Dilip Kumar, The Original Method Actor Of Indian Cinema

Legend, Mega Star, Icon, the last Mughal, Thespian and Tragedy King; these are just a few of the epithets that can be used to describe an actor whose brilliance very few could match.

I have had the good fortune to interview him just once, way back in 1999 when he was in Delhi to receive an award.

Here was a legend whose onscreen stature remains untouched, and what struck me was his humility, friendliness and generosity as he greeted fans, many overwhelmed and a few gawking like me.

He told us “You know when i came to the Hindi film industry I thought one day they would discover I really don’t know anything about films and didn’t know how to act. I realised that mega stars do have their own insecurities, hard to believe. And he is the one man synonymous with the history of Indian  cinema, who has an illustrious legacy.

The method actor whose approach to his craft has been distinctive. An illustrious career which spanned six decades, which came decorated with awards and honours, however doesn’t list more than 60 films.

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But with his easy ability to communicate with the audience through his realistic performances, Dilip Kumar remains a reference point, as the epitome of acting in  cinema.

The method actor whose consistent performances were a box office draw be it playing the disenchanted destructive alcoholic, the embittered lover Devdas, it was the  despondency of his reel life characters which gave him the title of the tragedy king of cinema!

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So much so he was prescribed by the doctors to break away from the mould of  the depressed lover and star in other genres. The actor took on lighter roles than the ones he had become associated with. Thus, he acted in the 50’s in films like Kohinoor and Naya Daur.

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He along with Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand formed the ‘triumvirate’ of Hindi Cinema, the shining stars of the ‘Golden Age of Hindi Cinema’, which was seen as progressive, innovative and entertaining.

He entered the 1960s on a triumphant note, the year the red carpet rolled out for the opus Mughal-e-Azam, K Asif’s labour of love which was in the making for 9 years. This movie saw Dilip Kumar in the role of Prince Salim to Prithvi Raj Kapoor’s Emperor Akbar. With this he reached a new pinnacle; combining eloquent silences and rendering ornate verbose lines.

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His role as Ganga the village simpleton who takes to arms as defiance against the Zamindari system in Ganga Jamuna was a text book performance, suffusing histrionics with passion and pain.

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And then there was his double avatar in Ram Aur Shyam in the 70s proved the thespian’s versatility and through the 80s the actor who made the switch from main lead to character roles, thus remaining in a pivotal position.

The actor who holds the Guinness World Record for winning the maximum number of awards by an Indian actor, 8 Filmfare awards and a lifetime achievement in 1993, he was  awarded the Dada Saheb Phalke award in 1994.

The store house of talent who remains the reference point for generations of actors and an irrefutable icon for his million fans!

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