Dilip Kumar (born Muhammad Yusuf Khan; 11 December 1922) is an Indian film actor, producer, screenwriter, and activist, known for his work in Hindi cinema. Also known as the Tragedy King, he is credited with bringing realism to film acting since his first film which was released in 1944. He is considered one of the greatest and most influential actors of all time.
Kumar debuted as an actor in the film Jwar Bhata (1944), produced by Bombay Talkies. His career has spanned over six decades and over 65 films. Kumar is known for roles in films such as the romantic Andaz (1949), the heartwarming Babul (1950), the impassioned Deedar (1951), the swashbuckling Aan (1952), the dramatic Devdas (1955), the comical Azaad (1955), Naya Daur (1957), Yahudi (1958), Madhumati (1958), Kohinoor (1960), the epic historical Mughal-e-Azam (1960), the social dacoit crime drama Gunga Jamuna (1961), and the comedy Ram Aur Shyam (1967).
In 1976, Dilip Kumar took a five-year break from film performances and returned with a character role in the film Kranti (1981) and continued his career playing leading roles in films such as Shakti (1982), Karma (1986) and Saudagar (1991). His last film was Qila (1998).
He is the winner of nine Filmfare Awards and is the first recipient of the Filmfare Best Actor Award (1954). He still holds the record for the most Filmfare Awards won for that category with eight wins. Shah Rukh Khan tied with him in 2011. Critics have acclaimed him as one of the greatest actors in the history of Indian cinema.
Kumar was born Mohammad Yusuf Khan to Ayesha Begum & Lala Ghulam Sarwar Ali Khan in a Hindko-speaking Awan family of 12 children on 11 December 1922 at home in the Qissa Khawani Bazaar area of Peshawar, British India (modern-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan). His father was a landlord and fruit merchant who owned orchards in Peshawar and Deolali. Mohammad Yusuf Khan was schooled at Barnes School, Deolali, Nashik. He grew up in the same religiously mixed neighbourhood as Raj Kapoor, his childhood friend. In the late 1930s, his family relocated to Chembur, Mumbai.
In 1940, while still in his teens and after an altercation with his father, Mohammad Yusuf Khan left home for Poona (Pune). With the help of a Parsi cafe owner and an elderly Anglo-Indian couple, Kumar met a canteen contractor. Without letting on his family antecedents, he got the job on the merit of his knowledge of good written and spoken English. He managed to set up a sandwich stall at the army club and when the contract ended, he headed home to Mumbai having saved Rs. 5000.
In 1942, anxious to start some venture to help out his father with household finances, he met Dr. Masani at Churchgate Station, who asked him to accompany him to Bombay Talkies, in Malad. There he met actress Devika Rani, owner of Bombay Talkies, who asked him to sign up with the company on a salary of Rs. 1250 per month. There he met actor Ashok Kumar who was to influence his acting style telling him to act "natural". He also met Sashadhar Mukherjee, and both these people became very close to Kumar over the years. Initially, Kumar helped out in the story-writing and scripting department because of his proficiency in Urdu language. Devika Rani requested him to change his name to Dilip Kumar, and later casted him in a lead role for Jwar Bhata (1944), which marked Kumar's entry into the Hindi film industry.
Dilip Kumar's first film was Jwar Bhata in 1944, which went unnoticed. After a few more unsuccessful films, it was Jugnu (1947), in which he starred alongside Noor Jehan, that became his first major hit at the box office. His next major hits were the 1948 films Shaheed and Mela. He got his breakthrough role in 1949 with Mehboob Khan's Andaz, in which he starred alongside Raj Kapoor and Nargis. Shabnam also released that year was another box office hit
Kumar went on to have success in the 1950s playing leading roles in several box office hits such as such as Jogan (1950), Babul (1950), Hulchul, (1951), Deedar (1951), Daag (1952), Shikast (1953), Amar (1954), Uran Khatola (1955), Insaniyat (1955), Devdas (1955), Naya Daur (1957), Yahudi (1958), Madhumati (1958) and Paigham (1959). These films established his screen image as the "Tragedy King". Kumar briefly suffered from depression due to portraying many tragic roles. He also played lighthearted roles in an attempt to shed his "tragedy king" image upon his psychiatrist's suggestion such as in Mehboob Khan's big-budget 1952 swashbuckling musical Aan. This marked his first film to be shot in technicolor and to have a wide release across Europe with a lavish premiere in London. He had further success with lighter roles as a thief in the comedy Azaad (1955), and as a royal prince in the romantic musical Kohinoor (1960)
He was the first actor to win the Filmfare Best Actor Award (for Daag) and went on to win it a further seven times in his career. He formed popular on-screen pairings with many of the top actresses at the time including Madhubala, Vyjayanthimala, Nargis, Nimmi, Meena Kumari and Kamini Kaushal. 9 of his films in the 1950s were ranked in the Top 30 highest-grossing films of the decade.
In 1960, he portrayed Prince Salim in K. Asif's big-budget epic historical film Mughal-e-Azam, which was the highest-grossing film in Indian film history for 11 years until it was surpassed by 1971 film Haathi Mere Saathi and later by the 1975 film Sholay. If adjusted for inflation, Mughal-e-Azam was the highest-grossing Indian film through to the early 2010s, equivalent to over ₹1000 crore in 2011.
The film told the story of Prince Salim, who revolts against his father Akbar (played by Prithviraj Kapoor), and falls in love with a courtesan (played by Madhubala). The film was mostly shot in black and white, with only some scenes in the latter half of the film shot in colour. 44 years after its original release, it was fully colourised and re-released in 2004.
In 1961, Kumar produced and starred in Ganga Jamuna opposite his frequent leading lady Vyjayanthimala and his brother Nasir Khan, this was the only film he produced. In 1962 British director David Lean offered him the role of "Sherif Ali" in his film Lawrence of Arabia (1962), but Dilip Kumar declined to perform in the movie. The role eventually went to Omar Sharif, the Egyptian actor. Dilip Kumar comments in his much later released autobiography, "he thought Omar Sharif had played the role far better than he himself could have". His next film Leader (1964) was a below average grosser at the box office. He was the co-director alongside Abdul Rashid Kardar of his next release Dil Diya Dard Liya in 1966, but was uncredited as director. In 1967, Kumar played a dual role of twins separated at birth in the hit film Ram Aur Shyam. In 1968, he starred alongside Manoj Kumar and Waheeda Rehman in Aadmi. That same year he starred in Sangharsh with Sanjeev Kumar.
Kumar's career slumped in the 1970s with films like Dastaan (1972) failing at the box office. He starred alongside his real-life wife Saira Banu in Gopi (1970) which was success. They were paired again in his first and only Bengali language film Sagina Mahato (1970). A Hindi remake Sagina was made in 1974 with the same cast. He played triple roles as a father and his twin sons in Bairaag (1976) which failed to do well at the box office. He personally regarded M.G.Ramachandran's performance in Enga Veetu Pillai better than his role in Ram Aur Shyam. He regards his performance in Bairaag much higher than that of Ram Aur Shyam. Though his performance in Bairaag and Gopi were critically acclaimed, he lost many film offers to act in leading roles to actors Rajesh Khanna and Sanjeev Kumar, from 1968 to 1987. He took a five-year hiatus from films from 1976 to 1981.
In 1981, he returned to films as a character actor playing central roles in ensemble films. His comeback film was the multi-starrer Kranti which was the biggest hit of the year. Appearing alongside an ensemble cast including Manoj Kumar, Shashi Kapoor, Hema Malini and Shatrughan Sinha, he played the title role as a revolutionary fighting for India's independence from British rule. He then formed a successful collaboration with director Subhash Ghai starting with Vidhaata (1982), in which he starred alongside Sanjay Dutt, Sanjeev Kumar and Shammi Kapoor. Later that year he starred alongside Amitabh Bachchan in Ramesh Sippy's Shakti which was only a below average grosser at the box office, but won him critical acclaim and his eighth and final Filmfare Award for Best Actor. In 1984, he starred in Yash Chopra's social crime drama Mashaal opposite Anil Kapoor which failed at the box office but his performance was critically acclaimed. He also appeared alongside Rishi Kapoor in Duniya (1984) and Jeetendra in Dharm Adhikari (1986).
His second collaboration with Subhash Ghai came with the 1986 ensemble action film Karma. Karma marked the first film which paired him opposite fellow veteran actress Nutan. Three decades earlier however, they were paired together in an incomplete and unreleased film titled Shikwa. He acted opposite Nutan again in the 1989 film Kanoon Apna Apna.
In 1991, Kumar starred alongside fellow veteran actor Raaj Kumar in Saudagar, his third and last film with director Subhash Ghai. This was his second film with Raaj Kumar after 1959's Paigham. Saudagar was Kumar's last box office success. In 1993, he won the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to the industry for five decades.
In 1992, producer Sudhakar Bokade announced a film titled Kalinga which would officially mark Kumar's directorial debut after he had allegedly previously ghost directed Ganga Jamuna (1961) and Dil Diya Dard Liya (1967). Kumar was also set to star in the title role with the cast including Raj Babbar, Raj Kiran, Amitoj Mann and Meenakshi Seshadri. After being delayed for several years, Kalinga was eventually left incomplete and shelved.
In 1998, he made his last film appearance in the box office flop Qila, where he played dual roles as an evil landowner who is murdered and as his twin brother who tries to solve the mystery of his death.
In 2001, he was set to appear in a film titled Asar — The Impact alongside Ajay Devgan, which was shelved. His classic films Mughal-e-Azam and Naya Daur were fully colorised and re-released in cinemas in 2004 and 2008 respectively. An unreleased film he had shot and completed in 1990 titled Aag Ka Dariya was set for a theatrical release in 2013 but has not been released to date.
Kumar launched his Twitter account and his first tweet was on his 89th birthday in 2011.
Dilip Kumar had fallen in love with Madhubala during the shooting of Tarana.They remained in a relationship for 7 years until the Naya Daur court case happened in which Dilip Kumar had given evidences against Madhubala and her father. Dilip Kumar stood by with the Chopras and hence their relationship ended. Dilip Kumar then married to actress Saira Banu, who was 22 years younger than him when they married in 1966. He married a second time in 1981 to Hyderabad socialite Asma Sahiba, but the marriage ended in January 1983. Dilip Kumar does not have any children. He is fluent in Urdu, Hindi, Hindko (his first language), Bhojpuri, English, Punjabi, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati, Pashto, and Farsi.
Kumar has always encouraged new talent in the Indian film industry. He believes that an actor does not necessarily have to bring any acting skill, rather a recognition that "acting is all about not acting." Kumar has an eye for identifying talent and often encouraged young people to work with him in front of the camera. Some of the talent identified by him who later on became big stars of their own include:
Dilip Kumar is widely considered one of the greatest actors in the history of Hindi cinema. He holds the Guinness World Record for winning the maximum number of awards by an Indian actor. He has received many awards throughout his career, including 8 Filmfare Best Actor awards and 19 Filmfare nominations. He was honoured with the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993. Gunga Jumna (1961), which he wrote, produced, and starred in, also received the National Film Award for Second Best Feature Film in Hindi, the Paul Revere Silver Bowl at the Boston International Film Festival, the Special Honour Diploma from the Czechoslovak Academy of Arts in Prague, and the Special Prize at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
Kumar was appointed Sheriff of Mumbai (an honorary position) in 1980, the Government of India honoured Kumar with the Padma Bhushan in 1991, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1994 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2015. The Government of Andhra Pradesh honoured Kumar with NTR National Award in 1997. The Government of Pakistan conferred Kumar with Nishan-e-Imtiaz, the highest civilian award in Pakistan, in 1998. The ruling political party of Shiv Sena in Maharashtra had objected to this award and questioned Kumar's patriotism. However, in 1999 in consultation with the then Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Kumar retained the award. He was honoured with CNN-IBN Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.
The Government of India honoured him with:
Films that garnered Dilip the most recognition or awards include:
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