Dilip Kumar always said, “A memorable film may not always be popular. A popular film is not always memorable.” According to his statement, a number of his memorable films did not hit the bull’s eye. This disturbed the creative artist within the thespian. He lamented if true art is not appreciated, populist gimmicks will overtake creative pursuits. The essence of good cinema always lies in its script, context and execution. On Dilip Kumar birth centenary here is a look into some of his offbeat films which excelled in cinematic merit.
Though Kidar Sharma was Raj Kapoor’s mentor, he opted for Dilip Kumar in Jogan. The Dilip Kumar, Nargis pair was at its histrionic best in Jogan. The rare saga of an atheist falling in love with a jogini (lady devotee) has some brilliant moments. As Dilip Kumar says in his low-pitched voice, “Main Nastik Jo Thehera” to a patiently hearing Nargis, both exchanged classic expressions. Though he was a Muslim, Dilip Kumar looked every inch a Hindu, educated middle-class personality clad in dhoti and kurta. After Nargis death, his tearful look in a silent shot still remains a lesson in acting. Nargis also a Muslim was peerless as the Hindu jogini. The film, though a flop, received praise from the intelligentsia as well Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen.
Zia Sarhadi’s tirade against urban corruption and black marketing, Footpath was a classic. As the idealist-educated lower middle-class youth whose financial crisis compels him to choose the path of crime, Dilip Kumar still has no peers. He was well supported by Meena Kumari’s subtle underplaying. Dilip Kumar’s confessions of his involvement in black marketing at the police station in the climax brought tears to the eyes of countless viewers. Method acting achieved a new dimension by virtue of Dilip Kumar’s polished performance. “Ha Main Gira Hue Insaan Hun” was his model dialogue to establish his character and in one single modulation, Dilip Kumar stole the show. Ibrahim Alkazi, former director of the National School of Drama termed Dilip Kumar’s performance in Footpath, unparalleled.
Bimal Ray experimented with a costume drama in Yahudi, a tale of the Roman Empire which failed to create any impact. A taut screenplay by Nabendu Ghosh had some memorable moments. Compared to Sohrab Modi’s voice-related patterns and otherwise theatrical antics, Dilip Kumar was planned, calculated and method in Yahudi. Meena Kumari moved away gracefully from her tragedienne image. Dilip Kumar riding the chariot, lip-synching, Yeh Mera Diwanapan Hai, was brilliant as a performer. According to Sivaji Ganeshan, it was a cult performance. Dilip Kumar’s eyes were at their altruistic best in Yahudi.
Jagannath Chattopadhyay from Bengal directed this double-version film in Bengali (Pari) and Anokha Milan (Hindi). The Bengali version was a big hit. The hero of Pari was Dharmendha who had his Bengali dialogues dubbed. Dilip Kumar as a jailor, Vijay Upadhyay, in a special appearance spoke his own lines, Bengali with a North Indian accent. His entry scene with a confident walk proved his class as an actor. Speaking to the heroine, Pranati Bhattacharya, “Ami Kemon Kore Tomae Bachabo (How will I save you)” Dilip Kumar’s dialogue delivery was superb. Based on a story by novelist Jarasandho, Pari is the first film shot in Andaman prison, a favorite of Soumitra Chatterjee.
Sagina Mahato (1971)
In this film based on a famous novel of the same name by Gour Kishore Ghosh, Tapan Sinha as director extracted the best performance from Dilip Kumar according to many. As Sagina, a simpleton labourer in the tea gardens of Darjeeling during the last days of the British Raj, Dilip Sahab literally lived his character to the hilt. The use of his hands was in perfect harmony with his dialogue delivery. Dilip Kumar did confess that as the anti-hero, Anil Chatterjee stole the show from him in Sagina Mahato.