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The idea of Dilip Kumar

Published Dec 11, 2012 01:08pm

The grand old man of Hindi cinema, Dilip Kumar turns 90 today. His last film, Qilla (1998), released 14 years ago and had he known that his swansong wouldn’t be the ideal parting gift, he would have worked in a few more films before calling it quits. His last film notwithstanding, a better part of Dilip Saheb’s life has been a dedication to cinema that features many great performances that simply outnumber the misfires.

2012 is a very fascinating year for Hindi cinema as some of its best-known faces crossed important milestones. If Dilip Kumar turned 90 this year, Yash Chopra, one who loved Hindi films the most, turned 80 just a few months before his untimely death, it’s biggest icon Amitabh Bachchan turned 70 and Rishi Kapoor, the last of the old school, turned 60. Is there something unique about these men that make them different from not just their contemporaries but also people half their age? It wasn’t like Dilip Saheb wasn’t offered films in the last two decades but he chose not to do anything that wouldn’t do justice to his stature and perhaps that was the reason that he practically retired by the time he turned 70, a few months shy of his second last release, Saudagar in 1991.

At 70 Bachchan is enjoying the busiest phase of his career and at 80 Yash Chopra was as passionate about Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012) as he was when he directed his first film. If Dilip Saheb’s age were the flag post to measure an actor’s career, then one can easily look forward to not only Bachchan’s films in the next two decades but also Rishi Kapoor’s. One of the best things to have happened to Hindi cinema in the recent past is the promise Rishi Kapoor has shown in his new avtar. Hindi cinema’s eternal lover-boy, Kapoor’s transition from the hero to the supporting act hadn’t been a smooth one. It took a lot of false starts but once Kapoor found his groove he delivered one superlative performance after the others in Love Aaj Kal, Do Dooni Chaar, and Agneepath, where he played the villain. Like a better part of his career where Kapoor had to work hard to make his presence felt amongst stars like Rajesh Khanna, Amitabah Bachchan and then Jeetendra in the 1980s, Kapoor today has managed to fill a slot that is a tad too old for Bachchan or Dharmendra, too lost for Vinod Khanna or Shatrughan Sinha and too young for Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shorff and Sunny Deol.  He is one of the few actors today who would be as comfortable to play the hero’s father as he would be in a mature romance and for the first time he’s free to play true character parts like Lallan Miyan, the affable paanwala in the Chasme Budoor remake.

It’s not just these three actors from different generations turning a corner in the same year that makes 2012 unique for Hindi cinema. The year, when the thespian turns 90, finds the entire present generation of Bollywood’s biggest stars at the halfway mark. At 47 Aamir, Salman, Shah Rukh already look tired and at 43 both Ajay Devgn and Akshay Kumar are fast running out of ideas. They may have been around for over two decades and find their hits getting bigger with each release but to think that they’d be making films for the next three to four decades isn’t as exciting a prospect as one would imagine. Out of the five, Aamir might somewhere still manage to make a transition but looking at films like Ghajini (2008) or 3 Idiots (2009) one is confused whether he refuses to acknowledge his age or is behaving like a candle that burns fervently for it burns the brightest before going out. With Wanted (2008), Dabangg (2010), Ready (2011) and Ek Tha Tiger (2012) Salman, today, is more of a genre than an actor and the thing with genres is that they might not last forever. And just how many deviations of Golmaal can Devng imagine before we’d have enough?

One look at what the present day stars have to offer and you know that the idea of replacing Dilip Kumar can’t even exist as a thought.

Dilip Kumar turned 90 on 11, December 2012

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Born a cinephile and a close observer of society, the author is an award-winning documentary filmmaker/writer. He is a regular contributor to leading Indian publications and is currently working on his first book. Find out more about him here.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Gautam Chintamani loves to closely observe society when not being devoured by Bollywood, politics and everything in between. Commissioned by Harper Collins, Gautam is presently working on a biography of Rajesh Khanna due to come out later this year. He tweets @GChintamani.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments (25) Closed

Abdul Wahab-Pakistan
Dec 11, 2012 03:05pm
Very correct Gautam. However life keeps moving. Its very good to see Amitabh, Aamir, Shah Rukh, Salman, Ajay Devgan, etc. to see the excellent way they are performing. With few hiccups, they are doing well. And Shahid, Ranbir and few other new boys having promising talent, are also giving very good movies. So Bollywood fans will have no dearth of good movies in near future. Its dynamic and ever evolving industry which finds its way out.
Faisal Khan
Dec 13, 2012 07:14am
You cant compare eras to judge greatness. If we go by your analysis, then it means 50 years from now, people like you will be rubbishing t SRK, Amir Khan etc, beacuse the times will change from today, cultures will change hence acting and stories. Going by your analysis, no one can ever be granted the status of "great". Dilip Kumar was head and shoulders above than the others during his time. This means if he was born 50 years from now, with the talent he had, he could still excel. Lets talk about songs, they were more meaningful and melodious back then, now they are just crap, it can not even be called music, its some noise people make and use a vehicle to vent their anger and frustration.
Iftikhar Habib Khan
Dec 13, 2012 06:56am
For all those persons who want to know why Yousuf Khan changed his name to Dilip Kumar, the answer is his choice. Moreover the society before partition of sub continent was not divided on religious basis. Many in India find it difficult to understand why such questions are asked, come out of Pakistan and see the Pakistani Punjabi is more at ease to have social relationship with an Indian Punjabi rather than a North Indian whose parents migrated to Pakistan in 1947. Same is the case with North Indians who migrated to Pakistan to have a friendly relationship with Indian North Indians. In Pakistan see the Pushtun calling an Afghan his brother and an Afghani. Culture, traditions, food and history play a major role, how we live. Yes I am a Pakistani
Dec 12, 2012 07:46pm
btw...most of will smith (the most popular black actor) has mostly white what? why read everything in tinted fashion...
Dec 12, 2012 07:44pm
there is nothing communal about it. rahul is a common indian name and he is the epitome of indian middle class family prem for salman is..a hussain or ali consists of only 16% or it makes no sense to have ali as a hero but then dhoom had ali as a hero.
Dec 12, 2012 07:37pm
not true..ajay will become a better character actor than anybody else for sure. He may not have played melancholic characters like dilip kumar but is a class apart like amitabh and rishi. This cant be said of the 3 khans.aamir can still become a character actor and grow better with age but not shahrukh or salman...their end would come yes no actor like dileep but then no actor like rishi or amitabh or ajay either..
Dec 12, 2012 07:40pm
yes true but raj was a director par ok or below ok actor for sure..
Jagjit Singh Sidhoo
Dec 13, 2012 03:08am
Movies are a business and business about selling , so the producers and actors dish out what the public want . Yousuf Khan knew he would sell with a screen name like Dilip Kumar , SRK knows that he will sell as Raj so he uses the name Akki has been selling as Khiladi so we have Khiladi 786 . They produce what they hope will sell where does secularism come in ? John Abraham , Dharmendar, Boman Irani and Kat all have Hindu names on the screen. Akki played a Sikh in Singh is King got a hit so Ajay is trying to repeat the same in Son of Sardar.
Dec 11, 2012 04:34pm
Is this Article about Dilip Kumar or round of Industry actors
Dec 12, 2012 11:16pm
Shah Rukh Khan did play Muslim roles in Hey ram, Chak De and My name is Khan, all of them prominent, critically acclaimed and successful roles. India is a Hindu majority country and so it is not surprising that the majority of the film characters are Hindu. If you want to tell a story based in India, more often than not the settings will have more Hindu characters.This is true for any country with a community that has a clear majority in the population. I dont see any problem with that.
Dec 12, 2012 10:05pm
Some questions are asked to prove own intelligence on top not-accept / ignore the facts. When 'Tere Bin Laden' was made in the back ground of a city of Pakistan (by an Indian), characters had similar outfits, names, props and/or background. Even if its remade, name(s) won't be much different irrespective who plays the role, Ali or SRK. Akshay started playing main role as Sikh in 'Singh is King' & Ajay Devgan did same in 'SOS', it's not that India is becoming Sikh majority but its visualization of Director in context of place. Upcoming movie is on Indian athlete 'Milkha Singh', so you will see lead character in Sikh avatar because that's demand of character. Today's movies are more business oriented and not for the love of art; It won't matter if Salman plays Pande jee or Miyan jee in Daabang, their math is fix - so much from satellite rights, so much form music rights, so much from this or that territory - you get 150-200 crore in pocket. You get anything on name of star power/ entertainment, which is zero from movie making / art prospective. (I might be wrong) Earlier private produces were taking all the risk, and there was limited scope of such (above) calculations, and might be afraid to take different path form already set trend... It's reality that India is Hindu majority country but secular by Indian constitution, and I believe movie making is way of telling story a dream / a visualization of director and has nothing to do with secularism.
Dennis Dey
Dec 11, 2012 04:40pm
"One look at what the present day stars have to offer and you know that the idea of replacing Dilip Kumar can
Maria Ahmed
Dec 14, 2012 05:24am
@G.A. you need to read and understand history and how cultures and religions work in different countries. Extreme need of that. Please do that
Dec 11, 2012 08:17pm
I've never quite figured out why Muslim actors have Hindu screen names or mostly play Hindu characters considering India is secular and considering their backgrounds as Muslims is already accepted by a wide majority of Indians.
Jehan Mir
Dec 12, 2012 06:21pm
In late 1970 when big rear projection T. V.s first came out and in order to personally check quality,I took a video casset of Dilip Kumar Sahib's movie Kohinoor with me to play on the shop's T.V. on the Mall and played 'Madhuban mein Radhika Nache re '. Even though the video quality was not any good ,pretty soon a large crowd assembled and would not leave,totally mesmerized by Dilip Kumar Sahib asking to play it a gain and inspite of dazzling,intricate dance by Kum kum and a great song by Rafi Sahib,the only person about whom they made inquires was Dilip Kumar Sahib. That is the magic and mass appeal even to foreigners of ever great Dilip Kumar Sahib . Happy Birthday Mastero !
Dec 12, 2012 02:37am
I thought it was an article on Dilip Kumar. What a disappointment!
Amir Saeed
Dec 12, 2012 10:01am
Absolutely. For instance, I have never been able to understand how Raj Kapoor is a great actor. A good actor Ok..but great?? All his movies show the same character placed in a different setting. And then that too was not very original. Just a copy of Charlie Chaplin. There is a tendency in the subcontinental culture, more so in India, to place everyone and anyone on the pedastal of a demigod where it becomes almost blasphemous to say anthing evenly slightly critical about them. And if it is someone who is dead...well... No critical analysis of their skills. Only lavish hyperbolic praise in superlatives.
Dec 12, 2012 06:10am
SAUDAGAR!! Yes, one of my favourite movies with an awesome, iconic tune.. Indian Movies are its best.. Hindi movies at its best.. You HAVE to love Rajkumar. He had a dominating presence on screen, for a thin fellow.. His voice was magnificent! Sad that not many remember him..
Dec 12, 2012 03:06am
I think these hagiographic portrayals of movie stars of yesteryears does their legacy no good. As someone in his late 30s who enjoys movies from all eras, from all over the globe, I think the acting skills of Dilip Kumar and his contemporaries, and Amitabh Bachchan, especially, are way, way overrated. It would be near impossible to sit through the melodramatic, loud, over-acted movies at one stretch today. Yes, it could be said that they were products of their times, and the times called for melodrama and loud acting. But to call them great actors is a disservice to the profession. Of course, in India, we are not a society given to critical appreciation. Actors are rated by the amount of sycophantic hero-worshipping they can garner, not by their capabilities. That is why a Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, a Rajnikanth, a Rajkumar, a NTR, a MGR can command such loyal followings. It is extremely unfair on the author's part, especially since he is well-versed with the medium of cinema, to insinuate that Dilip Kumar, Bachchan, etc. were better actors than their modern day counterparts. I feel, as Indian cinema (not just Bollywood) has slowly crept into the realm of realistic acting, away from the theatrics and hamming of the past half a century, fans of the obnoxious melodrama of yesteryears have resorted to criticising today's actors for a 'lack of individual style'. Which essentially means that they do not resort to gross exaggeration and over-acting, in their individual styles, of course. Let's call a spade a spade.
Dec 12, 2012 01:17pm
@vicky - Thanks for the lengthy response. However, it still doesn't answer the question why Sharukh Khan often has to play Rahul in his movies. Cant he just take a Muslim name or would that irk some people if the girl carries a Hindu name? I think the issue may be deeper or it could be that Indian society will be fine with it but producers are afraid. Notice that in Hollywood, a black actor would seldom have a white girl for romance. They would pick a Hispanic.
Dec 12, 2012 09:21am
May be because you weren't born in 1930's...things were different that time compare to now
Dec 12, 2012 11:31am
@G.A.: India is secular but is majorly Hindu. But it so happens that Hindu play Muslim characters as well. Personally, though, I don't see any problem in either case. Your question is answered by Gautam Chintamani in his article. Let me quote him: "Actors would trade their singularity, often in the form of their names, to become common
Dec 12, 2012 06:34am
This write up about Dilip kumar says very less about him and talks about bollowood info. really am shocked by the writting acumen of this writer-
Dec 12, 2012 06:42am
There can be no actor compared to Dilip kumar this I am saying being a lifelong fan of Dev anand.Dilip's dialogue delivery no body can match He magically adds to every scene he is present I however place his performance in Deedar as a blind singer as the very best in his career.please see all his old movies .
Dec 12, 2012 02:52pm
There are 2 different things. A Muslim actor choosing Hindu name was due to the times as Nasir correctly stated above. Now things have changed. Shahrukh or Aamir dont have to change their real names. On the other question why Shahrukh cannot have a muslim name, movies are marketable products. They are sold to people and people need to relate to it. As the main audience are Indians and 85% hindus its natural for the characters to be mainly hindus. It does not mean actors cant have muslim names. See Salaam-e-Mustafa where Nana was named Mustafa and Chak de India where Shahrukh played a muslim coach.

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