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From Khan to Kumar: How ‘Tragedy King’ entered Indian cinema

Wednesday, 7 July 2021 (15:59 IST)
Mumbai: The death of ‘Tragedy King’ Dilip Kumar on Wednesday orphaned his teary-eyed kingdom of fans, followers and admirers both in India and abroad.

The much-revered ‘Koh-i-noor’ (Mountain of Light) of Indian film industry has stopped glowing forever.

Born to a Pathani couple Lala Sarwar Ali Khan and Ayesha Begum on December 11, 1922, Mohammed Yusuf Khan was one of the 12 children of the horticulturist.

His father grew fruits in Peshawar and Nashik, the then part of Undivided India, and fondly groomed late actor to take over the family business someday.

But, the tall, fair, dreamy-eyed and handsome boy was impatient to enact his own future as he schooled in Deolali, Nashik.

Later, the family shifted to Chembur in Mumbai, but in 1940, following certain differences, he walked out of home and went to Pune where he became a canteen contractor at the local Army club.

In 1943, Devika Rani, the owner of the famed Bombay Talkies, took a snack break at the canteen and was impressed by the courtesy of the young Khan and asked him if he would like to act in films. He virtually put her off by saying if his “father permitted”.

A few months later, after saving a mini-ransom of Rs 5,000, he returned home to assist his father with the family’s finances and broached the topic of his filmy career, but his father firmly said: “NO.”

Undeterred, Khan approached his father’s neighborhood friend from Peshawar, Prithviraj Kapoor – a big time actor for help and finally his father reluctantly relented.

Devika Rani kept her word, asked him to change his name to ‘Dilip Kumar’, offered him a job as an actor on a magnificent Rs 1,250 monthly salary and cast him in a film, ‘Jwar Bhata’ (1944).

The film was a dud and the Star seemed stillborn, followed by flops ‘Pratima’ and ‘Milan’ (both 1945), but neither the actor nor Devika Rani gave up hope.

Finally it was ‘Jugnu’ (mid-1947) in which he paired with the legendary singer-actress Noorjehan, which sparked the glow in his career. The young couple playing college friends became the heart throb of millions and the film grossed over Rs five million by the time India became Independent.

Post-Partition, Noorjehan migrated to Pakistan and Dilip Kumar continued in Mumbai. He gave other mega-hits like ‘Shaheed’ and ‘Mela,’ (1948), ‘Shabnam’ and ‘Andaz’ (1949), the latter with the formidable pair of Raj Kapoor and Nargis. (UNI)

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