Short of 100, Dilip Kumar makes dramatic exit at 98, with three lucky 7s
Years of pretense at political acrimony build up by cyclical political dispensations notwithstanding; many momentous moments in the past have triggered collective response of joys and tragedies between India and Pakistan. When hostilities were pushed to the wayside giving freeway to joyous sail-boats in much merriment or times when both felt plunged into the throes of melancholy.These were the few frozen times when lands and minds felt un-partitioned, un-bound, un-inhibited by landmark boundaries, when hearts poured out feelingsraw, shamelessly, fearlessly,collectively, undeterred by its political correctness.
Dateline: July 6th2021,Lahore (Pakistan)-
Saeed Ahmed was following with apprehension, as thespian Indian film star Dilip Kumar’s health deteriorated-“I prayed to my Allah all night and was happy that Dilip Sahib had crossed the long dark night of the 6thand was in the light. Dilip Sahib loved mornings and the dew that it brings. He often talked about water, and loved springs and rains and dews, flowers, birds and the fragrance- the calls and sounds of the morning, and I thought that his beloved morning had arrived and would infuse him with strength and goodness to improve, and be back home, yet again.
Dateline: July 7, 2021, Amritsar (India)–
Rashmi Talwar -Past that dark night of July 6th, hearing the morning news, I felt- the Crown Adonis of Acting -Dilip Kumar, doubtless saw his last Sun. And just as the magnificent sunset hues gleam wildly erotic, before sinking into eternity, so did the doyen of Indian Cinema, who scheduled his curtains call as dramatically as his impactful movies and melted into the sun with a perfect timing Exactly – on Day 7th month 7th (July) Time 7.30 morning -A Hat-trick of 7s !And if you added the numbers of his age 9+8= 17, yet another 7 emerges.
Saeed Ahmed– is a Pakistani Playwright, screenwriter, columnist-the author of “Ahadnama-E-Mohabbat..Dilip Kumar”-an 800-page voluminous Book penned on the critical appreciation of 41 films of Dilip Kumar – from ‘Milan to Viddhata’.Saeed, an ardent fan of Dilip Kumar across the border in the country of the stalwart actor’s birth place attempted to decode his craft and his many characterizations, besides having written drama serials telecast on several Pak TV channels. Additionally,Saeed worked with Indian actor-director Nandita Das on the script of critically acclaimed film-‘Manto’. Following an invitation he arrived in Mumbai via Wagah border with Manto’s daughter Nusrat in 2018; and used the opportunity to meet Dilip Kumar, unknowingly, for the last time. Dilip was in the state of dementia and Saeed could merely have a look, as he was lovingly cared by his wife Saira Bano- whom he also didn’t recognize due to the progressive disease of memory loss.
Saeed from Lahore Pakistan, talks to RASHMI TALWAR in India, about his book and his many tête-à-tête and unique moments with the class auteur Dilip Kumar in varied parts of the world including Pakistan, India, Kuwait, London, Dubai.
Q: When did you first meet Dilip Kumar?
Ans: In 1974, I met Dilip Kumar in Kuwait where I worked as a journalist. The meeting was amicable but towards the end I used two abrasive questions that irked the actor. I asked him why he attempted to do three characters in the film ‘Beraag’. The actor got touchy and said – ‘The film has yet to be released. You didn’t see the film and you are making a comment without having seen it! You are an irresponsible journalist!’ He boomed. Having ruffled his feathers I asked another uncomfortable question – ‘Filmmakers are particularly miffed with you for distorting their film dialogues. Rajinder Singh Bedi- A Sahitya Awardee writerand playwright once got so irritated with your placement of words, that he asked you to pen the dialogues while he could stand in front of the camera and act in your place’. To this the actor admitted– ‘That confrontation did happen and I very respectfully explained to Bedi Sahib that when I do the dialogue delivery, I need to keep the flow and resonance of the dialogue. I work on this aspect to get it right, it needs bits of pauses, and so to correctly balance the delivery,I work on placements of words. Hearing this Bedi sahib’s perturbed nerves got smoothened.’ Interestingly, Dilip Kumar pulled me by the coat to hug me and announced – ‘This man knows me more than I know myself!’ it was that pinnacle moment that was caught on camera (Pic attached).
Q: In film ‘Devdas’, it was a point of much discussion that Dilip Kumar’s death scene was believed to have been completed in a number of takes to reach that zenithof Director Bimal Roy’s exacting cut? Did you ask this fact to the actor?
Ans: Yes. When I asked him he said –‘When we were shooting the death scene in Devdas, I wanted a real death feelas when the soul leaves the body,a person’s hair stands on ends. In order to reach that moment we shot the scene nearly 19 times till it was finally called cut when it actually became a hair-raising experience. Watching the movie, my sister Saeeda Khan, frantically called on the phone to know if all was well with me. She was crying as the scene gripped her in mortal fear of having lost her brother in real life, so moving it felt to her.’ Dilip worked on that one scene despite having performed death scenes in a number of movies, prior to that. Not for nothing was Dilip Kumar labeled the tragedy Kingof Indian cinema and the first method actor of the World ahead of even American actor –director Marlon Brando.
Q: Tabassum, actor and yesteryears endearing talk-show host, in her much sought afterYouTube channel ‘Tabassum Talkies’ in one of her posts talks about Madhubala,–“Madhubala used to say – When Dilip performsromantic scenes in films with me, it never feels that he was acting, I could see and feel the overflowing love in his eyes when he looked in my eyes, his heartbeat spoke to me. I could sensehe was not putting an actbut that he intenselyloved me in real life.” Did Dilip Kumar talk about his relationship with Madhubala?
Ans: In 1998 when Dilip Kumar came to Lahore to receive –Nishan-e-Imtiaz, the highest civilian Award of Pakistan, I had a fabulous one to one tête-à-tête with him at Margala HillsI asked Dilip Kumar –“Kia Madhubala Khoobsoorat thii?” (Was Madhubala lovely?)
He answered in Punjabi –“Barii Sohnii si!” (She was Dazzling!). Encouraged by his answer, I asked – “Mohabbat sii?” (Did you love her?”)
The question hung in the air awhile andhe replied in his signature style after a pause –“You are asking me this!50 years from then and nearly 30 years after her death.” When a person is in love, he wants to climb up a tall building or mountain and shout ‘I am in love!’ even then I didn’t say anything.
“Fir Bhi BataienNa”? I pleaded. And very subtly he answered with a couplet –
“Jo Taar se nikli hai, woh dhun sab ne suni hai
Jo saaz pe guzri hai, woh kis dil ko pata hai.”
~ Nazm ‘Ashk’ by Sahir Ludhanavi
(The tune that emerged from the string was audible to all;
The endurance of the musical instrument is unknown to any heart.)
Q: Did you get the chance to present your book to Dilip Kumar?
Ans: When Dilip Kumar came to Pakistan to receive the award, staying at the home of former PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as a state guest of Pakistan, I had already sent him a copy of the manuscript of my booka day before on the exact date- March 27, 1998. He was holding the manuscript in his hand when we talked in the sprawling lawns of the former PM’s house in the backdrop of beautiful Margala Hills in Islamabad. The following day Dilip Sahibdeparted for India, but left me a letter which has been my prized possession. The letter reads-
Baradar Aziz Saeed Ahmed,
Aapki kitab dekhi, poori tarah se toh nahi kioki waqt thora tha, aur kitaab ka motalya issi baat ka takaza karta hai ki usko muukamal paraa jaye.
Jitni aahmeyat aapne mere kaam aur filmo ke hisson ko di hai. Aur jitna aapne maqsoos andaz mein apni Kahani ka tajeiyaa kia hai- muqalmoo ke beech khamosh lamhon ki tarjmani ki hai, unn mein rang bhare, toh ye filme jinhe meine kitne hii saalon se nahi dekha na unke barey mein socha aapki kitab parrne ke baad socha inn filmo ko mein fir se dekhon.
Aapki zaheem kaavish ka shukriyaa. Tehreer mein ek shairana andaz aur dilavez afsanvi jhalak ubhar ke samne aati hai. Kitab parr luu toh Tavseelii Taasur se Agah Karonga.
Q: And did he get back to you as promised in the letter?
Ans: I was still in Islamabad when Dilip Sahib landed in Mumbai the next day and I got a call from him that in the manuscript you gave me I cannot find the index catalog of the book, so please fax me. I prepared the list and sent him; he called and said he had not received. I tried three times and he called back and said –“Don’t send me I know that my fax lines have been cut and there is stone throwing going on outside my house. This is the result of my going to Pakistan although I went with the full support, endorsement and the knowledge of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Now the PM has asked me to rush to Delhi, so I am leaving for the capital”.
When he was in Delhi, he called me and said- “Forreceiving the Highest Civilian Award in Pakistan, I have been targeted and I am putting up in a hotel in Delhi, so please do me a favor, don’t inaugurate the book just yet. Only one award is enough for me at the moment, if they come to know that there is book too written on me in Pakistan and that hits the headlines another issue would emerge and I don’t know what will happen to me. I am unhappy with this whole situation. Only when I tell you we can inaugurate it, not now. By all means publish it but in no way inaugurate it. Soon after, Kargil War in year 1999 between India and Pakistan happened (It was the same year that PM Vajpayee and Pak PM Nawaz Sharif inaugurated the first bus service between border City Amritsar with Lahore and also a dedicated bus service from Amritsar to Nanakana Sahib (A revered shrine of Sikhs) in Pakistan.
The consent finally came by Dilip Kumar in 2004 and the book was inaugurated and warmly welcomed and went on to become hugely popular although delayed by nearly six years. Its popularity arose and gained it a translation in Hindi in 2006 by Vani Prakashan Publishers in Delhi. Both editions in Urdu and Hindi are on Amazon.
Q: What happened in London when Dilip Kumar was specially invited by his admirers?
Ans: Dilip Sahib was especially invited in London by his admirers; I too was attending this function as I happened to be in London at the time. Indian Film director Zia Sarhadi of newly released film ‘Footpath’ was sitting among the audience. I took to the stage as the writer of the critical appreciation of Dilip Kumar’s films. During my address, I took on Zia Sarhadi as the most ‘dumb’ director who failed two topmost stars of the Indian film industry. India’s top actors –Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari were the lead pair in the film Footpath, which bombed badly at the box office. Zia Sarhadi was furious and got up to probably slap me. But he was held back by guests and Dilip Kumar who winked at me to slip out. Later in the evening Dilip Sahib said to me – ‘You were right. It was a misfit, miscast film’.
- Were girls as crazy for Dilip Kumar as they were in India?
Ans: In 1988 Dilip Kumar and his wife Saira Bano while sitting in the state guest house in Karachi, were informed of a request by a lady who had come with her daughter to meet Dilip Kumar. The lady claimed to have come from Sind to pass a message and nothing more. Dilip Kumar nodded for her to come in. She said she was a lady doctor and wished to meet Dilip Kumar separately. So she was taken to the adjoining room where she told Dilip Kumar–“ I am just a carrier of a message by a woman named Hukamzaadi who handed over this box to me to give it to you personally”. The lady doctor was offered tea but she refused and insisted that she was only a messenger with no other interests to meet the doyen of Indian cinema. Dilip took the box and opened it. It had two small boxes within wrapped in handkerchief that had a heart. In the boxes were two heavy gold rings. There was a letter in blood.-‘‘TumhetohSaira mil gayi Mujhe Dilip nahi mila’ Ye Ek angoothi tumhare liye hai Dilip aur ek Saira ke liye.’
Dilip Kumar was stunned and deeply saddened and asked about this woman to which the lady doctor replied that the woman who loved him was not allowed to meet anyone because she says she is married to Dilip Kumar. The melancholy on Dilip sahib face seemed crushing; a reminder of his film portrayal of Devdas and Dilip sahib hid his tears and walked into an adjoining room, to be left alone.
Q: Did you have a lighter moment with Dilip Kumar?
Ans:I related to Dilip Kumar about several Pakistani filmmakers who first collectively ganged up against the broadcast of Indian films in Pakistani cinemas, successfully made sure that Indian films were banned in Pakistan in year 1964 (a year before the Indo-Pak War ) and following the ban, secretly plagiarizedIndian Films made in the Bombay film Industry of India –Then copied them ‘frame to frame, dialogue to dialogue, setting to setting’, ran them in Pakistani cinemas and bought fancy houses and cars from the moolah earned from suchcopied films. And when they rode these luxury cars, they made sure a sticker was visible prominently, which read -“Crush India!”
Hearing this, Dilip Kumar, roared with laughter and couldn’t stop chuckling.
Q: Was Dilip Kumar the only Indian to be honored with the highest civilian award of Pakistan?
Ans: No, former Indian Prime Minster Morarji Desai was the first to be honoured with Pakistan’s highest civilian award. After the first nuclear Test in 1974, and thereafter the emergency of 1975, falling of Indira Gandhi at the hustings; a non-congress Janta Party government ruled from 1977 to 1979 under PM Morarji Desai who helped to restore friendly relations with China and Pakistan and vowed to avoid armed conflict such as the 1971 Indo-Pak war. Pakistan Zia-ul-Haq announced the Award Nishan–e-Pakistan for Morarji Desai, but Desai received the Award in India on May 19, 1990 in New Delhi in Benazir Bhutto’s reignwhen he was 95 years old. Despite his detractors the former PM didn’t hesitate to receive the award.
The writer is an Independent Journalist and can be reached at: [email protected]