Dilip Kumar. The name evokes a myriad of images and every single one is iconic. From his mischievous smile that rejoices in teasing his anxious leading lady to the pangs of pain in coping with the upheavals of his broken heart to his swaggering antics that could break the mightiest of tyrants, the visuals are delightfully endless.
At a time when acting was associated with theatrics and overstating, he changed the rules by underscoring the beauty of subtlety, texture and restraint with his nuanced performances that only fine-tuned with every passing feature becoming an acknowledged or subconscious inspiration for the likes of Rajendra Kumar, Manoj Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan. The young Pathan persevered and found his groove, initially as a tragedian, in films like Jugnu, Mela and most memorably Devdas, before he realized the extent of his range as a intense romantic, unabashed comic, social rebel and angry senior citizen in the latter stages of his formidable career.
Lets take a glance at some similar iconic films done by Dilip saab that transformed him to the numero uno position in Bollywood
Andaaz (1949) : In Mehboob Khan’s terrific exploration of the thin line between friendships and relationships is delicately conveyed through the masterful troika of Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Nargis. But it’s the grey areas conveyed in Dilip Saab’s urges that truly elevate Andaaz from a glamorous love triangle to a stunning study in human psyche.
Daag (1952) : After giving him a break in Jwar Bhata, Amiya Chakraborty signed Dilip Kumar again to reiterate his tragedy king reputation as a toy seller turned hopeless alcoholic pining for, who else but, Paro. His emphatic expression of despondency and inebriation inDaag earned the actor his first Filmfare trophy for Best Actor.
Devdas (1955):Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s blockbuster novel has had many adaptations and Bimal Roy’s is, fairly rated among the finest. And a huge chunk of credit goes to Dilip Kumar’s immersive rendering and profound understanding for Dev’s deep-rooted ego, unrequited affections, alcohol-triggered breakdown and complete refusal to move on.
Azaad (1955): After a series of distressing roles developing a growing obsession with sadness, the actor was advised to take on some light-hearted fare. And Azaad, a remake of Tamil hit Malai Kallan, proved to be both therapeutic and rewarding.
His exuberant antics/disguises along with his counterpart in tragic roles, Meena Kumari, also in complete form, lend Azaad an air of wholesome cheerfulness.
Naya Daur (1957): In BR Chopra’s triumph of spirit saga involving tangas taking on machines, Dilip Kumar plays the challenge-accepting hero with characteristic grace, aplomb and conviction. The other tracks — his soured friendship, strained romance and struggle to succeed against giant odds — strive to showcase the versatile range of this powerhouse performer.
Madhumati (1958): There’s nothing better than a favorable combination, like the one between Bimal Roy and Dilip Kumar. They collaborated on several films and hit the peak of their connection with Madhumati. Madhumati’s intricate web of reincarnation, suspense and thrill against a traditional romantic setup between Dilip Saab and Vyjayanthimala, treated with gorgeous cinematography and exquisite songs, continues to inspire Bollywood to this date.
Kohinoor(1960): In this Bollywood-size fairy tale of prince, princess and evil ministers conspiring to spoil their chances of a happily-ever-after, Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari team up to embody a enviable marriage of brains with beauty. As an aside, the perfectionist Dilip Saab learned to play amateur sitar before he began filming. You can notice his grasp at the stringed instrument in the ever-melliflous Madhuban mein Radhika.
Mughal – E – Azam(1960): A film to match let alone surpass K Asif’s grand vision and resplendent construction is yet to come. After taking ten good years to finish, Mughal-E-Azam, even after fifty years and a re-released coloured print, continues to draw reactions in superlatives. But this apparent scale, unlimited opulence gets its epic soul from Dilip Kumar’s suave, subtle Salim, bewitching Madhubala and dramatic Prithviraj Kapoor.
Ganga – Jumna (1961): With Ganga Jamuna, a project in which Dilip Kumar was deeply involved (to the extent of insistent suggestions he ghost-directed it), came about the depiction of two brothers and their conflicting ideologies against the backdrop of a discriminating society. Picking up the finer nuances of his rustic character, be it body language or speech, the thespian delivers yet another of his tour de forces to influence the subsequent generation of wronged Vijays.
Shakti(1982): After a long lull, Dilip Kumar returned to screen in a new, mature avatar that was willing to embrace significant characters as opposed to leading roles. Manoj Kumar’s kitschy, jingoistic saga Kranti proved to be a right step in the direction but it was Ramesh Sippy’s Shakti, about a strained police officer father- resentful, criminal son relationship that did justice to his dignity and capabilities in tackling Amitabh Bachchan at the prime of his unprecedented stardom.