Obituary: “Dilip Kumar was our chaste love” | Bollywood News

Mumbai, India – I first met Dilip Kumar on the pages of an old family album, revealed behind the thin onion paper that covered the black and white images.

As a child, I assumed he was an unknown handsome parent whom I had yet to meet, or a younger version of someone I knew. Like the kids posing with him, who I was told were my aunts and uncles. Anyway, for the rest of my life, her lanky smile and grace seemed familiar to me: no movie star familiar, but like someone I knew.

Years later, I learned the story behind the photos. It was one of our favorite legends, lovingly told and honed at every family reunion.

Dilip Kumar with the author’s family on site for Madhumati, near Nainital in the state of Uttarakhand [Courtesy of Taran N Khan]

In 1957 my paternal grandfather took his large offspring for a vacation from their home in Rampur in the state of Uttar Pradesh north of the pine forests of Ghorakhal near Nainital now in the state of Uttarakhand . The idyllic charms of the location had also drawn acclaimed director Bimal Roy to shoot Madhumati, his reincarnation-centric love story, nearby.

My older aunt, like many teenagers back then, had a crush on Dilip Kumar. So when she heard he was shooting nearby, she caused a sensation as she ran out of the house, determined to see him.

But by the time she reached her guesthouse, the unit was gone.

My grandfather must have been a forgiving parent. He consoled his breathless daughter on his return by promising to invite the actor to his home. Incredibly, he did. And even more unbelievably, his invitation was accepted.

Supplies for the feast were to be shipped from Rampur. By all accounts, it was a lavish deal. After the meal, the actor posed for pictures with the children. This is how it ended up in our precious trunk of photos, and why Madhumati was anointed our family film.

Unfortunately, most of my family were either too young or too dazzled to have memories of the other guests. Only my grandmother (paternal grandmother) remembered famous director Bimal Roy as the “Bengali gentleman” who baffled her by asking her for a white dhoti to use in a shot.

It took Dilip Kumar’s translation for my grandmother, who wore a gharara, a traditional outfit, to understand that Roy needed a sari as a backdrop. She offered a bed sheet, which would last like my family’s tangible presence in the film. Every time we watched the movie my cousins ​​and I would try to spot it in a sequence of songs. “Ours,” we would say proudly, pointing to the invisible fabric that only we knew was there.

I grew up in a common family in pre-liberalized India, a life before cable TV or regular electricity, a time when entertainment was rationed to a few hours a week. My family’s VCR – a gift from an aunt based in Dubai – was a great luxury. But it was meant for my grandfather, and we could only watch “family” movies.

So we were 90s kids, fluent in 1950s cinema. In the carnival of black and white images that paraded across our screen, there was a lot of Dilip Kumar. He was good at the “pakeeza mohabbat” (chaste love) that my grandfather tolerated, and the music of his romances was the soundtrack of our collective lives.

Therefore, I was the only child in school who knew (or cared) that Dilip sahab, as he is respectfully called, had learned to play the sitar “for real” for a sequence of Koh-i. -Noor (1960). I knew my older aunt named her daughter Tarana after her first movie with Madhubala, which I loved watching for the lead duo’s bubbly flirtation. And I assumed that all men could sustain dangerous injuries without damaging their well-ironed shirts.

Dilip Kumar was part of the collective maturity of my brood of cousins. For us young women living in the shelter of a small town in northern India, it offered an acceptable glamor, a sort of stardust that contrasted with the violence and sexual innuendo in the films of our time. The glitzy covers of movie magazines like Cine Blitz and Stardust looked different, more dangerous. (That’s why we secretly read them in the toilet.)

Dilip Kumar was our chaste love.

Woman reacts as she sits outside Dilip Kumar’s residence in Mumbai [Niharika Kulkarni/Reuters]

For my grandfather, he offered a different kind of escape. When I think of the movies she’s watched over and over again on her VCR, I see her struggle with depression and her fear of loneliness. All of his choices were decidedly optimistic versions of the actor, his cheeky smile and windswept hair, hands tucked in his pockets. Just as she had seen him in the summer of 1957.

Her guest’s films from long ago were a place where my grandmother’s mind found rest and humor, which allowed her to clap her hands in joy over her shenanigans on multiple occasions. All that followed, she struggled with. When things got serious towards the end of those movies, she would tell us to turn off the tape. It wasn’t until years later that I got to grips with the sad endings of some of these stories, and the actor’s “Tragedy King” tag.

It took the darkness of the pandemic to revisit his films. During the first months of confinement in India, I sought refuge from the feeling of fear and suffering around me by revisiting films seen years ago. Like my grandfather, I found myself returning to the familiar figure of Dilip Kumar onscreen to make sense of a suddenly unknown world. Not all of these films have aged well. But despite his increasingly precarious health and frail figure in real life, the actor’s character on screen still offered me a sanctuary, a path to a gentler world.

Perhaps this was at the heart of its enduring appeal over generations. The actor achieved greatness not only by inhabiting different characters, but by allowing his audience to see themselves in his character – by becoming one of their own. Just like it appeared to me in the photo album where I first saw it. Among the many tributes to his kindness and grace that will emerge, I offer this insight into the actor as a young man, who accepted an invitation to lunch from an unknown gentleman, and made him a hero. for his children.

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