By Manuwant Choudhary
Dilip Kumar - the Mughal-e-azam of Indian cinema - deserves a Bharat Ratna.
Not Amitabh Bachchan or Shahrukh Khan but its Dilip Kumar who is undisputedly the greatest Indian film actor.
The following extract about his early life from Wikipedia is interesting...
"Kumar was born into a Hindko-speaking Peshwari Pashtun family of 12 children on 11 December 1922 in the Qissa Khawani Bazaar area of Peshawar, in what is now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.
His birthname is Mohammad Yousuf Khan and his screen name was given by Hindi author Bhagwati Charan Varma.
His father Lala Ghulam Sarwar was a fruit merchant who owned orchards in Peshawar and Deolali, Nashik, Maharashtra. This is where Dilip Kumar studied at Barnes school but he started out on his own career as a fruit seller and canteen owner in Pune where he was spotted by actress Devika Rani and her husband Himanshu Rai, owners of Bombay Talkies."
From being a dry fruit seller to a canteen owner to a film star, its a journey very few have undertaken and among his dozens of films its is role as Akbar in Mughal-e-Azam that is most appreciated.
Dilip Kumar is in Lilawati hospital after he complained of chest pain so we wish him well.
But I have often wondered why Dilip Kumar did not follow another famous Bombayite Mohammad Ali Jinnah to Pakistan when India was partitioned.
So far Dilip Kumar has received the third highest Indian civilian award the Padma Bhushan and the Dadsaheb Phalke Award which is the highest film award. But it is Pakistan which has given him the Nishan-e-Imtiaz, the highest civilian award in Pakistan.
At the height of the Kargil war Bal Thackeray publicly asked him to return the Nishan-e-Imtiaz to Pakistan. Dilip Kumar did not buckle under Thackerays pressure instead replied that the honour is for his role in bringing the people of the two countries together and that he was not responsible for the Kargil war.
India's Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee agreed with Dilip Kumar.
But I still wonder why India's government do not give him the Bharat Ratna.
Dilip Kumar is not just a great actor and human being but an active Indian citizen whose faith in India's secularism is firm and deep-rooted.
I recall when the Shiv Sena government was in power in Maharashtra and there were very few to speak up against communalism...it was Dilip Kumar who campaigned in favour of secularism.
As a junior reporter with the Afternoon Despatch & Courier I once called him up for an appointment for an interview and Dilip Kumar was on line...
Dilip Kumar: "You see I have a plane to catch. I am going abroad...but what is it you want to talk about?"
I replied, "Sir, I'd like to interview you on Secularism and why it is so crucial for India."
Dilip Kumar, "If you don't mind could we talk on the telephone itself..."
Me: "But Sir, you have a plane to catch....."
Dilip Kumar, "No, no, I will manage...this is more important..."
And Dilip Kumar spoke to me four two hours....it was I who would remind him about his flight...but he would egg me on to not to worry...
It was a very relaxed interview and sitting in my office I felt at home..so comfortable that it felt like his wife Saira Banu even brought some Darjeeling tea with Shrewsberry buiscuits for me...
But it was an intense interview about secularism and how communalism posed a serious threat to India.
In fact, it was I who ran out of questions...and thanked Dilip Kumar for his time.
The interview was published with large file photos of Dilip Kumar but for a few days everyone looked at me like I had achieved a big deal having met Dilip Kumar!
After the elections a few Samajwadi Party candidates made inroads into Bombay and one of them even came to our office with laddoos (thankfully I was out working).
The next encounter I had with Dilip Kumar when I was a TV journalist with NDTV in Patna.
Dilip Kumar was coming to campaign for secularism at Patna's Gandhi Maidan.
Election time is hectic and all our cameramen were out of town so we hired a freelancer just to manage a few rushes of Dilip Kumar.
Gandhi Maidan was packed...lakhs of people....more than what Sonia Gandhi would get...and the flight from Bombay got delayed.
By the time he reached Gandhi Maidan it was 5 pm - the time when electioneering ends.
We hoped Dilip Kumar would break the election law.
The dias was as crowded as the maidan and my cameraman was hanging for his life from a side pole...literally just his toes were on the 60 feet high dias.
The crowd went wild seeing Dilip Kumar.
He did not speak..he just waved to the crowd...and he was driven back to the airport.
At the airport he gave an interview where he asked people to vote for secularism and he blurted out..."Vote For RJD..ohh...sorry...errr."
The Congressmen who had brought him to Patna looked so shocked !!!
Accompanying him was the perennial drunkard comedian actor Johnny Walker and I could not help asking him if he liked Patna?
He replied in his inimitable style, "Maine kya dekha? Airport dekha, Gandhi Maidan dekha aur tumko dekha..."
One good did come from Dilip Sahebs Patna vsist..we recommended the freelance cameraman for a permanent job in a TV channel.
It was a day to remember.
Dilip Kumar is still popular and yes more popular than Narendra Modi.
If he was not so popular why would top Indian news channels carry on and on about his romance with Madhubala...The special shows help the ratings for the TV channels...even while Dilip Kumar quietly blogs at his personal blog Dilipkumar.mouthshut.com