Romance Icon Dilip Kumar Truly Respected Women

On the 99th birth anniversary of Dilip Saab, read the legendary actor's treatment with his co-actors

Nargis was Raj Kapoor’s heartthrob. So while shooting with her for Andaz, Dilip Kumar maintained a safe distance from her. Raj Kapoor was also their co-star in the Mehboob Khan classic. There were some intense scenes between Dilip Saab and Nargis. As the romance icon Dilip Kumar with a bandage on his head approaches Nargis, climbing the stairs, the latter shoots him with a revolver. The tragedy king dies with a smile pointing a finger at Nargis.

So difficult was the sequence that Mehboob Khan took three takes to cast the shot. The perfect method actor that he was, Dilip Kumar gave a controlled performance with studied nuances. It not only matched but outwitted Nargis’ intensity. She confessed this to Mehboob Khan and Raj Kapoor. Though the script of Jogan centered around her, Nargis knew Dilip Saab would steal the show in certain scenes. As the seasoned actor said, ”Main Nastik Jo Thehera” in a low pitch, Nargis rendered a silent loving look. The shot according to Jogan’s director, Kidar Sharma was an offbeat one eased by the actor’s performance.

After Raj Kapoor, Nargis formed a super hit pair with Dilip Kumar in Mela, Hulchul, Babul and Deedar. Their romantic scenes were real life and hardly did they touch each other. Neither passionate like Raj Kapoor, nor effortless like Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar mingled method with spontaneity in his romantic scenes. Perfect use of eyebrows, occasional smiles and timely use of his right arm made Dilip Kumar a romantic icon in his own right.

He lipped evergreen songs like Maan Mera Ahsan, Shame Gham Ki Kasam and Suhana Safar perfectly for Mohd. Rafi, Talat Mehmood and Mukesh. More than Nargis, the thespian’s favorite heroine was Nimmi. Yusuf Saab affectionately called Nimmi, ”Pugli.” Nimmi’s vibrancy helped Dilip Kumar to transcend barriers of method acting as in the Swashbuckler Aan. This is the only film in which Dilip Kumar was bare-bodied during a bathing scene. He was not in favor of exposing his hairy body.

Dilip Kumar and Nimmi never believed in Melodrama. So even in tragic films like Daag and Deedar, their emotions were controlled. Director Amiya Chakraborty encouraged both the actors to rehearse their scenes during the shooting of Daag. An unusual aspect of their performance in Daag was they hardly batted eyelids interacting with each other.

Yusub Saab was always full of praise for Nimmi’s innocence. No wonder Nitin Bose found the chemistry between Dilip Kumar and Mimmi in Deedar was better than that of Dilip Kumar and Nargis. As a blind lover, Dilip Kumar excelled with Nimmi even surpassing Nargis’s sophisticated underplaying with her straightforward acting. The actor opted for three different pitches of his voice in Uran Khatola as Nimmi played a perfect foil to his faultless acting.

Meena Kumari was always a darling for Dilip Saab. Not as a lover but as a human being and actress. In their first film together, Footpath directed by the sensitive Zia Sarhadi, Dilip Kumar romanced Meena Kumari silently. The film had a lower-middle-class urban backdrop and was the first cinematic tirade against black marketing. Both touched each other in only three to four scenes. Their romance was of the classic mold with dialogues expressing rare feelings. These scenes are still peerless.

Azad, a modern-day Robin Hood tale was a smash hit compared to the critically acclaimed average Footpath. The song Kitna Hasin Hai Mausam rendered by Chitalkar and Lata Mangeshkar had Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari as one of their romantic bests. However, it was in Bimal Ray’s Yahudi both the actors excelled in their romantic scenes. Meena Kumari’s lipping of Meri Jaan, Meri Jaan by Lata Mangeshkar remains a lesson in acting. Dilip Kumar’s chaste, confident dialogue delivery added color to his majestic performance.

In Kohinoor, a costume drama with a hilarious touch, he had more scope compared to Meena Kumari in acting. Their presence made Kohinoor a box office record-breaking hit. Do Sitaron Ka Milan the haunting romantic duet had both as a real-life pair. The truly romantic Dilip Saab always respected women.

Ranjan Das Gupta

is a Kolkata-based independent journalist. He has been doing freelance work for more than 3 decades and writes on arts & culture, cinema, politics, healthcare and education

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