Today morning the ultimate truth called death took the thespian Dilip Khan in its embrace. He was keeping an indifferent health for several years and was in and out of hospital frequently. But he fought and for this some credit should also go to his wife, actress Saira Banu, who stood like a rock behind him, taking great care.
His demise is no ordinary event. Sobriquets such as “ End of an Era”, “ the greatest Indian artist ever” etc will not be adequate to describe the loss. He was a national treasure – a national monument. His loss is simply mountainous, an unbridgeable chasm!
In his long career that started with his first movie Jwar Bhata released in 1944 and that spanned almost 6 decades till his last release in 1998, he acted in only 65 movies, which comes to an average of 1 movie per year. And in that sense, he was the first true Khan of the Bollywood- Shahrukh being highly inspired by the thespian’s school of acting, Aamir bring selective like him and Salman trying to reach the height of popularity that Dilip Sahab attained.
To my mind, Ram aur Shyam, a trend setter that immortalised the lost and found theme was the last of the movies reaffirming his superstar status. With several other stars taking centre stage and Rajesh Khanna’s era about to start, Dilip’s magic started waning. Gopi, Dastan, Bairaag, Sagina were some of the movies that readily come to my mind that he did in his later years. Though these were good and thespian acted with his usual aplomb, the old magic was amiss. Then he took a break and came back to set the silver screen and box office on fire in his new avatar- a character actor par excellence. Starting with Kranti, Vidhata, Shakti, Mashaal, Karma, Saudagar – it’s a stuff that embellished the thespian’s profile to a category that one can only aspire but may not be able to reach!
Born Mohammed Yusuf Khan in Peshawar in undivided India, the man developed his own school of acting that mesmerised viewers etching his lasting memories in their hearts. Highly honoured and awarded, his name and fame reached beyond Indian contours. While India honoured him with Padma Vibhushan and Dada Sahab Phalke awards, Pakistan bestowed its highest civilian honour, “ Nishan-e-Imtiaz”. His and Raj Kapoor’s paternal houses in Peshawar are proposed to be converted into Museums by Pakistani government. This will be a great tribute to the doyens of film industry, the breed of actors that’s fast vanishing.
Like any screen icon , the thespian’s personal life was colourful and controversial. Though he found a stable and lasting partner in Saira whom he married in 1966, before her, he had Kamini Kaushal, Madhubala and Vyjantimala in his life. He also married Asma and made her his second wife for a brief period, but ultimately Saira’s love prevailed.
He will remain the doyen, the thespian, the biggest star of Bollywood and continued to be emulated by generation of actors to come.
Rest in peace Mughal-e-Azam or more befittingly Azam-e-Hind, for he was not only Bollywood’s but nation’s pride.