Dilip Kumar is 94​! 

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On December 11 India’s greatest living actor Dilip Kumar turns 94.

Though unwell the Thespian who re-wrote every rule of acting in mainstream Hindi cinema hardly looks his age. That trademark twinkle in eloquent  eyes remains where it was. The face crinkles up into a 5-year old’s innocent smile and the words flow in a constant stream-like rush of  urgent expressions.

  I remember some years ago telling him on his birthday  he looked no more than 60, Dilip Kumar almost blushed and retorted mischievously, “Oh, the news about my age is just a rumour.”  When you tell him you’d  like to look like he does when you reach his age he smiles, “This body is mine. And bearing its burden has become quite a task.”

In spite of childlike chuckles and bubbling banter  (“I shamelessly use  Saira’s mobile all the time and burn up precious airtime. I shouldn’t be doing be doing that, y’know”) there is a sheen of sadness surrounding this timeless acting genius.

 Yusuf Saab recalls how disappointed his father was when  young  Yusuf  decided not to join the family’s fruit-growing business. “He was very annoyed  when I got into films. But then he heard other people whom he respected relishing the idea.

Once Maulana Azad  whom everyone revered, heard my father commenting caustically on one of his sons drifting into films, and what to do? Maulana Saab intervened on my behalf and said there’s no telling what  the future holds for anyone. He also told my father to be proud of his son’s achievements  and implored him to be patient with my aspirations. I had no training in acting  whatsoever and I wouldn’t have  dared to venture into films were it not for my family’s financial conditions.  The Second World War was extremely hard on the horticulture business and I had to supplement the family income.”

During one of our last conversations his heart was heavy about the state of the nation. “Believe me, iss qadar jee bharaa hua hai ke hum poochte hain hum kahan ud ke jayen? Where can I go to escape the barbarism of my own people It’s heartening  to think  that even today there are rational elements , specially among the younger generation whom one sees challenging the politicians  of the country, asking them where they intend to take us.”

Yusuf Saab is particularly worried about the future of the Indian Muslim. “The  Muslims   will soon become a part of  history. Every civilization is cyclic and must end. My personal view is, that the Indian Muslim population  may eventually be annihilated. But it won’t end there. The process of destroying civilizations will continue.  I too am a Muslim. I  worship my Maker the same way as you do. I never think that my God is separate from yours. My Quran says there are many apostles like Muhammed and we shouldn’t discriminate against them.  I read the Bhagavat Gita and the Vedas with as much reverence as the Quran.  The messages in our holy book and yours are identical. Kyon kha-ma-khamein donon mein discrimate karoon?”

He ruled out an active political career for himself. “It’s a venue for  screaming and indiscipline.  Ekaadmi kuch bhi nahin karsakta. He can perish in trying to make his voice heard. I’ve now crossed  my 80th year. I no longer have that  much energy. I used to make 10-12 rounds of Jogger’s Park during my morning walks. But now I can no longer go beyond three rounds. I can see time ticking away.”

Last I remember  India’s most revered actor begins to walk around the lawn of his spacious bungalow, lost in deep thought.

Excerpts From One Of My Intervews With Dilip Saab

Dilip  Kumar  On  Love Life &  The Love Of Life

By Subhash K Jha

Do awards  have  any meaning for you  any longer?

Oh yes, they do!. When you hold it in your hand  or keep it next to you on  the  bed when you go to sleep, the trophy is a  tangible  reminder   of  your past. Mere paas jab aata hai, main muskurata hoon.   Because  I know that those who’ve given it to me  and those who  will get to know about  them will  think of me  for a while.Like  you did.

 Cinema buffs think of you all the  time. There’s no Indian cinema  without Dilip Kumar.

That’s kind of you. My wife Saira keeps reminding me of all the  people I’ve to thank  for  calling and congratulating me. She’s very very  busy, you know.

She has  to be, she has to look after  the  biggest and most famous baby in India.

Han, yeh aapbe bilkul sach kaha. I’m grateful  to God for  giving me such a girl as a  friend and  companion who  has given  everything to me. I’m indebted to her in every possible  way. When  anyone calls, when anything needs my attention, Saira makes a note. There’s no aspect  of my  life that she doesn’t touch with her generosity.

Would it be  possible  to be the  person   you are without  her contribution?

No,  not  possible. Saira keeps me in touch  with what’s going on around me. The children  of yesterday have grown up. Some know  how to conduct  themselves well, others not so well. I’ve to deal with both  kinds.  Sairaji  helps  me to sift through all   the  people I’ve to connect with,  almost  like a woman who separates the wheat from the chaff.

She’s more  like a mother to you than  wife now.

 Oh  yes. She has a  much higher   designation  than a wife in my life. Sometimes she  gets angry with  or without reason .  Even  now  she’s  monitoring  and observing me. She’s constantly  making me  repay my debts to my audience and  well wishers.

 How do you  react when Amitabh Bachchan says he regrets  you not winning an award  for Ganga Jumna?

 I feel  touched. At that  time  when we made Ganga Jumna I toiled  very hard.  But I didn’t know  the  film would reach so far  . Even today  people are singing   those  songs  from the film.

Have   you ever thought  of  writing an autobiography?

Yes, I have thought  of this. And I’ve written  it all down. Saira has all the papers.  She’s collaborating with her journalist-friend Udaya Tara Nayar to put it together. I told Saira to  get someone who assembles my   life story with some  concern rather than  disinterest.  I want it to come out sounding positive and saying good things in goods words about the  people I’ve known.

 Have  you told  the absolute  truth about your life in the book?

 Not  everything. That isn’t possible. There’re so many and varied experiences. And  I haven’t forgotten any of them. Mujhe  sab baatein  yaad rehti hai. I rember acting drunk in dirty clothes , staggering by  a garbage can for Devdas.

 Were you really drunk  in Devdas?

No! That would  make it impossible to work, bhai!   As  for my biography,  even you won’t be able to tell  the   whole truth about your life. Why do you want me  to  tire myself  talking about   it? When the book is published  I’ll certainly send  you a copy.

Who’s  the most unforgettable heroine you worked with besides Sairaji?

(ponders  for  minutes) I could  name anyone. But  that doesn’t seem right.

 Would it be  Madhubala, Meena Kumari, Nargis?….

(laughs) How easy  it is for you to rattle  off those names. It isn’t   that easy for me.

 They were all memorable  in their own way, weren’t they?

 Not all .  Not at all.  There were some  who were uncaring and worthy  …they were hard  to work  with. Even today I feel uncomfortable  talking about them.   Yes there were  some co-stars in whom there was a lack of civility.  Luckily I had  reached  a position where they couldn’t misbehave with me.

What advice for today’s  film fraternity?

 They need to invest their  emotions wisely. Even I made many mistakes.

You haven’t  been seen on screen  for a long time?

I can’t see a subject  of  substance of which I’d  like to be part of.

Any unfulfilled  dreams?

Many. 

Saira Banu: “I don’t miss having a child because Saab is like a child”

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