Remembering Dilip Kumar — the late actor’s tilt towards character roles

DailyTimes  |  Aug 04, 2021

My third submission shall throw light on Dilip Kumar’s romantic cum action roles when he was still young until 1976. We shall then gradually move to his character roles when he was entering middle-age. Appropriate research has been done using information from media and my own impressions to make this article meaningful. It is limited only to his films.

Before venturing into the details of his film ‘Dil Diya Dard Liya’ we shall name his films released prior to this one. These were Paigham, Koh-e-Noor, K Asif’s Mughal-e-Azam, Ganga Jamuna 1961, Leader and Paari.

‘Dil Diya Dard Liya’ – Dilip Kumar acted as Shankar who turned in the movie as Raja Saheb in the last half of this film; the former role showed misery and the latter mastery. He was nominated for Filmfare Award for Best Actor Category. This film directed by Abdul Rasheed Kardar was romantic yet a tragic movie. Obviously so, as the story was an adaption of Emily Bronte’s classic novel ‘Wuthering Heights’ and Dilip at the height of success of his serious roles perfected the adaptation of hero Heathcliff. It was interesting to see a happy ending for Cathy and Heathcliff.

That takes me to mention one of the four movies made in English. The closest to my generation to Dilip’s film is the 1970 English movie. Dilip’s movie was made three years prior to the English version. In this scenario, the director of Indian film must have been influenced from the 1939 Sir Lawrence Olivier’s film. The cast was Merle Oberon, Lawrence Olivier, David Niven, Flora Robson, Merle Oberon and David Niven and Flora Robson. This version was directed by William Wyler.

Storyline of this romantic drama is about two star-crossed lovers who are half-brother and sister to each other, one adamant and rude, the other sustain the cruelty of his half-brother after their father’s demise; beating, kicking, sleeping in stable with the horses etc. Catherine is the daughters of the lord of the manor who falls for the brooding stable boy Heathcliff and makes him live in the Manor. After the demise of the lord of the Manor and fed up with the abusive behaviour of Ramesh, Heathcliff leaves to seek his fortune. On returning after he had become rich, he is deeply troubled to find that Catherine had married the local magistrate Edgar. In the English film the story is narrated by the beautiful blonde servant girl Nellie, from the beginning to set the stage for the picture. Hindley is Catherine’s older brother who tries to take over the house and land after the death of their father. When his own wife and child die, a drunken Hindley gambles away the family holdings to the opportunistic Heathcliff. Filmed in England, the scenery is spectacular but this version lacks the foreboding, shadowy drama of the 1939 original starring Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier.

‘Dil Diya Dard Liya’ — Dilip Kumar acted as Shankar who becomes Raja Sahib in the last half of this film; the former role shows misery and the latter mastery. He was nominated for a Filmfare Award for Best Actor

In the Indian version pain in Dilip Kumar’s facial expressions and dialogues were exquisite in many scenes of this movie. I shall quote just one sequence when Rupa’s brother had left for a day and Shankar meets Rupa in the ruins, their usual meeting spot when Shankar sings the song ‘Dil Diya Dard Liya’. After the song he says that Rupa was the only ray of hope in his obscure life. The romantic pair’s meeting spot in the ruins, there is Hindu God’s statue. The film is very well directed and acted movie. Songs composed by Naushad Ali and sung by Lata and Muhammad Rafi are very well written by Shakeel Bidayuni and sung. Lata’s song ‘Main Nei Kab Tum Sei Kaha Tha Keh Mujhe Pyar Karo’ leaves a devastating sad impact. Asthai, unlike normal norms is in higher notes and antaras in lower. The violins leave a very rich support. It was very unfortunate that the film could not achieve a box office success; perhaps because of ‘Yahoo’ type films becoming successful in 1960s. The taste of the audience had been adversely affected by this phenomenon. A simile can be given as that with the release of Pakistani Punjabi film ‘Maula Jutt’, it overtook the normal good-quality Pakistani Urdu films based on social and family themes.

In order to shun away from the impact of heavily emotional acting that was daggers drawn with Dilip Kumar in those days, the producers opted for a double role by Dilip Kumar in 1967 film ‘Ram Aur Shyam’ to bring Dilip out of depressing frame of mind.

‘Raam Aur Shyaam’ – this movie brought Filmfare Award to Dilip Kumar for Best Actor. The two pairs with Dilip Kumar were made with Waheeda Rehman and Mumtaz and Dilip’s sister in Law’s role was played by Nirupa Roy. This was a comedy-drama film directed by Tapi Chanakya. This film was a remake of MGR starrer Tamil film Enga veetu Pullai of 1965, which itself was a remake of NTR starrer Telugu film Ramudu Bheemudu of 1964. ‘Ram Aur Shyam’ had music composed by Naushad Ali with lyrics written by Shakeel Badayuni. ‘Ram Aur Shyam’ proved to be an inspiration to various “twins-separated-at-birth” films to make more films on such themes. This movie proved to be a blockbuster at the box-office film in Soviet Union also.

Taking stimulus from this well-directed and well-acted film, this team continued producing more films of this nature. One such film was ‘Aadmi’ made in 1968.

‘Aadmi’ – Dilip Kumar played the role of Rajesh/Raja Saheb. This movie was directed by A Bhimsingh. Dilip was nominated for Filmfare Award for Best Actor. This movie had Waheeda Rehman in the lead. Actor Pran was villain as usual. Another hero Manoj Kumar played the role of Raja Saheb’s best friend. Raja Saheb was Ramesh, a role played by Dilip Kumar. This movie was produced by PS Veerappa and directed by A Bhimsingh. The other cast included Simi Garewal. As expected the film’s music was by Naushad Ali. Muhammad Rafi’s songs ‘Aaj Purani Rahon Sei Koi Mujhe Awaaz Na Dei’, ‘Na Admi Ka Koi Bharoa’ and ‘Main Tooti Hui Ik Naiya Hun’ were filmed exceptionally well on Dilip Kumar, especially the ones filmed on crutches. The other songs especially a male duet by Muhammad Rafi and Talat Mahmud was filmed on Dilip and Manoj supported by lyrics depicted the pain they were undergoing respectively due to the mental situation they were in. Raja Saheb suspected that his friend had deceived him by having an affair with his beloved. In the film Waheeda and Manoj were in love before Waheeda entered Dilip’s life. Dilip did not know that. Manoj, under debt of Raja Saheb for his moral and financial help to make him a successful doctor, forces Waheeda to accept Dilip Kumar’s love. Lata’s songs ‘Kal Kei Sapne’ and ‘Kari Badariya Maare Najaria’ are beautiful melodies as well. The film is a remake of the Tamil film Aalayamani. Besides being noted for Dilip Kumar’s acting of a man in a wheelchair, the film is also known for its dialogues by Akhtar ul Iman and trick cinematography work by Faredoon A Irani. It was a moderate success at the box office.

On Dilip Saheb’s demise Waheeda seemed hurt recalling that on his 90th birthday when she greeted him in his house on the invitation of Saira Bano, he did not seem to recognise her. Such was Dilip Sahib’s mental condition eight years ago. In another interview on Wildfilms India three years ago, she mentioned that low business of her films Dil Diya Dard Diya and Aadmi with Dilip Kumar was not because of acting by her and Dilip Kumar; it was because of audience at that time desiring light entertainment. Audience left the cinema halls with heavy heart due to strong stories and tragic events in the movies. On the other hand, the film Ram Aur Shyam had all the ingredients, so it was a commercial success, she concluded.

‘Sungharsh’ – it was a multicast film with Dilip Kumar, Vyjantimala, Sanjeev Kumar and Balraj Sahni. Dilip replicated his other dance performances in the song ‘Mere Pairon Main Ghunghroo Bandha Dei’ sung by Muhammad Rafi in Naushad Saheb’s music. Lata Mangeshkar’s song ‘Tasveer e Muhabbat’ is a lovely dance song at Vyjantimala’s place in front of Dilip Kumar and Balraj Sahni. This film was HS Ruwail’s produced and directed film where Bhawani Prasad, a criminal who poses as a holy man and is estranged from his wife and son, forcibly takes his grandson, Kundan, with him to follow in his footsteps. It is based on a short story Layli Asmaner Ayna in Bengali language by Jnanpith Award-winning writer Mahasweta Devi It presents a fictionalized account of vendetta within a thug’s cult in the holy Indian town of Varanasi.

As per Wikipedia, Director Rawail had considered Sadhana to play the lead actress of the film. Earlier he had waited for months to sign her in his ‘Mere Mehboob’ but now the actress had developed thyroid problems and took a break from acting for treatment in Boston. Eventually, Rawail signed Vyjantimala for the role. Dilip Kumar and Vyjantimala who had worked together for Naya Daur were then said to have a romantic affair. The actors parted after Vyjantimala worked with Raj Kapoor in the 1964 Hindi film Sangam. I saw this film in Bombay the same year. Thus, the pair was estranged and most of the scenes between the two actors for Sungharsh were shot separately. When the film was near completion, it was rumoured that with the increasing conflicts between the two leading actors, Vyjantimala would be replaced by another actress, Waheeda Rehman. The latter had already replaced Vyjantimala in another Hindi film starring Dilip Kumar, Ram Aur Shyam, which was being shot simultaneously with Sunghursh. Vyjantimala readily declined the claim of her leaving the film when it was about to finish it’s shooting. Sungharsh was the last film where Dilip Kumar and Vyjantimala worked together. By then, both the actors had done the maximum number of films together and each was a commercial success. The actor-director Rajesh Roshan had worked as an assistant director in this film.

Dilip Kumar gave guest appearance in the movie ‘Sadhu Aur Shaitaan’ because of his work with A Bhimsingh in other films. He also gave guest appearance in the movie ‘Anokha Milan’ because of Jagannath Chatterjee. It was Hindi Version of Bengali Film Paari. Dilip Kumar also gave guest appearance in Gulzar’s ‘Koshish’ in 1974. He gave special appearance in ‘Phir Kab Milogi’ as Teja Singh directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee.

By now Dilip Kumar had ruled Indian cinema for decades. It was time for him to appear in Tapan Sinha’s Bengali film ‘Sagina Mahato’, his major non-Hindi film. The movie was based on the labour unrest in the tea estates of Darjeeling in the early 1940s. This movie starred his wife Saira Banu and Anil Chatterjee. The Hindi remake, Sagina, followed four years later. The story is inspired by real-life incidents with a touch of dramatization for the sake of commercial presentation.

‘Gopi’ – it was A Bhimsingh’s movie with Dilip Kumar. It is the story of a man who stays with his brother in a village but is falsely accused of theft by the landlord. When his brother throws him out, he goes to the city and vows to return only after making money. It was released on August 28, 1970. The difference with the other films was that its music was given by KalyanJi AnandJi with screenplay by Rajinder Krishen. Dilip Kumar bagged Filmfare award for Best Actor. This movie is famous for a comic scene wherein illiterate Gopi tries to speak English with Lalita Pawar, Om Parkash, Saira Bano and Farida Jalal. Dilip makes novices of many cockneys. Saira Bano is charming. Lalita Pawar has the true grit to match any distortion. Om Parkash steals the show making his summation.

‘Dastaan’ – Dilip Kumar played the role of Diwan Anil Kumar. It was BR Chopra’s produced and directed film. This team had worked successfully together earlier in the film Naya Daur in 1957. Writers were Akhtar-Ul-Iman and IS Johar. Its stars were Dilip Kumar, Sharmila Tagore, Prem Chopra and Bindu. In this movie Judge Vishnu Sahai was brought up in an orphanage and is unaware of his family background. He is married to beautiful Mala and loves her. Another character is his loyal and trusting friend, Rajan. He is very much revered and respected in the city of Gorakhpur. One day he travels to Masoorie to attend a case. He meets with a stranger, they share a table, and they play cards. After playing cards Vishnu passes out, and when he wakes he finds himself under arrest for the murder of one Dhanraj. Angered at this, he loudly voices his innocence, that he is a Judge. But he is told that his real name is Anil Kumar, the owner of a theatre in Delhi, who had a dispute with a man named Dhanraj, and had killed him. Shortly thereafter the Prosecuting Attorney informs the court that Dhanraj had died of a heart-attack, and as a result Vishnu is discharged. Anxious to go home to his wife and friend, he is shocked to know that his body had been burnt beyond recognition in a car accident. Anxious to clear this misunderstanding, he returns home to Gorakhpur and finds that Mala is having an affair with Rajan. Devastated and heart-broken he rests on a bench at Gorakhpur Railway Station when a man named Johar approaches him, calls him Diwan Anil Kumar, and convinces him to travel with him to Delhi to his palatial home. In order to solve this riddle, Vishnu travels to Delhi, where he is welcomed at his estate by his staff and a woman named Meena. While attempting to solve the Anil Kumar mystery and how he was killed, he gets embroiled in another puzzle, when Meena calls by the name of Sunil. This movie was a commercial success and BR Chopra brought Sharmila Tegore opposite Dilip Kumar. Personally I found this film quite complicated and boring.

Dilip Kumar justified triple role as Kailash, Bholenath “Bhola” and as Sanjay in director Asit Sen’s film Bairag. He got nominated for Filmfare Award for Best Actor. It was released on September 15, 1976. This film had six songs composed by KalyanJi AnandJi. Anand Bukhshi was the lyricist. Songs ‘Chhoti Si Umar Men Lag Gaya Rog’ by Lata Mangeshkar, ‘Sare Sheher Men Aap Sa Koi Nahin’, ‘Main Bairagi’, ‘Peete Peete’ stood out. Movie’s cast was Dilip Kumar, Saira Banu, Leena Chandavarkar, Prem Chopra, Nasir Khan and Asit Sen. This was the last film as hero after which he moved to character roles.

‘Kranti’ – Sangha is an honest and dedicated employee in the kingdom of Ramgarh, who is bound to show allegiance and loyalty to Raja Laxman Singh. When he finds out that Laxman Singh conditionally permits the British to use the port for trading purposes, but instead the British were taking out gold and jewellery and bringing in ammunition Sangha, is deeply upset. So he sets out to put a stop to this wrong doing. In retaliation the conspirators falsely accuse him of killing Raja Laxman. Sangha. He manages to break the prison and form a group of revolutionaries with the sole aim of driving the British out of India.

 

The writer is the recipient of the prestigious Pride of Performance award. He can be reached at [email protected]

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