Bashir Manzar

The Disheartened Shehzada

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In Mughal-e-Azam, he stood against Akbar the Great and in real life, against divisive powers. Unfortunately in both cases, he lost.  In Mughal-e-Azam, he lost his love, Anarkali; in real life, a dream of secular and inclusive polity!

He made us cry, he made us dance, he made us angry, he made us laugh and he taught us to fall in love. Looking at his face, he was, as if a boy next door; and watching him act, he was a prince from some fairyland.

When I started watching cinema, it was the age of Rajesh Khana and Amitabh Bachchan. Elders would always talk about Dilip Kumar, but we the young remained unimpressed – actually we had not seen him act.

It was 1976 or may be 78; there was a buzz that Mughal-e-Azam will once again run in some Srinagar cinema — I think it was in the Palladium. We rushed on the first day of screening (Friday), but couldn’t get the tickets, even in black, and returned heartbroken. However, on third day, we managed tickets after sweating in the queue for hours.

And I fell in love with Salim. Once out of the cinema hall, all of us (three) were Dilip Kumar fans.

And after that, whenever the three of us (including two of my friends) would be together, we would be rehearsing dialogues of the movie:

“Taqdeerein badal jaati hai, zamana badal jaata hai, mulkon ki tarikh badal jaati hai, Shahenshah badal jaate hai … magar is badalti hui duniya mein mohabbat jis insaan ka daaman thaam leti hai… woh insaan nahi badalta ….


“Mohabbat joh darti ho woh mohabbat nahin … ayyashi hai, gunaah hai …


“Mera dil bhi apka koi Hindustan nahi… jis par aap hukumat karein …”

Off and on, Dilip Kumar’s old movies would be run in Srinagar cinemas and we would make it a point to watch them all. Watching a movie those days was quite an effort – saving pennies from the pocket money (which was always less than needed), lying to the elders with all sorts of excuses as watching cinema was not “good” for the people of our age.

And then came Mashaal …

“”Ay Bhai … Are Bhai Zara Gadi Roko … Haspatal Jana Hai Bhai … Ay Bhai Sahab …Bura Haal Hai Bechari Ka … Haspatal Ponhcha Do … Arey Koi Hai … Arey Koi Bacha Lo Rey …Dekho Bichare Maar Rahe Hai…”

I couldn’t sleep for several nights, Waheeda Rehman wreathing in pain and Dilip Kumar desperate to get some help … No actor, I repeat, no actor, from Hollywood to Bollywood, could ever do it the way Dilip Kumar has done.

After watching this scene, I understood why he was referred to as a “Tragedy King” of the Indian cinema.

For some people, movies have just recreational value and thus should not be seen seriously. But for me, good movies tell us what we are, what we aspire to be; our dreams get concretized, our emotions get a direction, we look at ourselves a bit differently and that moulds our personalities like education does. And in this regard I have loved most of Dilip Kumar’s films.

On screen, his smile was mesmerizing; his grim was frustrating; his laughter was elevating; his snub was wearisome. He was a natural actor, effortless, go-easy. His audience (I being one) loved him (without any doubt); his co-stars and directors adored him (that is what I have read).

Alas! His acceptability and his charm that transcended the borders, was not UTILIZED the way it was recognized by the both sides. Otherwise the situation, particularly between the two hostile neighbours – India and Pakistan, would have been different.

The two countries, who always are at each-other’s throat, had a man who was felicitated with second highest civilian award, Padma Vibhushan by India and highest civilian award Nishan-e-Imtiyaz by Pakistan. He could have helped laying down long lasting bridge between the two countries. But no, instead he was threatened, and asked to return the award given by Pakistan.

He refused, and stood like a rock on his decision.

In Mughal-e-Azam, he stood against Akbar the Great and in real life, against divisive powers. Unfortunately in both cases, he lost.  In Mughal-e-Azam, he lost his love, Anarkali; in real life, a dream of secular and inclusive polity!

Unfortunately, we live in an age when a word of appreciation by our “adversary” is seen as a curse, not virtue. Sad!


While writing about Yusuf Khan (Dilip Kumar), not mentioning Saira Bano would be dishonesty. An ideal wife who stood by Yusuf through all thick and thin! Anything and everything we knew about Dilip Kumar would come from Saira Ji and the fans of Dilip Kumar know how she stood with this icon during his difficult days.

Saira, you are great. Dilip Sahib had not made a bad choice while marrying you. He had recognized the degree of loyalty and love you had for him. We may be writing obituaries, tributes and condolences but it is you who have to face this all, entering a house where there is no “Sahib”.

Coming back to Bollywood, Dilip Kumar set a trend, and the trend continues. Despite drastic changes in film making in India, there still are people who try to act and perform like Dilip Kumar (I will not name them).

He was an icon; he is an icon; he will remain an icon. Dilip Kumar is just Dilip Kumar.

I once heard legendary film actress Rekha saying:  “The great dialogue writer Javed Akhtar asked me … ‘Tum Kya Ho?’ ‘I didn’t say anything and then he said ‘Tum Rekha Ho’.”

Taking a cue from the conversation, I say, Dilip Kumar Koun Tha?

Dilip Kumar, Dilip Kumar Tha! He was… and that is it!

He ruled the screen, he set parameters for coming generations of actors, he believed in an inclusive India. He believed in India’s constitution and propagated secular ideals despite facing the “othering” by certain political sections. He had the courage to take stand on issues.

Things changed, Bollywood actors have voluntarily or involuntarily adjusted to the new realities. Yes, Yusuf Khan still remains as an ideal as for as his acting goes, but not the ideals.

He is gone. His acting style may be followed but his humanitarian message goes unheard. I love him, my contemporaries love him, and for us he will always be alive.

His family moved to Bombay (now Mumbai) from Peshawar in late 1930’s and decided to stay put in 1947 when Indian sub-continent was divided. For Dilip Kumar, India was his identity but he yearned for Indo-Pak friendship.

The Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan have paid rich tributes to him. Let someone ask them that whether they have any idea that what the person, whom they are paying tributes to, stood for. Let Indian and Pakistani PMs decide whether they honour his feelings and hopes about the nature of relations between the two neighbours.

Mind, if they do, Dilip Kumar’s seductive smile will brighten this world as well as the one he has gone to.

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