Dilip Kumar: A Biography of India’s Iconic Actor
Dilip Kumar (born Mohammed Yusuf Khan; 11 December 1922 – 7 July 2021) was an Indian actor and film producer, best known for his work in Hindi cinema. Referred to as the “Tragedy King” and “The First Khan”, he has been credited for bringing a distinct form of method acting technique to cinema.
Kumar was born in Peshawar, British India, on 11 December 1922 to a family of patriotic Mughal-era musicians. He spent his early years in Patiala, capital of the princely state of Patiala and East Punjab (now in India) before being sent to his maternal uncle’s home in Peshawar, then in British India and now in Pakistan. His maternal uncle ran a music academy, where Kumar took lessons in playing the tabla. He lived in poverty and insecurity as he was frequently rejected by theatre owners. After three years, he was accepted by a friend’s father, and joined the staff at a theatre in Peshawar as an apprentice. Kumar began his acting career with a small role in the 1941 film Vijay Bhatt’s Ek Gharib Ke Haseena Thi.
Rise to fame
After studying arts at the Elphinstone College, Bombay, Dilip Kumar appeared in several stage plays before graduating with a degree in law from Bombay University. With his acting skills, he made his screen debut in the 1940 film Raahat with Madhubala, directed by Vijay Bhatt. Dilip Kumar then acted in a series of minor roles in the 1940s before working as an extra in Rash Behari Bose’s film Jugnu (1947), a role for which he lost four teeth. After he was discovered by A. R. Kardar, who cast him in his venture Qila (1948). Dilip Kumar’s first lead role came with Bhagwan Dada (1948), based on the Mahabharata. Dilip Kumar’s performance impressed critics and he won the Filmfare Best Actor Award for the role. He followed this with Guru Dutt’s Do Bigha Zameen (1949).
Awards and honours
Dilip Kumar holds two Filmfare Awards, seven National Film Awards, three Filmfare Awards East, a Filmfare Award for Best Actor and four Filmfare Awards South. For his contribution to Indian cinema, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1992, the third-highest civilian honour in India. He was made a member of the Order of the British Empire in 1982, and was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1994 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1998. He has also been awarded a gold medal from the Government of India for his contribution to Indian cinema. In 2008, he was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship, the highest honour awarded by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India’s National Academy for Music, Dance & Drama. He is also known for his charity work for the marginalized.
Dilip Kumar as a young boy Dilip Kumar was born in 1922 in Amritsar, Punjab (now in Pakistan), to Khurshid Hassan Khan and his wife Saira Banu. He had a maternal grandfather, Pir Mohammed Yusuf Khan, and a maternal great-grandfather, Dr. Syed Shah Nawaz Alam, both of whom were Mohammad Yusuf’s ancestors. He had two maternal uncles, Sayeed Mohammad Yusuf and Sadruddin Mohammad Yusuf, and a maternal cousin, Syed Suleman, who worked in the Pakistan Foreign Ministry. In fact, his uncle Sadruddin became the first Muslim leader in independent India after his struggle for Kashmir’s independence was recognized and the Government of India decided to allow the option of a plebiscite and part of the state went to Pakistan.
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Saira Banu (1966)
Asma Rehman (1980)
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Dilip Kumar fell ill while he was admitted in the Lady Hardinge Hospital on 11 July 2016. His spokesperson confirmed, “Saab is not well. He is on life support. We are very grateful to God that he is alive. He is not in a position to speak. Please keep him in your prayers.” He was hospitalised for one month and shifted to the ICU after being diagnosed with “severe pneumonia”, but later his condition worsened and was admitted to the ICU for another month. Dilip Kumar died on 7 July at the age of 95 after prolonged illness. His death came as a shock to the film industry. Dilip Kumar had been admitted in the hospital for two months before his death. In 2012, he was conferred with the prestigious Jeevan Gaurav award at an event in Mumbai.
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