“Some people are born great, some achieve greatness, and some people have greatness thrust upon them”, observes William Shakespeare. The 16thcentury poet had very exquisitely delineated the three most essential traits of man’s greatness. His observation has stood test of times and is still valid which can be applied rationally to Judge any person’s greatness.
In the case of Bollywood legend Dilip Kumar, one has to go through his biographical facts and background, his education, his trials and tribulations, the ruthless negative comments by a film magazine of his anemic and monkey faced personality and above all, his true sportsmanship, would then be able to place Dilip Kumar in any one of the categories of greatness as mentioned above.
Following are the biographical facts of the thespian, who turned 89 on December 10:
Born in 1922in an orthodox Pathan family of Peshawar, Yusuf Khan who later assumed the Bollywood name, Dilip Kumar, went to pursue his education in Bombay.
Devki Rani, then owner of Bambay Talkies, with her penetrative eyes unearthed Yousuf Khan’s immense ability for histrionics. Yousuf Khan got his break in her film JawarBhataand was given a new name – Dilip Kumar. Thus,Dilip Kumar, the actor, was born in 1944. Dilip Kumar, a novice then, acted in four films, namelyJawarBhata(1944), Pritima(1945), Milan(1946) and Jugnu(1947) but most ignominiouslyproved a total flop.Yet he did not budge and took all his failures in his stride in a rare spirit of sportsmanship. He endured insults heaped upon him by critics and survived the trauma as a failed actor.
Besides being a keen student, Dilipwas a brilliant football player and played for his college and clubs. His teams suffered many defeats but those defeats did not deter him from playing football. He continued to play the game in the hope of winning some day. He seems to have applied this spirit of sportsmanship in his acting career as well. Despite constant failures in his early film career, Dilip Kumar continued to act in films, hoping to hit the jackpot once. Later on, with films like Mela in 1948 and Shaheed in 1948, he improved his acting skills which were clearly discernable in some emotional scenes.
Filmistan Studio was famous for its strict discipline. If there was no shooting schedule on the day, all contracted actors, including Dilip Kumar, were required to attend studio’s library to study classical books of great writers.
The studio’s tradition of reading books was strictly adhered to by Dilip Kumar for five years, which had deep impact on young Dilip’s personality. He imbibed the best moral values of his times and emerged as the most sophisticated actor of the film industry. His penchant for reading paid him rich dividends.
Mehboob Khan’s Andazwas released in 1949. Playing the role of a frustrated one-sided lover, Dilip Kumar most amazingly proved his acting skills in no uncertain terms. His acting was overwhelmingly emotional. His histrionicssilenced his critics. Dilip’s fabulous performance in the film as a failed lover, asking his lady love to pierce one more bullet in his chest, speaks volumes about the depth of his acting prowess. His highly emotionally charged facial expression of an anguished and desperate lover was to be seento believe.
Andazwas certainly a turning point in Dilip’s career. He never looked back ever since. The sudden transformation in Dilip Kumar did not happen overnight. Neither he inherited it in his genes, nor did he attendany acting school to imbibe it.It was the result of sheer hard work, strong motivation, unflinching perseverance, unflappable resilience and unfathomable sustainability.
Dilip Kumar acted in 14 films after Andazimproving upon his acting skills from film to film and consequently won two Filmfareawards as best actor.
Trusting his acting capability, Bimal Roy offered him the most challenging role of Devdas. The film was released in 1956 which deservingly won the best actor award for Dilip Kumar. His acting in the film was astoundingly superb. He immersed his body, soul and mind in the character of Devdas, in such a way that the seeminglypassive characterbecame alive on the silver screen and Dilip Kumar, the actor, ceased to exist. Devdas, the hero of Sharatchand’s novel and Dilip Kumar blended into one entity.
The tragic scenes of Devdas, depicting extreme sorrows, pain and suffering of loneliness left an indelible mark on the audience moving them into instant tears. With this one film, Dilip silenced his most staunch critics even.It was some of his critics who later went on to conferon him the title ‘Tragedy King’ acknowledging his acting prowess.The title has almost become synonymous with his name. Thus, Dilip Kumar established himself as a film star beyond all doubts. Dilip won as many as eight Filmfare awards as the best actor consecutively, a hat-trick, for Azad(1955)Devdas(1956) and NayaDaur(1957).
Besides winning eight Filmfare awards, including a lifetime achievement award of Filmfare, Dilip clinched the best actoraward for Ganga Jamnaat Karlovy Vary Film Festival in 1962, at Silver Bowl of USA. And finally, though belatedly, he was honoured with Dada SahebPhalke Award in 1995 by the Government of India.
Besides being the greatest tragedian actor of Indian cinema, Dilip Kumar proved his versatility most authentically in comedy films like Azad, Kohinoor and Ram AurShyam and surprisingly winning the Filmfare best actor awards in all of them.
Besides assaying role of a Good Samaritan in the reel life with aplomb, Dilip Kumar has been contributing to the society as a leading social activist in the real life. He, in association with his co-stars and friends,DevAnand and Raj Kapoor, organised relief camps for the victims of Bengal famine in 1940s, founded Screen Actors Guild to help junior artists of the film industry, led star procession on the streets of Bombay to collect funds, travelled to Siachin to entertain Army jawans there and finally collected funds for widows of 1965 war. As a result of his social activism, he was appointed Mayor of Bombay metropolis to serve the common man and finally was nominated RajyaSabha Member of Parliament.
To sum up Dilip Kumar’s all-round achievements, it can easily be said that he is a true sportsperson, a great perfectionist, an actor par excellence, a connoisseur of art, literature and music, a symbol of sophistication, dignity and perfect mannerisms, an acting institute in himself, a great philosophical thinker, a social and politically active personality, and above all a gentleman at core.