Filmfare Article on Dilip Kumar from 2011

  1. Author
    sputnik 11 years ago

    Dilip Kumar’s Filmfare Interview from April 2013 – “I’m not aware if Big B & SRK have copied me”

    Q. What was your earliest movie goingexperience like?
    A At Bombay Talkies (movie studio founded in 1934), it was compulsory for us to view movies either in the studio’s preview theatre or at a cinema house as part of our study of the medium. I had seen only a couple of war documentaries until I joined the studio. The first feature film I viewed was For Whom The Bell Tolls (1943). I watched three shows back to back at Metro theatre — 12 pm, 3pm and 6 pm. Since it received several Oscar nominations, we were told to submit our critical observations to Mrs Devika Rani (actor/founder of Bombay Talkies). I was impressed by Ingrid Bergman’s work and I submitted a critique, which so impressed the lady boss that she couldn’t believe that it was my first movie experience.

    Q. Were you fascinated by movies as a child?
    A Cinema was not a pastime my family indulged in. The elders spent leisure at home, reading and reciting poetry, laughing and chatting over high tea or just enjoying being together. I was and still am an outdoor person. As a child, I liked wandering out in the open spaces. I had a natural tendency to seek answers to questions that filled my mind about brooks that flowed ceaselessly, clouds that seemed to move in the sky, flowers that spread different fragrances, etc. I hated the thought of being captive within the four walls of any place.

    Q. Is it true that Devika Rani spotted you in a military canteen in Pune? Did you have to go through an audition?
    A I was introduced to Mrs Devika Rani at the Bombay Talkies Studio by a family friend who was helping me find a job. She had not seen me anywhere before that. She offered me the job of an actor on a salary of ` 1,250 per month. I thought the amount offered was for a year, it being a sumptuous amount. So I requested the friend, Dr Masani, who took me to her, to find out whether I had heard it right. She told Dr Masani it was the monthly remuneration because she saw potential in me and did not want to lose me. It was a surprise and it spurred me to take the offer seriously without hesitation.

    Q. Who was your inspiration then?
    A I spent the initial months at Bombay Talkies observing Ashok bhaiyya (Ashok Kumar) who was shooting for Kismet (1943). He was a superstar and he welcomed me with spontaneous affection when Mrs Devika Rani introduced me to him. I used to sit quietly on the set watching him perform ever so effortlessly and naturally. He told me something that became a guideline for me. He said, “Acting is all about not acting. I know it’s a confounding statement and will perplex and haunt you. But you will understand when you face the camera yourself.”

    Q. You brought underplaying to the fore at a time when cinema was thriving on theatrics…
    A I was always a painstaking individual. When I had to prove something I worked with relentless determination, whether it was scoring in a football match in school and college or securing high marks in literature, history, geography and Persian to make up for the low percentage I got in mathematics. I made sure I was ahead of my class fellows. As an actor who had to teach himself, it was imperative for me to create my own space in the competitive profession. I realised early in my career that my screen presence should essentially have something of my own personality. My personality was not flamboyant or given to exhibitionism of any kind. For example, it’s not that I consciously developed a style of delivering dialogue in a soft voice. That’s the way I speak in real life too. My father never shouted or ranted even when he was upset. My mother was gentle and docile. Even at work, I befriended people who were simple and refined. Sashadhar Mukherji, Anil Biswas, Narendra Sharma, Amiya Chakravarthy, Gyan Mukherji and, of course, Ashok bhaiyya were my friends at Bombay Talkies. Nitin Bose (director) became a friend after Milan (1946) and he changed the way I interpreted and studied my scripts and roles. Real-life influences impacted my acting style to a great extent in the early stages. Because that’s where I found my inspiration, especially since I had to be my own instructor.

    Q. Reportedly, Devdas (1955) was an emotionally exhausting experience and you had to do Kohinoor (1960) to rejuvenate yourself.
    A I was doing tragedy at a young age. Renowned tragedians like Sir John Gielgud and Sir Laurence Olivier played tragic roles at a later age. They were in their ’30s when they achieved glory for their tragic roles. I was in my ’20s. It had a telling impact on my personality. Not just Devdas but roles in other films as well. I tried my best to shed the morbid outlook that was seizing me. I was advised to take the help of a drama coach in England who was also a counsellor. He advised me to try comedy, which would give me relief and also bring the much needed variety to my acting. So I took up Azaad (1955) and its success endorsed my ability to handle comedy, which requires a broader base to get the laughs from the audience at the right moments. By the time I ventured to accept Kohinoor, I believe I had become adept at comedy.

    Q. Mughal-e-Azam is an epic. What was it about K Asif that made it possible?
    A Asif was dreaming of making the love story of Prince Salim and Anarkali in the late ’40s when I was making a mark with films like Shaheed, Shabnam and Nadiya Ke Paar. He talked to me about it but it did not work out. He told me he would make the film only when he had uninterrupted flow of finances and the resources to make it on a grand scale. For two decades, he held the dream close to his heart and finally came to me with the proposal. I appreciated his zeal and commitment. He was a determined man who pursued his dreams, nourished and secured them through bad days and brought them to light when the time was right to prove to the world that dreams do come true.

    Q. How intense was your rivalry with Raj Kapoor? Or was it just media hype?
    A I’ve clarified many times that Raj and I were like brothers. Our families bonded when we were school-going boys in Peshawar. In Bombay, we found ourselves studying in the same college, The Khalsa College. We were keen football players and I was always welcome at his house in Matunga like a son of the house. He used to tell me that I should consider acting as a profession. You are so handsome, you can become a star, he’d tell me. I thought it was all right for him to say that because he was the eldest son of the most admired and popular actor of the time, Prithviraj Kapoor. Talent was in his genes. As for me, I didn’t know anything about acting and I was a painfully shy chap. As destiny would have it, some years later, it gave us both much happiness to be in the same profession. It did not bother us at all that the media was writing about our so-called rivalry because we knew what we felt for each other and how deeply we cared for each other’s well-being and success.

    Q. The only time you played a character with a negative shade was in Amar (1954) where the hero rapes the village girl…
    A I accepted scripts that had merits for me as an actor. If the character was on the wrong side of the law as in Gunga Jumna (1961), it was important for me to acquaint the viewer with the reasons for the character taking to a lawless life and make him pay the penalty for it. Gunga therefore has no reprieve from the law when he tries to explain that he was the victim of a trap set by the zamindar. When I wrote the story/screenplay, my brother Nasir, for whose comeback the picture was made, told me I was making a mistake. He believed people would not like to see me as a bandit and a law-breaker. But I went ahead. It opened to a splendid response and admiring notices. When we were at Pinewood Studios in the UK for the Technicolor processing, the technicians in the lab were impressed and suggested that we enter the film for the Oscars because it reflected the tyranny of the zamindars in independent India and the intrinsic honesty of the farmers despite the poverty and oppression. When Gunga Jumna was screened at Karlovy Vary, Czechoslovakia, Boston and Cairo, I was besieged by film critics who were intrigued by my acting and were curious to know how much research had gone into it. Gunga Jumna’s achievement is the inspiration it provided to writers to give the hero a flaw or what you call a negative shade. The character in Amar did commit an offence and therefore his character was not the conventional blemish-free hero. The character in Footpath (1953) was a black marketer and so he was also a tarnished hero. But those films were not successful. In Gunga Jamuna, the hero was on the wrong side of the law but he had audience sympathy. In the finale, it had to be a win for law but Gunga has a bigger victory, the moral victory of establishing his mother’s innocence and restoring her reputation in the village. It took months of reflection and self-questioning to arrive at the climax but it was worth the pains because I still hear praises from discerning film enthusiasts regarding Gunga’s death scene.

    Q. Do you consider Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan to be the extensions of the Dilip Kumar phenomenon? They have consciously or unconsciously copied you.
    A I believe Amitabh is an accomplished and complete actor. Shah Rukh is extremely popular I understand. I’m not aware whether they have copied me. Generally speaking, it becomes easy for a serious actor to take a reference from a work he has liked and build on it. It should not be termed as copying or imitating. That’s what mimics do for a living.

    Q. Pyaasa (1957)… it would have been so wonderful if you had done the film under Guru Dutt’s direction.
    A I did not accept Pyaasa because I was already doing Devdas. When Guru Dutt spoke to me about Pyaasa, it had the melancholy mood that Devdas had. The characters had similarities and I thought it was bad business sense to do two films of the same mood. It’s common sense that one film would overshadow the other. That’s not good business.

    Q. Gunga Jumna was remodelled as Deewaar, Naya Daur as Lagaan, Madhumati as Om Shanti Om. Your thoughts…
    A Salim and Javed told me they were inspired by Ganga Jumna when they wrote the script of Deewaar (1975). The positioning of the brothers on either side of the law bore a similarity. I was happy for Yash (Chopra) when Deewaar became a success. It happens everywhere in the world whenever a film attains immortality.

    Q. With which actress/actresses did you form a great pair?
    A Vyjayanthimala and I played the lead in seven super hit films. So we must have made a good pair. Meena Kumari and I did pretty good work together in Azaad and Kohinoor. Madhubala and I combined very well in Taraana (1950) and Mughal-e-Azam (1960).

    Q. What has been Sairaji’s (Banu) contribution as an onscreen partner? What makes her the most beautiful part of your journey?
    A Saira surprised me with her capacity for sustained hard work and patience when we teamed up in Sagina (1974). Off screen, I was aware of the pains she took to achieve perfection in everything she did. But it surprised me to find her working on her character in Sagina almost the way I worked on my roles. When I mentioned it to her she laughed and remarked that she learned it all while working with me in Gopi (1970). “Haven’t all the actresses you worked with quietly taken lessons from you?” she asked. Yes, as my wife, if there’s one precious person God has given me after my mother left me desolate and alone in this world, it’s Saira. Sometimes she’s the mother I miss, sometimes she’s the friend I like to share jokes with, sometimes she’s the wife who is fiercely possessive about my love, sometimes she’s the fan who never tires of admiring the hard work I’ve put into my job. Who can be luckier than me?

    Q. Even when you played character roles you still remained the hero. What was the challenge then?
    A The challenge was more for the directors and writers. I had made up my mind in the early years of my career itself that I would not accept a film for the remuneration offered. The script and the director had to meet my expectations. When I became recognised after Jugnu (1947), producers came to me with all sorts of scripts saying it is your chance to make a fortune. Some of them said they had roles of a lifetime for me. It’s a common ruse in the business to take an actor for a ride. I remained selective in my choice of scripts and directors. I chose to work with Ramesh Sippy in Shakti (1982), Yash Chopra in Mashaal (1984) and Subhash Ghai in Saudagar (1991). I could sense their admiration and respect when they came to me with their offers. I liked the scripts and their approach. I could see the triumph on their faces when I agreed. It was wonderful especially to work with Yash who was known to me for years. He was my breakfast buddy during the shooting of Naya Daur (1955) in Bhopal when we got together and made omlettes of any number of eggs we could lay our hands on and had everyone come sniffing to the kitchen.

    Q. What memories do you have of Amitabh Bachchan when you worked with him in Shakti?
    A Amitabh was and still is a disciplined actor and a well-mannered gentleman. We shared very good vibes and contrary to gossip in the media both of us knew the profile of our characters and our scenes together before the film mounted the set. I often mentioned to Ramesh (Sippy, director) how impressed I was by the way Amitabh held the scenes where he had minimum or no dialogue and the camera was focussed on him. I remember telling Ramesh here is an actor who has understood the secret of acting for the camera. Most actors act without knowing what the camera is doing or not doing or where its eye is trained.

    Q. What is most endearing about Shah Rukh Khan? Saira once remarked that if she had a son, he’d have looked like him.
    A Shah Rukh is a charmer and a well-brought up young man. He has always been loving and respectful as well-bred Pathans are with elders. I know Saira likes him a lot. As a matter of fact, I’ve found Shah Rukh, Aamir (Khan) and Salman (Khan) coming forward spontaneously to hold my hand and escort me affectionately at crowded film events as sons would when a father needs to be protected from elbowing crowds. The gesture speaks volumes for the way they have been brought up and for the love they genuinely feel for me.


  2. Tulmul Memender 11 years ago

    HBD DK !!!

  3. Baba 11 years ago

    the interviewer is on a mission to prove amitabh and srk carried his legacy bypassing all other stars 😉 interesingly dilip calls amitabh a complete actor and srk as just “extremely popular”

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