Legendary Bollywood actor Dilip Kumar breathed his last on July 7 after a prolonged battle with age-related illness. Hailed as Indian cinema’s ‘Tragedy King’, the thespian was taken to the hospital for breathlessness last week. Kumar passed away at age 98 in Mumbai. Tributes for the veteran star, born Mohammad Yusuf Khan, poured in across social media platforms.
He was known as Bollywood’s first method actor for his range, depth and integrity. Kumar never took any formal training and immersed himself in the script. He would understand his character and make use of his instincts in every role he played. Kumar’s glorious filmography in a career that spanned over five decadesn ever boasted an English-language film because he never featured in any. As an actor, Kumar was the one who set a template that film stars across generations continue to emulate.
On the occasion of his 90th birthday in 2012, Kumar spoke to Times of India about his distance from Hollywood. When asked why he never decided to establish a footing overseas, the icon said, “I took a decision, which was appropriate at that time. I felt I did not have to go to Hollywood to prove or satisfy myself.”
It was in 1962 when director David Lean was looking for an authentic star to cast in the role of Sherif Ali in his film Lawrence of Arabia. Despite Lean’s keen interest and persuasion, Kumar declined the film. The role was eventually played by Egyptian actor Omar Sharif. In his autobiography, The Shadow and the Substance, Kumar had mentioned how he thought Sharif played the part far better than he himself could have.
Kumar was also considered for a role in another film Lean was working on, titled Taj Mahal. Elizabeth Taylor was supposed to play the part opposite Kumar. However, the project was eventually cancelled.