On New Year, An Ode To The Old Treasure, A Nonpareil: The Substance & The Shadows; That Ought Not To Be Forgotten: When Amitabh Bachchan says he wouldn’t dare do any of his films, “HE” must be a star of Resplendence beyond bounds. The name Dilip Kumar brings in the flurry of memories with it, innumerable images and myriad of emotions; each one iconic in its own way.
As thespian celebrated his birthday, it is imperative for the audience of this age to understand why it is that whenever the subject of acting in Bollywood is brought up, Dilip Kumar is the name that comes up and above everything. What is it about him that makes him the Idol of every known actor-director even in today’s time? Right from Nasir Saab to Amitabh Bachchan to Shahrukh Khan to Rajkumar Rao to Dibaker Banerjee to Anurag Kashyap and the list that almost rounds up everyone worth his name in the industry. Everyone seems to have taken a grain from the dunes he’s created with his acting. What makes him so relevant even after he has long ceased appearing in movies and associating with movies?
During his speech on the occasion of Launch of autobiography of Dilip Saab, Javed Akhtar spoke of him with such a fervor and torrent of strong emotions that any celebrity hardly shows for someone, aptly using a Couplet of Firaq in making way for emotions
“Aane wali asle tum par fakhrkaregi ham-aseeron, Jab unko ye Dhyan aayega tumne Dilip sahab ko dekha hai”.
What is it about him that makes who’s who of industry put him on the highest pedestal of the pantheon of Motion Pictures Industry of India?
Is it the restraint, realism, and subtlety he brought in the acting? perhaps the acumen he’s exhibited in selecting his work? the fact that despite being sought after star he never practiced overindulgence, that he’s left an impression that continues to inspire every new generation? Amalgamation of all these things? Perhaps all of this and much more than we can ever grow to appreciate. He’s had so much to learn for everyone, the actors, the directors, the screenwriters and everyone associated with this form of vicarious art.
It was the time when the term method acting was not a thing for actors to boast about, wasn’t even well established, approaches were there in principles but were not deployed and propagated much.
When Marlon Brando hit it big with “The Streetcar Named Desire“, it was unheard of someone who’d been doing the same thing with his work in the Far East. We had already had Jugnoo, Andaaz, and Shaheed before 1950.
India by and large and thus Indian films have always been too melodramatic. In the times when acting was associated with loud theatrics, Dilip Saab’s neutral approach did bring in the nuances and touch of reality to characters he played. This was a thing of rarity, which proved pivotal in bringing geniuses like Bimal Roy to the fore.
His dedication and assiduity to get into the skin of the characters he portrayed can easily be understood from fact that he underwent months of lessons of playing sitar so that he could be honest with himself playing it on the screen. Surprisingly, it was just a matter of one song! The fact this anecdote is trying to establish might not look as sincere in the era where every other day we have stories of some actor doing some training to do something in some movie. Today it is merely to tick all the check-boxes of PR activities, that’s about it. It’s a pity that we don’t hear of someone doing acting workshops as much, even for PR’s sake. See the results. It wasn’t the case back in the day and there weren’t many people going to the extent Dilip Kumar was willing to.
Every time I watch a scene from Ganga-Jumna, I cannot but left agape at the sheer transformation he used to bring in. It would be rather a safe bet to say Dilip Saab’s Urdu is the best there ever was and there ever will be for a known Celebrity, Yet his flawless, raw Bhojpuri diction in the movie never fails to bewilder me. How can someone command languages and accents so well? how and when soft, mellifluous Urdu goes into Raw, salt of the earth Bhojpuri, where the confluence lies? You are left discombobulated to marvel at his genius. Gopi would be an apt example too.
It would be utterly insolent to try and wrap everything in a post especially talking about Dilip Saab, and his movies. For their canvas is so vast, the impact is so lasting that it has inseminated the minds and hearts of millions of people. Let’s try and revisit few of those and some other aspects of The First Khan’s life.