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From Satyajit Ray to Kamal Hassan, cinema greats on the extraordinary craft of Dilip Kumar

From Kamal Hassan to Satyajit Ray, cinema greats on the extraordinary craft of Dilip Kumar


From Satyajit Ray to Kamal Hassan, cinema greats on the extraordinary craft of Dilip Kumar

In the early 50s, a young actor named Marlon Brando took the Hollywood by storm with his powerful display of realism in Elia Kazan’s celebrated epic A Streetcar Named Desire. No special efforts to go overboard, no phoniness, an understated approach which the world had not seen so far. This new technique came to be regarded as method acting. Well, at least five years before that, another handsome, suave young man from Peshawar was sending ripples across the Indian subcontinent with his unique acting ability. Born as Mohammed Yousuf Khan, the thespian was rechristened as Dilip Kumar by non other than Devika Rani, the glamorous co-owner of Bombay Talkies.

After starting off as a script writer, Kumar made his acting debut in ‘Jwar Bhata’ (1944), directed by Amiya Chakravarty. Success eluded Kumar in the beginning until he found his footing in Nitin Bose’s Milan. In 1949, he starred in Andaz with Raj Kapoor and Nargis, and it was that film that made Dilip Kumar a big star. However, it was his master act in ‘Deedar’ (1951), that won him the the sobriquet Tragedy King. For essaying the role of a visually-challenged person, Kumar reportedly spent a lot of time with a blind fakir on the roads of Mumbai (then Bombay) to immerse himself in the character. Then there was no looking back. He mesmerised the cine-goers with a series of wonderful films including Jugnu (1951), Aan (1952), Footpath (1953), Daag(1954) and Amar (1954), Devdas(1955). Kumar along with Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand formed the Triumvirate of the Hindi film industry. Known for his thoughtful silences and his poetic dialogue delivery, Kumar eschewed the loud and theatrical elements of acting. As Kumar breathed his last leaving behind a rich legacy cinematic gems, we bring to you a list of cinema greats explaining why Dilip Kumar was an actor extra-ordinaire

1) Naseerudin Shah: Veteran actor Naseereudin Shah is a great admirer of Dilip Kumar. He believes that it’s impossible to not to be a fan of the maverick for someone who has explored Hindi Cinema. During an interview with the Indian Express Shah said “I have to admit that nobody who has been in the Hindi movies cannot have been a fan of Dilip Kumar because he was distinct from the rest. Dilip Kumar realised the importance of economy of movement, economy of expression, economy of speech and he had wonderful diction. He had an emotional truth that set him apart from the rest. The others were entertainers in their own right but they didn’t have that quality,”

2) Utpal Dutt: Before performing in Bengali film Sagina Mahato (1970), Kumar worked meticulously on his diction under the guidance of Bimal Roy, Tapan Sinha and Nabendu Ghosh. When the film hit theaters, Bengali viewers and critics unanimously lauded his performance. The biggest compliment came from none other than the great Utpal Dutt. “Perhaps Dilip Kumar had come to Bengal thinking that he would give us Bengalis a lesson in the art of acting. I must admit that he did exactly that,” the veteran actor wrote in his Sagina Mahato review.

3) Kamal Hassan: Kamal Hassan said he was late in discovering Kumar but when he watched Mughal-e-Azam, it re-defined his attitude towards acting. “The first film of Dilip Saab that I saw was Mughal-e-Azam. He touched something deep within me as an actor. You have to be an actor to fully understand what Dilip Saab achieves through his performances. I am still in the process of discovering his virtuosity,” he told Times of India in 2012.

4) Irrfan Khan: As an actor Irrfan looked up to Shah and Dilip Kumar as his idols. During an interview with India Today in 2017, Irrfan said “I was looking for something that could give me a direction. His (Naseer’s) performances, Dilip Saheb’s performance gave me the direction that life is a subject, that it is possible to get work by reflecting life. The Maqbool actor often wondered when trained actors like him found it difficult to deal with scars left by tragic roles, how Kumar, who learnt the craft on his own, came to terms with it.

5) Satyajit Ray: Satyajit Ray himself was a big admirer of Dilip Kumar. Such was his love for Kumar’s performance that the Pather Panchali director described him as “the ultimate method actor”. Ray had even planned to cast Kumar in one of his dream projects Mahabharat but the cinematic adaptation of the Hindu epic somehow did not see the light of day.

6) V Shantaram: Another great director who was in awe of Kumar’s craft was V Shantaram. He was one of the early filmmakers to realize the efficacy of the film medium as an instrument of social change. In what could be the greatest tribute to Kumar’s acting prowess, the veteran director had said: “Had Shakespeare met Dilip Kumar, he would have added one more character to the already well-defined ones he had created.”

7) Amitabh Bachchan: A life-long admirer of Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan shared screen space with his acting idol in Ramesh Sippy directorial Shakti. Speaking with in 2015, Amitabh said Kumar’s performances are beyond fault” I have admired his intellect, and the way he has translated that into his work. And I have admired his clarity of speech in whichever language he speaks. Clarity in speech is to me the greatest acumen for an actor…”When the megastar was asked did he regre not working with the thespian after Shakti, Amitabh said, “We seek a moment of Godliness often in our life. It seldom comes, but when it does, you cherish it and remain in gratitude and satisfaction.” he added.

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