindi remake of Sagina was made in 1974 with the same cast. He played triple roles as a father and his twin sons in Bairaag (1976) which failed to do well at the box office.

Dilip Kumar regarded MG Ramachandran’s performance in Enga Veetu Pillai better than his role in Ram Aur Shyam. He regards his performance in Bairaag much higher than that of Ram Aur Shyam. Although his performance in Bairaag and Gopi were critically acclaimed, he lost many film offers to act in leading roles to actors Rajesh Khanna and Sanjeev Kumar, from 1968 to 1987. He took a five-year hiatus from films from 1976 to 1981.

1980s

In 1981, he returned to films as a character actor playing central roles in ensemble films. His comeback film was the star-studded Kranti, which was the biggest hit of the year. Appearing alongside an ensemble cast including Manoj Kumar, Shashi Kapoor, Hema Malini and Shatrughan Sinha, he played the title role as a revolutionary fighting for India’s independence from British rule. He then successfully collaborated with director Subhash Ghai starting with Vidhaata (1982), in which he starred alongside Sanjay Dutt, Sanjeev Kumar and Shammi Kapoor.

Later that year, Dilip Kumar starred alongside Amitabh Bachchan in Ramesh Sippy’s Shakti, which was a hit grosser at the box office and won him critical acclaim and his eighth and final Filmfare Award for Best Actor. In 1984, he starred in Yash Chopra’s social crime drama Mashaal opposite Anil Kapoor which failed at the box office but his performance was critically acclaimed. He also appeared alongside Rishi Kapoor in Duniya (1984) and Jeetendra in Dharm Adhikari (1986).

His second collaboration with Subhash Ghai came with the 1986 ensemble action film Karma. Karma marked the first film which paired him opposite fellow veteran actress Nutan. Three decades earlier, however, they were paired together in an incomplete and unreleased film titled Shikwa. He acted opposite Nutan again in the 1989 film Kanoon Apna Apna.

1990s

In 1991, Dilip Kumar starred alongside fellow veteran actor Raaj Kumar in Saudagar, his third and last film with director Subhash Ghai. This was his second film with Raaj Kumar after 1959’s Paigham. Saudagar was Kumar’s last box office success. In 1993, he won the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to the industry for five decades.

In 1992, producer Sudhakar Bokade announced a film titled Kalinga, which would officially mark Kumar’s directorial debut after he had allegedly previously ghost directed Ganga Jamuna (1961) and Dil Diya Dard Liya (1967). Kumar was also set to star in the title role with the cast including Raj Babbar, Raj Kiran, Amitoj Mann and Meenakshi Seshadri. After being delayed for several years, Kalinga was eventually left incomplete and shelved.

In 1998, Kumar made his last film appearance in the box office flop Qila, where he played dual roles as an evil landowner who is murdered and as his twin brother who tries to solve the mystery of his death.

2000s onwards

In 2001, Kumar was set to appear in a film titled Asar – The Impact alongside Ajay Devgan and Priyanka Chopra, which was shelved. His classic films Mughal-e-Azam and Naya Daur were fully colourised and re-released in cinemas in 2004 and 2008 respectively.

An unreleased film he had shot and completed in 1990 titled Aag Ka Dariya was set for a theatrical release in 2013 but has not been released to date. He was also set to appear in Subhash Ghai’s war film, Mother Land, alongside Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan, but this film was shelved after Khan decided to leave the project.

Kumar had fallen in love with Madhubala during the shooting of Tarana. There were some reports at the time that said the actress’s father, Ataullah Khan, turned down the marriage proposal from Dilip Kumar, saying that the actor’s joint family was too big for his daughter to take care of. They remained in a relationship for seven years until the Naya Daur court case, during which Kumar testified against Madhubala and her father, ending their relationship. They never worked together again after Mughal-e-Azam (1960).

In the late 1950s, Vyjayanthimala was linked by gossip magazines with Kumar, who has acted with her the most compared to any other actress, which resulted in great on-screen chemistry between them. While working for his home production Gunga Jumna (1961), it is said that Kumar handpicked the shade of sari that Vyjayanthimala would wear in every scene. In addition to that, film historians Bunny Reuben and Sanjit Narwekar “confirmed” Kumar and Vyjayanthimala’s affair, stating that Vyjayanthimala was Kumar’s third love after Kamini Kaushal and Madhubala.

In 1966, Kumar married actress Saira Banu, who was 22 years younger than him. He later married Hyderabad (Pakistan) socialite Asma Sahiba, taking her as a second in 1981. That marriage ended in January 1983.

Banu and Kumar lived in Bandra. They did not have any children. In his autobiography, Dilip Kumar: The Substance and the Shadow, he revealed that Banu had conceived in 1972, but developed complications in the pregnancy, leading to the child’s death. Following this, they did not try to have children again, believing it to be God’s will.

Kumar was fluent in Urdu, Hindi, Hindko (his first language), Punjabi and English. He knew Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati, Pashto, Persian and the Awadhi and Bhojpuri dialects. He was also a great music enthusiast and also learnt how to play the sitar for a film. He loved cricket and played it often.

His younger brother Nasir Khan (1924–1974) was a noted film actor too. Two of his younger brothers died during the Covid-19 pandemic after testing positive for the disease: Aslam Khan died at the age of 88 in August 2020, and Ehsan Khan died at 90 in September 2020.

Dilip Kumar was nominated as a member of the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Parliament of India, by the Indian National Congress for the period 2000–2006 from Maharashtra.

Kumar died at Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai, on 7 July 2021. He had been suffering from prostate cancer.

Legacy

Dilip Kumar is widely considered one of the greatest actors in the history of Hindi cinema. He holds the Guinness World Record for winning the maximum number of awards by an Indian actor. He received many awards throughout his career, including eight Filmfare Awards for Best Actor and One Lifetime Achievement for Filmfare Also for Special Recognition FilmFare Award for recognising him as one of the first recipients to receive a Filmfare Award along with the nightingale of India Lata Mangeshkar and one of the greatest Hindi Music Directors Naushad Ali at the 50th Filmfare Award Ceremony and along with 19 nominations at Filmfare for best actor. He was honoured with the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993.

Ganga Jamna (1961), which Dilip Kumar wrote, produced, and starred in, also received the National Film Award for Second Best Feature Film in Hindi, the Paul Revere Silver Bowl at the Boston International Film Festival, the Special Honour Diploma from the Czechoslovak Academy of Arts in Prague, and the Special Prize at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Many great actors including Shah Rukh Khan consider Kumar as their inspiration.

Dilip Kumar was also known as “Tragedy King” because of the depressing but award-winning roles he took up for the movies depicting tragedy.

Kumar was appointed Sheriff of Mumbai (an honorary position) in 1980, the Government of India honoured Kumar with the in 1991, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1994 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2015. The Government of Andhra Pradesh honoured Kumar with NTR National Award in 1997. The Government of Pakistan conferred Kumar with Nishan-e-Imtiaz, the highest civilian award in Pakistan, in 1998. The ruling political party of Shiv Sena in Maharashtra had objected to this award and questioned Kumar’s patriotism. However, in 1999 in consultation with the then Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Kumar retained the award. He was honoured with CNN-IBN Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.

Different governments honoured Dilip Kumar with the following awards and recognitions.

2015: India’s second-highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan, for his contributions towards Indian cinema
2000–2006: Elected to Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Indian Parliament.
1994: Dadasaheb Phalke Award
1991: India’s third highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan, for his contributions towards Indian cinema
1979–1982: Appointed as the Sheriff of Bombay by the of Maharashtra, India for the period
1998: The government of Pakistan honoured him with its highest civilian honour, the Nishan-e-Imtiaz (Order of Excellence).

Till the 2000s, Kumar was the only actor to have won 8 Filmfare Best Actor Awards until his record was shared by Shahrukh Khan by the mid-2000s.

From the Independence of India to the late 2010s Kumar held the record of giving the highest number of box office grossing films(9 films) until his record was broken by Salman Khan by delivering 10 films. But when adjusted for inflation, the record remains with Kumar. His historical movie Mughal-E-Azam is the highest-grossing film (equivalent to Rs 2,000 crore in 2015) in India when adjusted for inflation.

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