The First Khan: Kashmiris Remember Dilip Kumar in Shadow and Substance

Kashmiris on the tragedy king of Bollywood Dilip Kumar’s death at 98 in Mumbai

A young Yusuf Khan in Peshawar set out to cross-over to the other side and unwittingly set his golden foot in Bambai, the city of dreams. The winds of magic of the place couldn’t help but direct themselves to welcome the groom of Hindi film industry. Undoubtedly, he had more to offer to it than it could ever offer to him. Dilip Kumar is responsible for singlehandedly metamorphosing the entirety of Bollywood’s trend and traits in theatre. He brought to it his individuality and modernised it with his craft adding substance to shadows.

Perhaps, this explains why the name that glides from each tongue to mark the paragon of Hindi Film Industry, will always be Dilip Kumar. The indelible effects of his work on generations of mind is such that for many, cinema began with the defiant and doting Salim in Mughal-e-aazam (1960).

Inarguably, he brought together two nations split in enmity through the association he lent to both. Infact, his love did not just fade boundaries but also created a confluence of odd lovers. Kashmiris were never behind in expressing their adoration and adulation of the great Dilip Kumar. Infact, this adoration seems reciprocated. In his autobiography, “Dilip Kumar: The Substance and the Shadow”,  recalls a regret he nursed in his heart, about his inability to materialise a project he had in mind for his love, Saira Bano. This project, “Kashmir Valley” , in DK’s words, was to have a “spectacular canvas” for Saira to co-star with him before their marriage.

A memorable photo of Dilip Kumar and Saira Bano during a Kashmir trip in 1975. KO Photo by Special Arrangement.

So, Kashmir occupied the landscape of this icon’s heart and he frequented it very often especially before the 90s. The thespian comes up in conversations of many octogenarians who had the privilege of hosting him at their shops and boutiques on the Residency Road in Srinagar’s Lalchowk. Infact, Saira Bano, his wife, recounts how she would often see him reading away his nights under a lamp in a cottage in Kashmir’s Dachigam.

Therefore, understandably, his death at the age of 98, shook Kashmiris with grief as much as the rest. While many spent their morning hearing personal histories of people who had encountered him in real life, others took to the internet to partake in mourning his death and celebrating his life.

Author and historian Khalid Bashir Ahmad, commemorated the news, by sharing an excerpt from his book, “Kashmir:Looking Back in Time ” recalling the raging popularity of Dilip sahab in Kashmir: “Dilip Kumar’s films would run packed houses in Kashmir. As elsewhere, he had a huge fan following in the Valley. Even the re-runs of his movies would go houseful. Films like Devdas, Mughal-e-Azam, Naya Daur, Deedar, Aan, Leader, Dil Diya Dard Liya and Aadmi would keep on returning year after year to a huge response. In 1970, when Gopi was released at the Palladium for an All India premier, Lal Chowk wore a festive look with buntings and colour posters of the film fluttering everywhere, and a huge gathering of Kumar fans jostling each other to reach the ticket window. Dilip Kumar and his wife, Saira Banu, who was his co-star in the movie, also came to the Palladium to watch the film. They had a tough time to wade through the river of fans including men with long grey beards, dying to have a glimpse of their favourite actor or shake hands with him. “A beaming Kumar shook hands and exchanged pleasantries with some of them”, recalls Javed Azar, a former resident of Amira Kadal”

With the song, “Shamay Gham ki Kasam, Aaj Ghamghee Hai Hum, Aa bhi Ja Meray Sanam”, teasing him into grief, Journalist Peerzada Ashiq also took to social media to express his grief, “The thespian who stirred our emotional beings with his talkative pauses and silences is no more. Muhammad Yusuf Khan aka Dilip Kumar is a milestone of my childhood: As kid his ‘Gopi’ made me laugh, his act in ‘Footpath’ and ‘Dastaan’ made me grim for days together, in ‘Karma’ he left me agitated and ‘Aan’ changed the rules of romance”, he said in a Facebook post.

In the news of his demise that made silence envelop one-and-all in grief, many also reminiscenced Dilip Kumar’s melodic hold on languages. Commenting on Dilip Sahab’s poetic proficiency in urdu, Author Journalist Gowhar Geelani tweeted, “Yusuf Khan aka Dilip Kumar was an amazing actor. The manner in which he spoke Urdu. His pronunciation. His pauses. His dialogue delivery. Oh yes, his looks too (Yusuf)!

Mazdoor. Devdas. Naya Daur. Aan. Mughal-e-Azam. Kranti. Saudaagar. You name it. Rest in peace, Yusuf sahab!”

Engineer Malik Manzoor ul Haq gave everyone a sweet look into the past by sharing a vintage vignette captioned, “Innalilahi wa Innalilahi Rajaoan.Every soul has to taste death, Bollywood legend,Tragedy King from Peshawar to Bombay passed away. An old memory, Govt Medical College Srinagar, Kashmir 1964 Batch. My Uncle Dr.G.H.Malik hand folded on right side of Dilip Kumar”

Photo Credits: Engineer Malik Manzoor ul Haq @MMUHAQ/Twitter

Similar photos also made rounds on the internet which showed DK’s Kashmir connection.

A rare picture from the National Conference archives showed Sher-i-Kashmir with Dilip Kumar. Shared by a twitter user, it is from Nyla Ali Khan’s collection:

Photo Credits: Nyla Ali Khan

Speaking of NC archives, former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, in an interview with media fondly remembered his close association with Dilip Kumar and reiterated the love and willingness he showed towards Kashmir.

Former CM and senior congress leader also took to twitter and said, “ Me and my wife are deeply saddened by the demise of Dilip Kumarji.  The legendary actor was a very close family friend and well-wisher. I know that words are of little solace at such times. However, our heartfelt condolences to Saira Banuji. May Almighty give strength and courage to Sairaji to bear this irreparable loss.

We also pray for the eternal peace of the departed soul of Yousuf Sahib”

Photo Credits: Ghulam Nabi Azad @Ghulamnazad/Twitter

Recalling PDP’s Mufti Muhammad Syed’s tete e tete with Dilip Kumar in 2015, Shakir Parray, a twitter user tweeted, “When Mufti Mohammad Sayed (then CM) met Dilip Kumar in Mumbai and urged him to shoot all the upcoming films in Kashmir, renowned cartoonist BAB wrote in his famous cartoon the next day, “Wesye Gulan Aamaye Bahaar, Az Saale Antan Dilip Kumar”

Mufti Mohammad Syed with actress Saira Bano and Dilip Kumar

Perhaps, the most fitting tribute to DK from Kashmir albeit a succinct one was from RJ Nasir, who was able to capture the significance of the passing away of this icon. He tweeted, “Bollywood passes away. Rest in Peace Yousuf Sahab”

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Tooba Towfiq

Tooba Towfiq is the Opinion Editor at Kashmir Observer. She tweets at tooba_tweets

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