Hindi cinema’s Tragedy King was deemed “the ultimate method actor” for his natural style of acting, by no less than Satyajit Ray. Considered one of the greatest and most influential actors of all time, his career has spanned over six decades and over 65 films. Here’s reliving some of the milestones of this living legend on the occasion of his 95th birthday…
1922 – He was born Mohammad Yusuf Khan in a Hindko-speaking Awan family of 12 children on 11 December in the Qissa Khawani Bazaar area of Peshawar, British India. His father, Aghaji, was a landlord and fruit merchant who owned orchards in Peshawar and Deolali; the lad was in fact schooled at Barnes School, Deolali, Nashik.
1930 – The family relocated to Chembur.
1940 - He had a disagreement with his father, following which he left home for Poona. Helped by a Persian cafe owner and an elderly Anglo-Indian couple, he managed to set up a sandwich stall at the army club and saved Rs.5000.
1944 – He was cast in Jwar Bhata. Back in Bombay, and keen to help his family financially, he had been introduced to Bombay Talkies by Dr Masani. Signed up by Devika Rani, actress and owner of Bombay Talkies, on a salary of Rs.1250 per month, he helped with story-writing and scripting owing to his flair with languages, till he made his acting debut. Incidentally, it was Devika Rani who requested him to change his name – and Dilip Kumar was born.
1947 – It was Jugnu in which he starred alongside Noor Jehan, that became his first major hit at the box office in the year of India’s Independence. Other hits followed - Shaheed and Mela, followed by his breakthrough role in 1949 with Mehboob Khan's Andaz, in which he starred alongside Raj Kapoor and Nargis.
1950 – The actor achieved success in the 1950s playing leading roles in romantic films such as Jogan, Babul, Tarana, Hulchul, Deedar, Daag, Uran Khatola, Devdas, Yahudi and Madhumati. It was during this time that he formed popular on-screen pairings with top actresses including Madhubala, Vyjayanthimala, Nargis, Nimmi, Meena Kumari and Kamini Kaushal. This decade also established his screen image as the Tragedy King. In fact, he even briefly suffered from depression due to acting in these tragic films, and attempted to play light-hearted roles in Aan and Azaad on his psychiatrist’s suggestion. Social dramas such as Footpath, Naya Daur, Musafir and Paigham, followed. He was also the first actor to win the Filmfare Best Actor Award (for Daag), winning the trophy seven times more in his career. He also became the first actor to charge ₹1 lakh in the Fifties.
1960 – He portrayed Prince Salim in K. Asif's big-budget epic historical film Mughal-e-Azam, the highest-grossing film in Indian film history for 15 years until it was surpassed by 1975's Sholay. In 2004, this film which told the story of Prince Salim, who revolts against his father Akbar (played by Prithviraj Kapoor), and falls in love with a courtesan (played by Madhubala), was fully colourised and re-released.
1966 – He married actress Saira Banu, 22 years his junior. He married a second time in 1981 to Hyderabad socialite Asma Sahiba, but the marriage ended in January 1983.
1976 – He took a five-year break from film performances and returned with a character role in the film Kranti and continued his career playing leading roles in films such as Shakti, Karma and Saudagar.
1998 – He made his last onscreen appearance with the film Qila.
2000 – He was nominated as a member of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Parliament of India, by the Indian National Congress for the period 2000–2006.