Dilip Kumar

Dilip Kumar

Kumar at an event in 2010
Born Muhammad Yusuf Khan
(1922-12-11) 11 December 1922
Peshawar, NWFP, British India
Residence Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Nationality Indian
Occupation Actor, producer
Years active 1944–1998
Spouse(s) Saira Banu (m. 1966)
Asma Khan (1979–1982)
Relatives Nasir Khan (Brother)
Ayub Khan (Nephew)
Dilip Kumar's signature

Dilip Kumar (born Muhammad Yusuf Khan on 11 December 1922) is an Indian film actor also known as Tragedy King,[1] and described as "the ultimate method actor" by Satyajit Ray.[2] He debuted as an actor in the film Jwar Bhata in 1944 produced by Bombay Talkies. His career has spanned over six decades and with over 60 films. He starred in films of a variety of genres such as the romantic Andaz (1949), the swashbuckling Aan (1952), the dramatic Devdas (1955), the comical Azaad (1955), the historical Mughal-e-Azam (1960) and the social Ganga Jamuna (1961).

In 1976, Dilip Kumar took a five-year break from film performances and returned with a character role in the film Kranti (1981) and continued his career playing leading roles in films such as Shakti (1982), Karma (1986) and Saudagar (1991). His last film was Qila (1998).[3][4]

He is the winner of 9 Filmfare Awards and is the first recipient of Filmfare Best Actor Award (1954). He still holds the record for the most number of Filmfare awards won for that category with 8 wins. Critics acclaimed him among one of the greatest actors in the history of Hindi cinema.[5][6][7]

The Government of India honoured him with the Padma Bhushan in 1991, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1994 and India's second highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan in 2015 for his contributions towards Indian cinema and nominated him to Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Indian Parliament for a term. The Government of Pakistan honoured him with its highest civilian honour, the Nishan-e-Imtiaz, in 1997.

Early life

Kumar was born Mohammad Yusuf Khan in a Hindko Pashto-speaking Awan[8][9] family of 12 children on 11 December 1922 at his house in the Qissa Khawani Bazaar area of Peshawar, in what is now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. His father, Lala Ghulam Sarwar, was a landlord and fruit merchant who owned orchards in Peshawar and Deolali (in Maharashtra, India). Dilip Kumar was schooled at Barnes School, Deolali.[10] In the late 1930s, his family relocated to Bombay.

Around 1940, while still in his teens and after an altercation with his father, Dilip Kumar left home for Pune. With the help of an Iranian cafe owner, and an elderly Anglo-Indian couple, Kumar met a canteen contractor. Without letting on his family antecedents, he got the job on the merit of his knowledge of good written and spoken English. He managed to set up a sandwich stall at the army club and when the contract ended he headed home to Bombay having saved Rs. 5000.[11] In 1942, anxious to start some venture to help out his father with household finances, he met Dr. Masani at Churchgate Station, who asked him to accompany him to Bombay Talkies, in Malad. Here he met actress Devika Rani, owner of Bombay Talkies, who asked him to sign up with the company on a pay of Rs. 1250 per year.[12] Here he met actor Ashok Kumar who was to influence his acting style telling him to act "natural". He also met Sashadhar Mukherjee, and both these people became very close to Kumar over the years. Initially, Kumar helped out in the story-writing and scripting department because of his proficiency in Urdu language. Devika Rani requested to change his name from Yousuf to Dilip Kumar, and later cast him in a lead role for the film Jwar Bhata (1944), which marked Dilip Kumar's entry into the Hindi film industry.[12]



Nargis, Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar in a scene from the film Andaz.

Dilip Kumar's first film, Jwar Bhata (1944) went unnoticed, it was Jugnu (1947) in which he starred alongside Noor Jehan that became his first major hit at the box office. His next major hit was the 1948 film Shaheed. He got his breakthrough role with Mehboob Khan's Andaz (1949) in which he starred alongside Raj Kapoor and Nargis in a love triangle story. Shabnam also released that year was also a hit.


He went on to have success in the 1950s with playing leading roles in romantic films like Jogan (1950), Tarana (1951) Hulchul (1951) Deedar (1951), Aan (1952) Daag (1952), Uran Khatola, Devdas (1955), Yahudi (1958) and Madhumati (1958). These films established his screen image as the "Tragedy King". He also played an anti-hero in Mehboob Khan's Amar (1954). In the films he was cast opposite Noor Jehan and Kamini Kaushal, it was the female lead whose name would appear first in credits and female actress were paid more than him. He also starred in many social drama films like Footpath (1953), Naya Daur (1957), Musafir (1957) and Paigham (1959). He was the first actor to win the Filmfare Best Actor Award for Daag and went on to win it a further seven times in his career.[13] He formed popular on-screen pairings with many of the top actresses at the time including Madhubala, Vyjayanthimala, Nargis, Nimmi, Meena Kumari and Kamini Kaushal. In an attempt to shed his "tragedy king" image, Dilip Kumar took up his psychiatrist's suggestion that he take on lighthearted roles. In Mehboob Khan's blockbuster musical Aan (1952) he played a swashbuckling peasant in what marked his first film in technicolor. He co-starred with Dev Anand in the 1955 adventure film Insaniyat. He had further success with lighter roles as a thief in Azaad (1955) and as royal prince in Kohinoor (1960)[13] In 1960 he portrayed Prince Salim in K. Asif's big-budget epic historical film Mughal-e-Azam which as of 2008 was the second highest-grossing film in Hindi film history.[14] The film 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). The film was mostly shot in black and white, only some scenes in the latter half of the film in colour. 44 years after its original release, it was fully colourised and re-released in 2004.


Kohinoor and Mughal E Azam, were both blockbusters in 1960. In 1961, he produced and starred in Ganga Jamuna opposite his frequent leading lady Vyjayanthimala and his brother Nasir Khan, this was the only film he produced. In 1962 British director David Lean offered him the role of "Sherif Ali" in his film Lawrence of Arabia (1962), but Dilip Kumar declined to perform in the movie.[15] The role eventually went to Omar Sharif, the Egyptian actor. Dilip Kumar comments in his much later released autobiography, "he thought Omar Sharif had played the role far better than he himself could have".[16] His next film Leader (1964) was a below average grosser at the box office.[17] He was the co-director alongside Abdul Rashid Kardar of his next release Dil Diya Dard Liya in 1966 but was uncredited as director. The critics were of opinion that the film was slow paced and whole film was a let down and only positive point of the film was Pran's performance. In 1967 Kumar played a dual role of twins separated at birth in the hit film Ram Aur Shyam. In 1968 he starred alongside Manoj Kumar and Waheeda Rehman in Aadmi. That same year he starred in Sangharsh with Sanjeev Kumar. After its releas, critics praised Sanjeev Kumar's performance and said Sanjeev outdid Dilip performance wise. In the period, 1960 to 1970, Dilip and Raj Kapoor did not enjoy as much success in films and their popularity reduced. Actors Ashok Kumar, Devanand, Pran, Rajendra Kumar continued to enjoy more success even in 1960's to 1980s in comparison to Dilip and Raj Kapoor.


His career slumped in the 1970s with films like Dastaan (1972) and Bairaag (1976), the latter in which he played triple roles failing at the box office. He starred alongside his real-life wife Saira Banu in Gopi (1970) which was success, Bengali film Sagina Mahato (1970) and Bairaag (1976) but both failed to do well at the box office.[18][19] Though his performance in Bairaag and Gopi were critically acclaimed, he lost many film offers to act in lead roles to actors Rajesh Khanna and Sanjeev Kumar from 1968-1987.He took a five-year hiatus from films from 1976 to 1981.[20]


In 1981, he returned to films with the multi-starrer Kranti which was the biggest hit of the year. Appearing alongside an ensemble cast including Manoj Kumar, Shashi Kapoor, Hema Malini and Shatrughan Sinha, he played the title role as a revolutionary fighting for India's independence from British rule.[21] He then formed a successful collaboration with Subhash Ghai starting with Vidhaata (1982) in which he starred alongside Sanjay Dutt, Sanjeev Kumar and Shammi Kapoor. Later that year he starred alongside Amitabh Bachchan in Ramesh Sippy's Shakti for which he won yet another Filmfare Award for Best Actor. In 1984 he starred in Yash Chopra's Mashaal opposite Anil Kapoor and Ramesh Talwar's Duniya opposite Rishi Kapoor.

His second collaboration with Subhash Ghai came with the 1986 action film Karma. In this film, Kumar played a jailor who hires three men (played by Naseeruddin Shah, Jackie Shroff and Anil Kapoor) to help him avenge his family's death by escaped terrorist Doctor Dang (played by Anupam Kher). Karma was one of the highest grossers of the 1980s and was also the first film which paired him opposite veteran actress Nutan.[21][22]


In 1991, he starred alongside fellow veteran actor Raaj Kumar in Saudagar, his third and last film with director Subhash Ghai. This was his second film with Raaj Kumar after 1959's Paigham. Saudagar was Kumar's last box office success and would be his penultimate film.[23] In 1993, he won the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1992, producer Sudhakar Bokade announced a film titled Kalinga which would be directed by and star Kumar in the leading role. After being delayed for several years, Kalinga was eventually left incomplete and shelved.[24]

In 1998, he made his last film appearance in Qila, where he played dual roles as an evil landowner who is murdered and as his twin brother who tries to solve the mystery of his death. India Today in their review dismissed Kumar's dialogue delivery out of sync.[25]


In 2001 he was set to appear in a film titled Asar — The Impact alongside Ajay Devgan which was shelved.[26] His classic films Mughal-e-Azam and Naya Daur were fully colorised and re-released in cinemas in 2004 and 2008 respectively.[27]

Public life

Kumar with Saira Banu in recent years

Kumar 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.[28]

Kumar launched his Twitter account and his first tweet was on his 89th birthday in 2011.[29]

Personal life

Dilip Kumar first fell in love with married actress Kamini Kaushal.[30] He then was in love with the actress Madhubala but they parted ways as her family was opposed to their union.[31][32] Vyjayanthimala was considered by film fans as Kumar's third love; they have denied rumours of an affair. Both of them have had many successful films as a pair in the period 1955 to 1968. He married actress Saira Banu, who was 22 years younger than him, in 1966. He married a second time in 1980 to Asma but the marriage ended soon after.[33] Dilip Kumar undertook a pilgrimage to Mecca in 2013 along with his Saira.[34]


Around 10 September 2011 it surfaced that Kumar's health was worsening. Some tweets mistakenly spread news of his death.[35] Later, Saira Banu made a public statement that Kumar is in good health and in high spirits. On 15 September 2013, at age of 90, Kumar suffered a silent heart attack and was subsequently admitted to Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai. He had undergone heart surgery 14 years before.[36] In December 2014 and April 2016 he was again hospitalised for pneumonia.[37][38]

Awards and popularity

Dilip Kumar is widely considered as one of the greatest actors in the history of Hindi cinema.[5][6][7] He holds the Guinness World Record for winning the maximum number of awards by an Indian actor.[39][40] He has received many awards throughout his career, including 8 Filmfare Best Actor awards and 19 Filmfare nominations.[41] He was honoured with the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993.[42]

Kumar was appointed Sheriff of Mumbai (an honorary position) in 1980,[42] the Government of India honoured Kumar with the Padma Bhushan in 1991, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1994 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2015. The Government of Andhra Pradesh honoured Kumar with NTR National Award in 1997. The Government of Pakistan conferred Kumar with Nishan-e-Imtiaz, the highest civilian award in Pakistan, in 1997. The ruling political party of Shiv Sena in Maharashtra had objected on this award and questioned Kumar's patriotism. However, in 1999 in consultation with the then Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Kumar retained the award.[43] He was honoured with CNN-IBN Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.[44]



  1. "Tragedy king Dilip Kumar turns 88". The Indian Express. 11 December 2010. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  2. "Unmatched innings". The Hindu. 24 January 2012. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  3. Suresh Kohli (8 January 2004). "Celebrating The Tragedy King". The Hindu. Delhi, India. Retrieved 2012-01-30.
  4. Coomi Kapoor (8 October 2007). "Personalised fiction, anyone?". The Star (Malaysia). Malaysia. Retrieved 2012-01-30.
  5. 1 2 Sharma, Vishwamitra (2007). Famous Indians of the 21st Century. Pustak Mahal. p. 196. ISBN 81-223-0829-5.
  6. 1 2 Dawar, Ramesh (2006). Bollywood: yesterday, today, tomorrow. Star Publications. p. 8. ISBN 1-905863-01-2.
  7. 1 2 A documentary on the life of Dilip Kumar. Bollywood Hungama. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  8. "Peshawar's contribution to subcontinent's cinema highlighted". The News International. Archived from the original on 26 December 2013. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
  9. "'The King of Tragedy': Dilip Kumar's 92nd birthday celebrated in the city". The Express Tribune. 11 December 2014. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
  10. Renuka Vyavahare, TNN 28 December 2011, 08.13PM IST (2011-12-28). "Here's why Dilip Kumar speaks Marathi fluently!". Articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  11. Kumar, Dilip (2014). The Substance and the Shadow an autobiography (1 ed.). India: Hay House India. p. 102. ISBN 9789381398869. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  12. 1 2 Kumar, ch. 9
  13. 1 2 "rediff.com, Movies: Tragedy King Dilip Kumar". Rediff.com. Retrieved 2012-08-06.
  14. All Time Grossers. Box Office India. Retrieved 31 July 2011.
  15. "Dilip Kumar's Hollywood dis-connection". The Times Of India. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  16. "Dilip of Arabia?". The Times of India. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  17. Box Office 1964. Box Office India. Retrieved 31 July 2011.
  18. Box Office 1972. Box Office India. Retrieved 31 July 2011.
  19. Box Office 1976. Box Office India. Retrieved 31 July 2011.
  20. Meghnad Desai, Baron Desai (2004), Nehru's hero Dilip Kumar in the life of India, Lotus Collection, Roli Books, ISBN 978-81-7436-311-4.
  21. 1 2 Top Earners 1980-1989 (Figures in Ind Rs). Box Office India. Retrieved 31 July 2011.
  22. http://www.rediff.com/movies/2002/feb/05din.htm
  23. Top Lifetime Grossers 1990-1994 (Figures in Ind Rs). Box Office India. Retrieved 31 July 2011.
  24. Asif Noorani (11 December 2012). "Dilip Kumar: 90 fruitful years | Entertainment". Dawn.Com. Retrieved 2013-05-09.
  25. "Movie reviews 'Hercules', 'Qila'". indiatoday.intoday.in. 27 April 1998. Retrieved 16 April 2016.
  26. http://www.mid-day.com/entertainment/2001/aug/14759.htm
  27. http://www.tribuneindia.com/2004/20041003/spectrum/main1.htm
  28. "Alphabetical List Of Former Members Of Rajya Sabha Since 1952". Rajya Sabha Secretariat. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
  29. "Dilip Kumar joins Twitter on 89th birthday". Hindustan Times. 13 December 2011. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  30. "'Excerpt from Dilip Kumar's Biography'". Tribune. Dec 2008. Archived from the original on 21 December 2003. Retrieved 3 January 2014.
  31. "'She loved Dilip Kumar till the day she died'". Rediff.com. March 2008. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  32. Kumar, Anuj (6 January 2010). "Capturing Madhubala's pain". The Hindu. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  33. Bhatia, Ritu (2 September 2012). "Don't mind the (age) gap". India Today. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  34. "Spiritually thrilled after Umrah, Dilip Kumar extends Makkah stay". arabnews.com. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  35. "Twitter". twitter.com. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  36. "Actor Dilip Kumar's Condition Stable after Silent Heart Attack". Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  37. "Dilip Kumar is recovering; out of ICU". Rediff.com. 9 December 2014. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  38. "Dilip Kumar hospitalised". The Hindu. Mumbai. 16 April 2016. Retrieved 16 April 2016.
  39. "Dilip Kumar is my idol and inspiration: Amitabh Bachchan — The Times of India". Timesofindia.indiatimes.com. 11 December 2011. Retrieved 2012-08-06.
  40. Kumar-Guinness-World-Records-TV-show.htm Dilip Kumar on TV show?
  41. "Things that u don't know about Filmfare Awards...(Part IV)". Sify Movies. 27 February 2007. Retrieved 14 December 2010.
  42. 1 2 "Lifetime Achievement (Popular)". Filmfare Awards. Retrieved 14 December 2010.
  43. "Dilip Kumar decides to retain Nishan-e-Imtiaz". Rediff.com. 11 July 1999. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  44. "IOTY 2008: ISRO boss, team Chandrayaan". CNN IBN. 3 February 2009. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
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