For a generation of cinephiles, Ashok Kumar remains a distant myth, a legendary figure too enigmatic to grasp. For millennials, he’s often known as the brother of the phenomenal singer Kishore Kumar. Similar to his brother, Ashok is surrounded by numerous anecdotes, whether stemming from his ‘happily married life’ or the incident of overshadowing Raj Kapoor at his wedding with Krishna Malhotra.
Born Kumudlal Ganguly, he was not only the elder brother of Kishore Kumar but also evolved into a formidable force in the film world. Commencing his acting journey in 1936 with “Jeevan Naiya,” he endeared himself to audiences as a lead actor, antagonist, and later in character roles. As a hero, he charmed the leading ladies of his era, from Devika Rani to Meena Kumari, Madhubala to Nutan.
During a conversation with Quint, Ashok Kumar’s elder daughter Bharti Jaffery said, “Papa was there, of course. And when he went up to congratulate the couple, the bride, Krishnaji, lifted up her ghunghat to gasp, ‘Oh it’s Ashok Kumar. I’m so happy!’ Raj Kapoor never forgave him for upstaging him at his own wedding.”
About Ashok Kumar’s Marriage
Ashok Kumar married Shobha Devi, and they had four children — Bharti, Rupa, Preeti, and Aroop. In an old 90’s interview, the late actor recalled how his marriage happened suddenly. When he entered the film industry, marriage proposals stopped coming because he was in films. So one day, he received a telegram from his father to come immediately to Khandwa. However, on the train, he was informed that they were heading to Calcutta, which perplexed him. Then he was told that he was going to get married. He was taken to see Shobha, and he agreed to marry her on the spot.
Kishore Kumar‘s brother also disclosed the key to keeping his wife content. “I used to come home early. When I became a hero and producer, Himanshu Rai told me that girls would be after me. I said, ‘Isn’t that a good thing?’ He said, ‘No, that’s not a good thing. You keep the home and hearth burning. You go home by 6:30.’ We promised (haath milao). So I would go home by 6:30, and my wife was very happy.”
Ashok Kumar recalled how he had arranged a celebration for his wife on their fiftieth wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, she fell ill a few days before the event and passed away just two days before reaching the golden jubilee milestone.