Dilip Kumar is an Indian Phenomenon and is one of the three original icons of Indian cinema; they set the standards of acting in India. Indeed, he is the only living legend of India Cinema.
In the last 50 years, almost every major actor has taken pride in acting like Dilip Kumar - from Amitabh Bachhan to Rajendra Kumar and several in between.
I see a whole lot more about this man here - humility for one, and treating people with dignity and respect and considering others on par. The age old saying, great men are humble beings is so true.
Some 20 years ago he was here in Dallas with AFMI - two things happened during his stay.
First he was booked in Richardson Omni Hotel, probably for proximity to the venue, it was not a five star hotel - Taj Bhai and I were assigned to take care of them, when we checked them in - Saira Banu went around checking the pillows... she was not happy with the room size and its furnishings and made it known, she was looking to be in a five star hotel. Indeed, once Lata Mangeshkar was placed in Lowes Anatole for precisely that reason, and a few others have done it too. Amitabh Bacchan would have demanded the whole floor.
I was absorbing it all, and before we could do something about it, Dilip said to Saira - this program is for charity, the money saved is going to benefit the education of children, let's stay here.... Need I say more about his humility?
Second item involved Raj Sharma - a budding actor of Dallas. I was in charge of setting up meetings with Dilip including the media. So, Raj walks in as scheduled, touches Dilip's feet and sits down on the floor - a Indian tradition to show respect to the elders... within a few seconds Raj said to Dilip - that he is going to acting school and will be an actor soon... amazing thing happened then.! Dilip got up, gave a hand to Raj, pulled him up and asked him to sit face to face across on the other chair.... and said, "We are now on par".
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Why Dilip Kumar refused to work with Nargis in Mother India
Here are 10 nuggets, among plenty else, from the book:
1. On his first appearance on the screen in Jwar Bhata: "When I saw myself on the screen, I asked myself: 'Is this how I am going to perform in the films that may follow if the studio wishes to continue my services?!' My response was: 'No.' I realised that this was a difficult job and, if I had to continue, I would have to find my own way of doing it. And the critical question was: HOW?"
2. On his love for Madhubala "Did it happen with me? Was I in love with Madhubala as the newspaper and magazines reported at that time? As an answer to this oft-repeated question straight from the horse's mouth, I must admit that I was attracted to her both as a fine co-star and as a person who had some of the attributes I hoped to find in a woman at that age and time... She, as I said earlier, was very sprightly and vivacious and, as such, she could draw me out of my shyness and reticence effortlessly
3. On his break-up with Madhubala, the actor says the relationship soured during the making of Mughal-e-Azam. Remembering the most sensuous scene from the movie he says: "The outcome was that halfway through the production of 'Mughal-e-Azam' we were not even talking to each other. The classic scene with the feather coming between our lips, which set a million imaginations on fire, was shot when we had completely stopped even greeting each other."
4. The actor refused a role in Mother India because he had romanced Nargis in his previous two films. "When Mehboob [Khan] sahab discussed Mother India with me in the early 1950s, I thought it was a brilliant and timely concept and it had to be made at any cost. The role he could offer me was one of the sons of heroine Nargis and I pointed out that it would be an incongruous casting after all the romancing she and I had done in earlier films, such as Mela (1948) and Babul (1950).
5. On his love for outdoor shooting, he reminisced the making of Bimal Roy's Madhumati. "To us - Pran, Johnny Walker, Bimalda, Hrishida (Hrishikesh Mukherjee) and me - the time after 'pack-up' was very interesting. We got over the pressure of the day's work by spending the evenings in cheerful conversation and poetic exchanges while the cooks in the unit readied our dinner. Pran and I got along famously talking in Punjabi while Bimalda and Hrishida tried to outdo us in Bengali... It used to be a little awkward the following day when Pran had to brim with hostility as the negative character in the script. I must say he was amazingly true to the character Ugranarayan."
6. A stickler for rehearsals before his performance, Dilip Kumar says that actress "Devika Rani had advised me and all the actors she employed at Bombay Talkies that it was important to rehearse till a level of competence to perform was achieved. In the early years, it was a necessity for me to rehearse, but, even in the later years, her advice stayed with me when I had to match a benchmark I had mentally set for myself. In fact, I am aware that I am known for the number of rehearsals I do for even what seems to be a simple scene."
7. On his famous hairstyle, and his barber: "The poor man [his barber] always had a problem with my hair which grew at jet speed, demanding fortnightly trimming. He was constantly crestfallen by my hair's refusal to be combed back and kept in place the way he wanted...The barber came home one afternoon and I had instructed him to wait if I did not reach the house on time. He took the liberty of sitting in the drawing room and my eldest sister took it as impudence on his part and gave him a dressing down, which was in progress when I made my entry. I apologised to him and I found him more bewildered than angry. Later, I took up the matter with Sakina Aapa [elder sister] and we had an unpleasant spat."
8. The evening of 23 August 1966, when Dilip Kumar met Saira Banu and fell in love: "When I alighted from my car and entered the beautiful garden that leads to the house, I can still recall my eyes falling on Saira standing in the foyer of her new house looking breathtakingly beautiful in a brocade sari. I was taken aback, because she was no longer the young girl I had consciously avoided working with because I thought she would look too young to be my heroine. She had indeed grown to full womanhood and was in reality more beautiful than I thought she was."
9. The actor learned how to play a sitar for the movie Kohinoor (1960). The movie "will remain etched in my mind for the efforts I made to learn to play the sitar. It was another chance for me to test my flair for the comedy genre in acting... I enjoyed the making of Kohinoor also for the camaraderie that grew between me and Meena Kumari after Azaad as we, who were known for our forte with emotional drama and tragedy, came together for another light-hearted film.
10. Amitabh Bachchan was mesmerised by Dilip Kumar's performance in Gunga Jamuna. "Recently, while we were chatting casually, Amitabh Bachchan mentioned to me that he had repeatedly viewed Gunga Jumna as a student in Allahabad to understand how a Pathan was effortlessly playing a rustic character of UP and speaking the dialect with such ease," said the actor in his book.