It’s not often that a man becomes a legend in his own lifetime. To the exceptions belongs an outwardly brooding young man with somber eyes who has, perhaps through no fault of his own, almost become a legendary hero with the people of his century.

Is Dilip Kumar legend or fact? Is he all that he seems to be on the screen? Or even, what he seems to be off-screen, but within the range of his fans admiring eyes? Dilip himself has often committed himself to thoughts & words which have albeit unwittingly, perpetuated the legend.

The files of Filmfare- a veritable treasure trove of the starts thoughts & quotes bear vivid testimony to this fact. As far back as 1954, in an interview with Filmfare Dilip has said: ‘they call me the great lover’ today. I shudder to think what they will call me after another decade in films.’

The decade is not over yet, but the man has already given indications of the judgment posterity will pass upon him. And it will certainly be an assessment which will not evoke shudders! During the same interview Dilip referring to that grand actor, Motilal remarked with striking honesty: “ perhaps with experience & perseverance, I, too, will attain that wisdom & charm which Moti possesses.

In fact, I’m impatient for it, because as swift said: ‘No wise man ever wished to be younger.’On matters of love & marriage, this great lover & confirmed bachelor has much to say which reveals the deep insight with which he probes human problems.

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About love, he said in 1956: “it is a field of thorns through which man’s personality must grow before it can touch rarefied heights…”It is a shattering experience whose impact can only be gauged by what it makes of human beings.”And about marriage, this dream boy of countries maidens had this to say: “….too many superficial considerations hide the vital requirements of mutual understanding & respect…

Goodness is the quality to be sought & found in the person one marries. Little else matters. The romantic has no place in this scheme of things. But courage & sanity have. I wonder whether I shall attain this perfection…” Marriage may not have passed him by yet, but it certainly seems shy of him. Undecided & hesitant about his own personal future, Dilip is known to “blossom forth” at the marriages of his close friends. Recently he did impromptu bhangra at a filmland wedding.

Not the impulse of an introvert, one would think…Yet again & again, Dilip Kumar has been described as an introvert endowed with a tremendous ego & histrionic talent of exceptional order by chronicles of his life & art.

In one of these chronicles, a close friend of the star revealed that Dilip used to refuse to participate in school theatricals saying: “I’ll drop dead from sheer fright.” Referring to Dilip’s single-minded concentration on work, the writer quoted him as saying: “the improvement of films is a corollary to a country’s development.”

Further, he wrote of this great tragedian as…one who vicariously satisfies the tragic human emotions… he makes the nation cry. Dilip himself attempted to analyze himself in his self-portrait which he wrote in august 1956. In this memorable piece of soul searching he said: “One hesitates to give a picture of one’s inner life.

Because it can never be completed & is never finished….I remember long spells of intense loneliness which have left a scar somewhere under the tissue of the years… the darkness of my world was frightening but it was a refuge….In order to be able to do good work, it is essential to learn to be good… one must cut one’s way out to the jungle of adolescence….disillusionment is the first step towards the truth.

The capacity to understand things is the greatest attribute a human being can have…I feel the smallness of man. It’s false to attach bigness to oneself…Deep thoughts, these, & couched in a philosophy which seems to establish what Filmfare once said of him in a candid close-up: “he seems to have reached the stage at which the higher the spiritual heights he scales the less romantically earthbound he becomes.

Yet that there certainly is a lighter side to this amazing legend is borne out by many instances. Nimmi, his leading lady in many a film was asked to describe Dilip for Filmfare’s series on romantic teams. Here is what she said at that time: he always jokes with me.

We are never serious for more than five minutes at a time when we are together. He always makes me laugh…about women, especially his colleagues in films Dilip has quite a bit to say once. According to him: a woman is a born actress.

Playacting is in her very nature. She practices it all along in her real life, she humors the men around her, her father, husband, brother, or her son. She magnanimously absorbs all their faults & foibles & yet puts up a brave front to the world as if she is the happiest & most carefree of god’s creations.

That is why when a woman takes up acting on the stage or screen the potential becomes obvious. However, the real woman in his life his six wonderful sisters who after all should know him best agree to disagree with popular legend.

“Behind his serious exterior lays a cheerful happy-go-lucky attitude to life,” wrote young Akhtar Khan in a tenderly written article entitled “Our brother Dilip”. He is so different from the morbid male you see up there on the screen.

They call him the tragedy king, this good-natured, peace-loving brother of ours.”Describing a family holiday to Aurangabad by car, Dilip’s sister wrote: “All the way he was like a little boy…he got more enjoyment from the trip than we did.”

Another assessment: he is a tall, big man, terrible tease & an awful cheat at games…but when he loses his temper, he is in his own words a mad wave of destruction.

He taught us to forgive & be tolerant…he never goes on a journey without our eldest sister’s blessings….whenever one of us falls ill, he gets terribly upset. He shares joy & pain with us. Each sister has given Filmfare her reason for liking “our brother Dilip”.

The youngest one said: I love the way he tells stories! Another one said: why do I like him? Because he is a wonderful brother. Yet another asserted: I don’t have to have a reason for liking him. His eldest sister said: he is very intelligent, yet so simple at heart.

He is the pillar of our family. Which then is the real Dilip? The tender-hearted, awful tease or the morose introvert who breathes tragedy into films. Does anyone know the real answer or must the legend remain a legend?

Once Filmfare posed this question: is it correct to say that Dilip Kumar is Dilip Kumar in all his pictures the synonym for romance, the tragic lover, the one who portrays great emotional disturbance & not an individual characterization in each?

To which Dilip’s own cryptic reply written in a marginal comment was: the wiser one knows that he is the universe & the universe is he! -Filmfare 1960

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