Dilip Kumar is no more. Considered the first superstar of the Hindi film industry, Kumar changed the way we watched cinema. His ability to make characters his own and believable with impeccable delivery made him stand out from the sea of actors. Kumar’s 58-year-old long and illustrious career has been studded with gems that put him in a league of his own. In fact, long before the ‘Khans’ ruled Bollywood, there was another Khan who conquered as the tragedy king, taking a permanent place in audiences’ hearts.
One of 12 children, Dilip saab was born as Mohammed Yusuf Khan in Peshawar (now in Pakistan) on December 11, 1922, to Lala Ghulam Sarwar, a fruit merchant. The Sarwar family-owned orchards in Peshawar and Deolali (Nasik), and so Yusuf’s schooling happened at Barnes School in Deolali.
While the movie buffs and fans of Khan may already know that ‘Dilip Kumar’ was, in fact, his stage name, not many may be aware of the fact why the celebrated actor chose to enter the Indian film industry with a new identity.
In an interview with Mahendra Kaul dated back to the 1970s, Kumar, very candidly revealed that change of name happened only because he was scared of his father’s beatings.
“Do you want to know the truth?" Kumar said before adding, “Pitayi ke darr se maine yeh naam rakha (I was scared of father’s thrashings so I kept this name)."
“My father was strictly against movies and show business. His good friend Dewan Basheshwarnath whose son Prithviraj Kapoor was also an actor in the industry. He often used to complain to Basheshwarnath saying, ‘What have you done? Why is your young and healthy son doing this work?'"
It was Kumar’s exceptional talent and hold on to the craft that his father eventually accepted his son’s choice of career.
Dilip Kumar got his first film, Jwar Bhata, in 1944, directed by Amiya Chakravarty. It turned out to be a perfect launch-pad for him as he was noticed by several producers and directors. By 1952, he would make films such as Jugnu, Shaheed, Mela, Aan, Daag, Arzoo and Deedar. In just eight years, Dilip had become a star with an enviable career.
But he was only getting started. In the years that followed, Dilip saab gave us such gems – Devdas (1955), Azad (1955), Naya Daur (1957), Madhumati (1958), Paigham (1959), Kohinoor (1960), Mughal-E-Azam (1960), and Ganga Jamuna (1961). If Dilip was a star in his first decade as an actor, the next decade brought on a superstar.