The year was 1997. Few of us might remember that dramatic day of our 21st convocation at #FTII (Film and Television Institute of India), Pune. Dilip Kumar Saab was our chief guest for the occasion. We were in solidarity with the then students union, wearing black bandanas and holding placards as a mark of protest against the Centre’s move to privatize the Institute.
Dilip Saab was quite upset with this unprecedented behaviour of students who were receiving the degrees from him. In his returning speech he bashed us and called for the need of discipline among students and artists, especially those who are working in films.
We were quite let down by Dilip Saab’s remarks and knew it came from the information fed to him by the authorities. So, after the convocation ceremony, we demanded a hearing from Dilip Saab which the authorities denied but we assembled outside the Directors office and shouted, “We don’t want to see Dilip Kumar we want talk to “Vinod Kumar” (Dilip Saab’s character in “Mashaal”).
After a while Dilip Saab came out with a stoic expression and few of the selected representatives explained with great respect and clarity why we were protesting. He heard us patiently and then lifted his hand up in the air showing the sign of “zindabad”.
We were in euphoric. With that renewed enthusiasm we rushed to the CRT (Class Room Theatre) where we met up with our then Chairman of FTII Mahesh Bhatt Saab. In the heated arguments that followed the students questioned his moral stand about holding the post of the Chairman in the wake of some recent incident. He immediately declared his resignation in agreement with the students’ sentiment. I salute Bhatt Saab for that. Values existed despite him being appointed by the then ruling party. It was quite an evening.
Even today when I see protesting students I remember Dilip Saab’s gesture. Dissent will always be there in our films, voices and in our artistic pursuits however much any dispensation try to stop it.
As for Dilip Saab’s films my most lasting impression is from the film “Mashal”, where he is standing with the flames of the torch in his hand flickering, his entire being is visible as a white apparition in the darkness, and him saying, “Arre koi hai? Itna andhera kyon hai yahan?” It’s quite symbolic of the times, if you ask me.
The other film of his that impacted me immensely is “Mughal e Azam”. The film itself is no doubt a splendid work of art. But if you listen to the dialogues by Dilip Saab you will realise what a master class in itself it is. We are generally looked down because of the way our films are dubbed. But in “Mughal e Azam” Dilip Saab not only acted on the screen, he re-enacted the entire film through his voice modulations. His persona, his charisma, his nuances all come alive so perfectly in the dialogues he recorded later. To have done this so many years ago is simply unmatched and his talent is unparalleled.
I could go on… It’s not for nothing that some of the most successful actors and stars of the Indian film industry copied him. His method acting remains much talked about.
Dilip Saab’s passing away is a personal loss to many, including myself. He was not just an icon or a superstar. His art stirred our hearts and to me he will remain the man looking for light and hope in the darkness, quite like the way we are right now as the world, (including the country and our industry in particular), is struggling with darkness/crisis at so many levels.
Rest In Eternal Peace thespian. You don’t die, you live in us through every frame you breathed your life into. Love you, Mumbai will never be the same. Tomorrow’s Mumbai will not have #Dilipkumarsahab in it.