“How are you?” Kemon Achish? Dilip Kumar greeted me during a telephonic conversation a decade ago as I greeted him on his birthday, 11th December, 2013. “Thespian uncle“ I burst into tears of joy. After a pause I asked, “How did you become such a perfect method actor?” he smiled, “You think I am the last word in acting? I am not.”
The legendary actor continued, “The pioneers of natural acting were Ashok Kumar, Motilal, Chabi Biswas and Pahari Sanyal. Then there were Balraj Sahni, Uttam Kumar and Soumitra Chatterjee. I only perfumed some memorable characters in Andaz, Foothpath, Mughal-e-Azam, Ganga Jumna and Sagina Mahato. Devdas was a challenge for me too.”
Dilip Saab said with enthusiasm, “I did always follow the method of acting. I rehearsed for every character I performed and I agree with you many of my movements were calculated. For my swashbuckling characters like in Aan and comedies i.e. Kohinoor and Ram Aur Shyam I adopted a natural design to opt-out of the method form. One bright example of me coming completely out of the method mood is Sagina Mahato.”
I asked another question, “Uncle you were so effective emoting to brother Nasir Khan in Ganga Jumna, Hey Munna, Hum Ghar Se Beghar Ho Gaye Re Bhai.” After a minute’s silence, he answered, “It was not merely a crying protest to Ganga being rendered homeless by tyrant Anwar Hussain in the film. It was my feeling of cruel pangs of partition too that separated countless brothers.” Dilip Kumar canned the shot for director Nitin Bose in one take.
Through the past two decades, I had countless conversations with my beloved Lale Uncle. “Raj (Kapoor), Dev (Anand), Rajendra (Kapoor), Shammi (Kapoor) addressed me as Lale. You can also do so as you are close to me.” Dilip Kumar answered affectionately “Yeh To Us Din Main, Raj Aur Dev Ek Saath Khana Khaya, Mazak Kiya. Ab Koi Nahi Hai” he said in a pathos-oriented mood.
Dilip Kumar was nostalgic remembering his last interaction with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru the first Prime Minister of India. He says in a melancholic voice. “Raj, Dev and I saw him for the last time in 1964 at New Delhi. Though he was courteous as usual, he appeared exhausted. Sadly, a few days after our interaction he passed away.”
I asked or in fact made him recall, “Is it true you writhed with pain and rolled on the floor after hearing the script of Devdas?” His eyes were glittering, “How did you know this? Bimalda (Bimal Ray) along with Nabenduda (Nabend Ghosh) were narrating the script to me. I did so to show how effective I could be as Devdas. Bimalda wanted to call a doctor and was pleasantly surprised when I got up and smiled.”
I was curious to know how he performed romantic scenes so effectively. Dilip Saab answered, “During our times peculiar, unrealistic love scenes were created. So as Meena Kumari lipped and danced to Jare Jare O Kali Badariya in Azad, I conveyed a silent look with an occasional smile to make the scene realistic. I vibe best with Meena Kumari, Nargis, Nimmi, Madhubala and Vyjayanthimala. One actress whom I found too difficult to confront histrionically was Suchitra Sen who was a magic speller with her eyes. Kamini Kaushal was withdrawn but an effortless performer.
“Thespian uncle, which song you lipped in your life’s theme?” I asked. “He smiled, “Aye Mere Dil Kahin Aur Chal by Talat Mehmood in Daag. Though Mohd. Rafi and Mukesh rendered brilliant numbers for me, Talat Mehmood was the true musical speaker of my soul.”
Alvida, my uncle.