| Dilip: In demand
London, Aug. 24: Dilip Kumar, 82, will pay one of his rare visits to London when the veteran actor will launch a “major season” of his golden oldies, it was announced yesterday by the National Film Theatre.
The NFT, which last held a retrospective featuring all the works of Satyajit Ray, said: “We are delighted to welcome Dilip Kumar to the NFT on October 5 as one of the leading lights of Hindi cinema for almost sixty years.”
Initially avoiding the word “Bollywood”, which is not to the taste of the older generation of Indian film stalwarts, the NFT said it was “pleased to announce a major season in October celebrating the work of the renowned Hindi filmmaker and actor, Dilip Kumar”.
Assuming he does come — the actor is not in good health — Dilip Kumar will be “in conversation” with an interviewer in the main theatre of the NFT and then take questions from members of the audience. There will be many. Some academics will ask profound, complicated questions and see deep meanings which might hitherto have escaped even Dilip Kumar.
The occasion is bound to be a sellout, not least because a lot of propaganda work on his behalf has already been done by author Lord Meghnad Desai, who has written a homage to one of his favourite film personalities, Nehru’s Hero: Dilip Kumar in the Life of India.
The NFT is holding the season in association with a Bradford organisation, Bite the Mango, which does commendable work in a divided city by bringing together Indians and Pakistanis through the medium of Hindi films. Explaining his importance to a new generation of British-born Asians will be one of the tasks of the NFT.
“Born Yusuf Khan in Peshawar (now in Pakistan) in 1922, Dilip Kumar was given his stage name by Hindi novelist Baghwati Chari Varma,” the NFT said. “His first taste of what has come to be known as Bollywood film was musical drama Jugnu (1947) in which he starred opposite Pakistani diva Noorjehan, first in a string of great leading ladies.”
It added: “The succeeding years of his career saw him in a string of tragic roles which made his reputation: in Babul (1950) he shone as a platonic love affair descends into bitterness; in Devdas (1955) with his blisteringly naturalistic performance in this classic (and much filmed romance) he became the darling of 50s Indian cinema. After Devdas, director Bimal Roy had an even greater success with Madhumati (1958), from a script by legendary Bengali filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak, in which Kumar plays a young man caught between two lives in a story of true love and reincarnation, with the love interest provided by actor Vyjayanthimala.”
The NFT also said: “Among the highlights of the season is Mughal-E-Azam (1960), widely regarded as one of the greatest Indian films ever made; Dilip Kumar plays a young prince whose affair with a courtesan incurs his father’s wrath. This sumptuous epic was nine years in the making and features a wealth of stars.”
The NFT can now speak to quite a knowledgeable audience. “Dilip Kumar produced and acted in his own script in Ganga Jumna (Two Brothers) (1961) directed by Nitin Bose, starring once again opposite actor Vyjayanthimala and his own brother Nasir Khan in an emotional drama inspired by both Hollywood Westerns and the gangster film.”
It promises a feast for lovers of Indian cinema. “This season of a dozen of Dilip Kumar’s greatest films includes some of his later works such as Bairaag (1976), a tour de force in which he managed to play three roles, a father and his twin sons and Shakti (1982) starring Amitabh Bachchan in a tale of the Mumbai underworld widely seen as Dilip Kumar’s graceful stepping aside to make way for the coming new star,” the NFT said.