Check out this 1982 Stardust article about Dilip Kumar.
Even though the whole country was disillusioned, seething with fury and utterly disgusted when their darling Dilip Kumar deceived them about his second marriage, it wasn’t long before people forgave, forgot and started making excuses for their idol. Within a couple of months, Dilip Kumar was back on his pedestal. The public had literally grown up believing in his legend, fans had lived with stories of his greatness for too long to accept his feet of clay because of just one mistake.
Now however, it’s come to light that Asma was not the legend’s first mistake. It was only the first to be exposed! The expose, however belated, seems to have aroused the other ‘wronged parties’ who have kept quiet about their suffering all these years, out of fear for themselves and their families. Today, there’s no end to the stories shattering the white-washed façade, no restraint in the explosion of the myth of the ex-Sheriff, the actor nonpareil, the perfect family man, the legendary lover, the Godfather of the industry. One (exposed) slip-up has cost the fallen angel his thirty-year-old image!
So far, the only well-known negative aspect of this Marlon Brando of the Indian screen was that he had the habit of interfering with his scripts, directing his directors and delaying his films. Any filmmaker who signed Dilip Kumar, did so after knowing what to expect from the screen God. Those who resented his encroaching, never worked with him.
But it hasn’t been such simple and straight dealing always. Very few people are aware that the thespian has time and again deliberately cheated his producers, ruined his directors and put film families out of action for years, even at times, forever…
Manmohan Desai and his family of filmmakers were one of Dilip Kumar’s first victims. It is said that M.D’s father was one of the industry’s richest producers in his time. In fact, he had so much money, that he used to get his wardrobe specially flown in from the most expensive boutique in Paris! But, he made one mistake – he signed Dilip Kumar for one of his films and with it, he lost everything he had achieved and amassed in life. “That film never got made,” his son Manmohan Desai recalled sadly. “My father almost became a pauper.”
As if his own extravagant demands during and after the film’s making weren’t enough, Dilip Kumar even instigated Saira Banu as a major accomplice in the Desais’ downfall. The producers had signed Saira for their Bluff Master, a black and white venture, which was supposed to be a quickie. While the film was still on the floors, Saira’s Junglee was released and became an all time hit. Immediately the beauty queen and her mother demanded that Bluff Master be switched to Technicolor, because Saira Banu had become too big a star for a black and white film. At the time, the Desais could neither afford to give in to their heroine’s demands, nor to scrap the film, so they begged and pleaded with Saira to complete the project as it was. The actress turned to her family friend (they weren’t married then), Dilip who insisted that the Desais abide by Saira’s request!
It took years for the Desais to complete their ‘quickie’. After which, they were not just financially ruined but also completely out of business. This has made Manmohan Desai so bitter about Dilip and Saira, that today he is the only filmmaker who dares to openly declare, “Dilip Kumar may be a fabulous artiste, the best in the country, but I will never make the mistake of signing him for my film!”
Another filmmaker who is still trying to get back his foothold in the industry, after being back stabbed by his idol, is Chandra Barot. Chandra was more of a family-member in the Yousuf Khan household, than a producer. After he launched his Master with the thespian and his begum in the lead, he fell hook, line and sinker under the Dilip Kumar spell. He hung around the legend night and day, played his chauffeur, bodyguard, odd-job man, etc., while Dilip Kumar worked on the script of Master. Chandra was convinced that as soon as the paper work was done, they would shoot continuously and complete the film at a stretch. Unfortunately, for Barot, Dilip Kumar never completed the script itself!
Reason: He never intended to, because he was only using Chandra and his film as a pawn to keep his wife from going back to a full-time career on screen. He had convinced Saira that she should work in just two good films – their home production and Master.
Dilip Kumar’s little selfish game cost Chandra Barot his career. Today, industrywallas mock him on his face, as a filmmaker who starts but never finishes anything. Financiers, distributors, even stars refuse to back his projects. Chandra has lost the credibility and standing he’d built up after Don. Though he doesn’t hit out at the thespian openly, the undercurrent of bitterness is obvious whenever he speaks about Dilip. “I have wasted a lot of my time on Master, but it couldn’t be helped,” Barot declares wryly. “How was I to know that I was being taken for a ride?”
Today, another producer Kishore Sharma is waiting and sweating it out like Barot, for Dilip Kumar to give the dates and the green signal to start Chandragupta Chanakya, which he had launched at least five years ago! “I get very upset when I hear people say that my film will never be made.” Mr. Sharma snaps nervously. “But let me make this one thing very clear, Chanakya is more important to me than an artiste or star. I will definitely make this film with or without Mr. Dilip Kumar.” Of course, he hastily adds that only the thespian fits the role perfectly and that only Dilip Kumar can do full justice to it! And the fact that he has waited so long and pampered every whim and fancy of the best actor, only proves that Sharma has no intentions of replacing Dilip Kumar in his film.
According to insiders however, the reason why Kishore Sharma is standing by Dilip Kumar is not so much for his suitability to the role, but the power he commands in the industry. “Sharma is not an industrywalla,” revealed a know all. “Chanakya is his first film. The man is scared that if he throws Dilip saab out, his only ambition in life (to make this film) will remain incomplete.”
Incidentally, Kishore Sharma is not the only one who is afraid of Dilip’s powerful connections. In fact, fear seems to be quite a common feeling amongst the people who’ve fallen into the thespian’s bad books. It is believed that Dilip Kumar has a lot of friends in the underworld, who act as his bodyguards and protectors whenever he needs them. In fact, industry people insist that Dilip has often used these connections to get even with his ‘enemies’.
His own brother-in-law Iqbal Khan (son of the late Mehboob Khan) is said to be terrified of the thespian. When his marriage to Dilip’s sister (Saeeda) didn’t work out, Iqbal wanted a divorce. Till today (so many years later), he hasn’t got it because Dilip Kumar is supposed to have threatened to ruin Iqbal if he ever gave ‘talaq’ to his sister. “Dilip saab is very, very possessive about his family.” Revealed an insider, “and he is capable of killing any man who so much as tries to hurt them!”
Today, though the couple lives separately, Iqbal continues to provide for his wife. Not only does he pay for her maintenance (including a car) and all her expenses, but he even sends her daily meals (breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner) from his home (above Mehboob Studios) to her brother’s bungalow (where she now lives)!
However, since Iqbal and his family members were too scared to clarify this, it was difficult to say how far the story was true or exaggerated. But people close to Dilip’s second brother-in-law (K. Asif) insist that the actor had had a big hand in getting the filmmaker beaten up by goondas when the two men fell out with each other. Reportedly, Dilip could never forgive K. Asif when he betrayed Dilip’s trust in him, and eloped with his sister Akhtar. Even his own family members recall how violent Dilip became when anyone so much as mentioned their names in his presence. That’s why when one night both Asif and Akhtar were brutally beaten up by a masked man, everyone was certain that the goondas had been sent by Dilip Kumar to teach the couple a lesson!
Ismat Chugtai, the well-known Urdu writer who has been extremely close to Dilip Kumar and his family, put the Dilip-K. Asif showdown in its proper perspective. “I have known Yousuf for a long time now,” she explained seriously, “and I do recall how furious he was when his best friend ran away with his sister. Yousuf does have a terrible temper, and it is quite possible that he must have even threatened to kill K. Asif for what he had done. But I know for sure that Dilip Kumar was not in any way involved in that awful (beat-up) incident. The poor man isn’t even capable of hurting a fly.”
Dilip’s sister-in-law and star of yesteryears, Begum Para, however, didn’t second Ismat Chugtai’s opinion. Though she pleaded complete ignorance where the Asif case was concerned, she insisted that Dilip Kumar was certainly not as innocent as he looked! “Yousuf is the biggest charmer,” she declared cynically. “But behind that sweet charm lies the most vindictive man one can ever come across! He never forgets anything, and he always believes in striking back when you least expect him to. Basically, the man is a coward and does not confront his opponent face to face. He always hits out from behind!”
Begum Para was speaking from her own personal experience. The raw deal that she and her children got from her husband’s brother, is something they will never forget. When Nasir Khan suddenly died of a heart-attack while location hunting for his film Zid, his wife Para was left with the sole responsibility of completing the film. “Our hero Sanjay Khan was more than co-operative,” she recalled. “He was making his own film, Chandi Sona at that time, but he assured me that he’d give me his dates whenever I wanted them.
I was deeply touched. But my heroine Saira Banu and her husband saw to it that I never completed the film. Apart from Saira Banu playing games and harassing me for dates, Dilip Kumar played a very dirty game with me,” Begum Para related wryly. “He went up to all our distributors and convinced them that he would take the responsibility of completing the film his brother had started. Of course, the distributors were extremely happy and felt very reassured with his guarantee. Every time I wanted to shoot and went to the distributors for the finance, I was told that they would talk to Yousuf saab about it, since he had asked them to deal with him directly. But of course, Dilip Kumar made sure he was never available when they needed him! He just disappeared for eight months.
Under the bahana of helping his poor sister-in-law, he was very discreetly and cunningly cutting off my roots. I was left with no alternative but to shelve my film and go off to Pakistan and live with my mother.”
Para still remembered the time she’d gone to say goodbye to Dilip and Saira before leaving the country. “I was told that they were not at home,” she said. “So the next day, I called up their place in the morning. Saira informed me that her saab could not come on the phone as he was sleeping. I told her that I didn’t know how long I would be in Pakistan and it was just possible that I would never return and that I would like to say goodbye to my brother-in-law. She made me hold on for some time and came back only to tell me that she had tried her best, but he would not get up!”
Dilip Kumar must have really believed that Para and her kids had quit India for good, otherwise he would’ve never done what he did soon after their departure. Begum Para was in for the biggest and the most unbelievable jolt of her life when she unexpectedly returned to India one fine day. “Dilip Kumar was having some financial problems because of Ganga Jamuna,” she revealed. “My husband was the producer of the film and he had given the rights of Ganga Jamuna to one of the distributors. The only way Dilip Kumar could get himself out of the mess was by getting the rights of the film for himself. So, he declared that a trust had been formed (headed by Dilip Kumar and including all his other brothers and sisters) by my husband for the film. How could my husband forget to add his wife’s name and especially those of his three small kids? The fact is that my husband had died intestate. He had made no will. I never thought that the great Dilip Kumar would stoop to this level even if it was to save his own skin.”
The incident embittered the lady to such an extent that when Dilip Kumar later tried to make up by offering to help his brother’s children, Begum Para promptly called him up, and retorted. “How can you be so presumptuous as to even think that I would want your help for my children?”
Can one believe such behavior from a man who has always been the first star to organize charity cricket matches and variety shows for the poor and the needy? In fact, when he was the Sheriff of Bombay, Dilip Kumar refused to open any exhibition or inaugurate any shop or be the chief guest at any function, unless the organizers donated a certain amount of money to any one of the three charitable institutions he was supporting. But then, like a Yousuf Khan critic puts it. “It is very easy to be charitable when you don’t have to put in your own money. Dilip Kumar has always loved to project a public image, which is so completely different from his real self!”
Even his first begum Saira Banu will confirm this. “Saab is full of double standards,” she had said after the Asma-scandal broke out. “He knows that he has a blind following and he often takes advantage of this to get his own work done. He works so hard on his speeches and sways the masses with them. Even I was very impressed with his word. It was only after what he did to me (his second marriage), that I realized how empty and meaningless his speeches were. He never means what he says. His public image and the Yousuf Khan I now know are two completely different identities.”
“It’s hard to believe,” continued a Saira Banu campwalla, “but the great Dilip Kumar is actually an extremely petty man. Do you know that when Sunil Dutt was made the Sheriff, Dilip Kumar spent sleepless nights? He was so very upset. ‘How can they make him the Sheriff? What has he achieved so far? What has he done to deserve this post?’ Dilip cried over and over again. He could not accept the fact that another film personality could hold the post he once had held! But of course, on Mr. Dutt’s face he was the perfect charmer. In fact, he was the first one to send him flowers and a congratulatory message. He was even around when Dutt saab was sworn in as the Sheriff. With all the back slapping and the hugging, one couldn’t even imagine that Dilip Kumar held any grudge against the new Sheriff!”
Even women, especially his heroines, weren’t immune from Dilip Kumar’s petty grudges and revenge tactics. During his hey-days, Suraiya was probably the only top actress who didn’t send out feelers for films with him. Initially, intrigued by her indifference, Dilip requested K. Asif to cast them together. Suraiya accepted Janwar, but throughout the shooting, she stayed away from her co-star, ignored all his advances and was on her best professional behaviour. Humiliated by her blatant disinterest, Dilip got his own back in a way that fills Suraiya with disgust to this date.
When the actress reported for shooting one day, the director narrated a particular hot scene which she had to perform. Suraiya had to lie flat on her stomach, while Dilip climbed over her back, scratched her passionately and tore her clothes. Asif made the couple do the scene over and over again. It was only later when she spotted the two friends laughing together, that Suraiya caught on that the scene was just Dilip Kumar’s badla on her – it was not in the script and there was no film in the camera during its ‘shooting’! Humiliated and furious, Suraiya stormed out of the sets and right out of the film.
“I never said a word,” Suraiya recalled bitterly. “I quietly walked out. If I had retaliated, I would have brought myself down to his level. I didn’t want to give him that satisfaction.”
But unlike Suraiya, her contemporary Nimmi didn’t take Dilip Kumar’s advances lying down. During the making of Amar, Nimmi slapped Dilip right across the face, in front of the whole unit, when he tried to make an ugly pass at her. Of course, since the strict no-nonsense Mehboob Khan was the director of the film, Dilip Kumar had no alternative but to quietly bear the public insult and he never got the opportunity to get even with her because Nimmi made sure that she never worked with the thespian again.
Nimmi and Suraiya, however, were the exceptions in Dilip Kumar’s love-life, for as a rule, women were an easy prey for the legendary lover. Waheeda Rehman still hurts when she remembers how Dilip had ditched her almost at the altar! Reportedly, Dilip had proposed to her in Madras, but when he had changed his mind later, he didn’t even have the decency to inform her! Waheeda’s people remember how terribly shocked she was when she read about Dilip’s engagement to Saira Banu in the papers. That’s why, the moment the Rehmans heard about Dilip’s second marriage, Waheeda’s sister Saeeda immediately went and told Saira about it. “Of course, I didn’t believe her,” Saira said sheepishly. “I thought that she was only getting her own back at Saab and me.”
“Waheeda was not the only woman Dilip ditched at the last moment when he announced his engagement to Saira,” revealed Begum Para. She spoke of a married Princess he’d been involved with, who even got a divorce from her first husband to marry Dilip. Ismat Chugtai added Kamini Kaushal to the list, and insisted that the actress was ready to end her marriage for a permanent relationship with Dilip Kumar, till the thespian backed out at the last moment. “The two of them were so madly in love with each other,” revealed Ms. Chugtai, who got to see the love couple together while they were co-starring in her film Arzoo. “I don’t think Dilip Kumar has ever loved a woman with as much passion as he loved Kamini.”
In fact, Ismat played quite a go between for them because Kamini was always heavily chaperoned by her mother and brother. “They hounded her wherever she went,” explains Ms. Chugtai, “and did not allow her to exchange a word with Dilip. My hero was so upset, that he refused to shoot till he could spend more time alone with Kamini. So, we thought of a plan. We had a big pillar built and we hired a crane to take Dilip, Kamini and the cameraman up. We pretended to shoot a scene there. Actually, there was no film in the camera and the poor cameraman had to spend the whole day looking the other way while Dilip and Kamini held hands and talked to their heart’s content. Of course, the whole drama cost us a lot of money. But we had to do it for our film.”
But the biggest drama Dilip Kumar played was with the late Madhubala, so it’s hardly surprising that her family still blames him for her death! Though the Madhubala-Dilip Kumar affair is almost a forgotten twenty-two year old legend now, her sisters still smart at the way the actor had abused her love for him. “Why do you want me to talk about that man and insult my dead sister’s holy spirit?” demands Madhubala’s eldest sister, Mrs. Kaniz Balsara, whenever Dilip’s name is mentioned. “Only recently, his sister Fauzia who stays opposite us, came over to tell us that her brother had got married a second time and that she was extremely happy about it. I told her point-blank that I wasn’t. If he’s got married a second time to get children, I told her that would never happen. Dilip Kumar will never get an aulad. And the day he gets one, I’ll know that there is no God in this world. Is duniya mein Khuda nahin hai. My sister was literally craving for a child, but she died without bearing one. If Dilip Kumar had married her, this would have never happened. How can he get a child now?”
She insisted that the thespian had made an emotional fool of her sister, for he never had any intentions of marrying her. “He expected her to give up wearing silks and chiffon and forced her to wear simple cotton salwar-kameezes,” she revealed bitterly. “My sister obeyed him. He asked her to remove her make-up, tie her hair back in a simple knot, never to use nail polish. My sister agreed. But when he told her that he would marry her only if she promised never to meet her father or her family, my sister burst into tears and told him that we were her blood and that she could never leave us. How can a man who so openly claims to be so very close to his own brothers and sisters, expect another human being to leave her family?”
Mrs. Balsara pointed out that Dilip’s only grouse against their father was that when Dilip asked Madhubala to marry him immediately and stop working, their father had only insisted that she should complete all the films she had in hand first. “My father only told Dilip that he would not allow Madhu to ditch her producers. She would not sign any new films, but she had to complete her old commitments. Tell me was he wrong? But Dilip Kumar is a very revengeful man,” Mrs. Balsara went on furiously. “He paid my father back when he made a statement against him in court. Madhu was never able to forgive Dilip for that. She told him that she loved him, but she loved her father too, and she would not allow anyone to insult him in public. Dilip Kumar is a hypocrite,” Mrs. Balsara said bitterly. “He is a man full of double standards. He did not make the same rules for his wife Saira Banu. She was not only allowed to work in films after marriage but, please excuse my language, he even made his biwi dance nanga on screen!”
“My sister loved only one man,” she said emotionally. “Madhu loved Dilip Kumar till the day she breathed her last. The only reason why she married Kishore Kumar was because she wanted to die a suhagan. And the worst thing was that though she knew she was ailing, she wanted to live. After all, she was so young. Dilip Kumar could have made her happy, but he left her when she needed him the most. How can people respect such a man? Woh aadmi nahin, kasaai hai! He is responsible for my sister’s death! I for one, wasn’t surprised when he swore on the Koran and lied to Saira. He is capable of anything. How can people sing praises of such a man?”
How indeed, is the question? And the answer is the much admired image, the glorified legend and the perfect myth that have so cleverly camouflaged the ‘truth’ for nearly thirty years!Tags: Amar Begum Para Blast from the Past Bluff Master Chandra Barot Dilip Kumar Exclusive Ganga Jamuna Ismat Chugtai K. Asif Kamini Kaushal Kishore Kumar Madhubala Manmohan Desai Mehboob Khan Nasir Khan Nimmi Retro Saira Banu Sunil Dutt Suraiya Waheeda Rehman