The Substance and the Shadow – An Autobiography of the tragedy king of Bollywood

Publisher: Hay House Publishers (India) Pvt. Ltd
Price: Rs. 699

The Substance and the Shadow – An Autobiography of the tragedy king of Bollywood

The Substance and the Shadow - An Autobiography of the tragedy king of Bollywood
20 July-2014, Arvind Gigoo/DNA: On December 11 in 1922 Ayesha Bibi, the wife of Mohammad Sarwar Khan of Peshawar, gave birth to a son who was named Yousuf. When he was five, a fakir asked Dadi to protect the child from ‘evil eye’. Dadi had soot applied on his forehead to make him look unattractive. Saira Banu does so to her ‘Kohinoor’ Dilip Kumar even these days.

In the mid 1930s the family moved to Bombay, settled at Deolali where Yousuf studied in Barnes School and Khalsa College. He learnt English, played soccer and read the works of the European authors and Urdu writers. The dream of Yousuf’s father was to see Order of the British Empire attached to Yousuf’s name.

One Dr. Masani introduced him to Devika Rani of the Bombay Talkies. She gave him the name ‘Dilip Kumar’.  He faced the camera at the age of 21 for the film Jwar Bhata.  He acted in twenty-three films from 1944 up to 1954. Dr. W D Nicholas, a British psychiatrist, advised him to switch over to comedy because he had performed many tragic roles with adverse effect. In 1955 he acted in Azaad and proved that he could act in a comedy impeccably.

Dilip Kumar acted in sixty-two films and got Filmfare award eight times, Padma Bhushan, Dadasaheb Phalke Award, Nishan-e-Imtiaz (Pakistan) and numerous other awards. He declined to act in Satyajit Ray’s Abhijan and David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia. Dilip Kumar was the first ‘method actor’ in the world much before Marlon Brando because he had evolved a method and applied the Emotional Memory technique for which Constantin Stanislavski is known.

Dilip Kumar married Saira Banu on 11 October in 1966. Only close friends were invited to the function telephonically. Raj Kapoor walked into Dilip’s house on his knees because he had said that he would do so when Dilip married.

Dilip Kumar speaks Tamil, Telgu, Konkani, Gujarati, Parsi Gujarati, Bengali, Punjabi, Hindi, Persian, French, German and Urdu. On his advice Lata Mangeshkar engaged a learned maulana to teach her the correct pronunciation of Urdu words. Dilip mastered soccer, badminton, cricket, hockey, golf, bridge and chess.

Dilip Kumar’s first love was Kamini Kaushal. Madhubala filled his ‘void that was crying out to be filled’. He did not marry Madhubala because her father wanted to make that marriage a business venture. Dilip Kumar and Madhubala were not on talking terms during the shooting of the romantic scenes of Mughal-e-Azam.

Dilip Kumar underwent open-heart surgery in a hospital in Maharashtra. Kamini Kaushal came there to enquire after his health. When Madhubala came Dilip found her frail and very weak.

Dilip Kumar loved to fly kites. He still possesses a trunk, which is full of exquisite kites.  Yousuf Khan is the substance and Dilip Kumar is the shadow. One day he told his family friend Asif Farooqui: ‘Yousuf Khan is scared of Dilip Kumar. Only Allah knows who Dilip Kumar is and what all he can do.’

Dilip Kumar became the victim of a grave situation when he met a lady Asma Rehman.  But  Saira stood by him during that period. Legal processes of divorce were completed vis-à-vis Asma and thus an ugly situation was averted.

In March 1998 Dilip Kumar went to Pakistan to receive Nishan-e-Imtiaz. There he inaugurated Imran Khan’s Charitable Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust Hospital for cancer patients and the Fatimid Foundation.
Dilip Kumar arranged relief for the famine and earthquake victims of Maharashtra, contributed to hospitals, primary schools, parks, modern public washrooms in the slum areas of Bombay and worked for the National Association of the Blind. He established the Film Industry Welfare Trust, worked for the superannuation schemes for old and retired artistes and got huge land allotted for a film city.

Udayatara Nayar has done a commendable job by writing Dilip Kumar The Substance and the Shadow An Autobiography. She has performed the role of an understanding Father Confessor. Saira Banu succeeded in making Dilip Kumar, a very private person, come out with the story of his life, his innermost thoughts, his family life, his disappointments, his passions, his struggles, and his love of life.

This volume of 445 pages reveals many unknown aspects of the multifaceted legend’s life. Here we find dramatic utterances of Dilip’s intimate self, the meaning of his romanticism, the enlargement of his truth and the triumph of his vision of life. His candor and the incidents he relates present various pictures of a connoisseur and man of parts. The autobiography ends on page 317. The last section of the book

Reminiscences contains the articles written by 43 persons who know Dilip Kumar intimately. These articles reveal many more facets of the thespian. Udayatara Nayar has a fairly good command on the English language. Some of the details could have been edited and the repetitions removed. The book is a captivating literary tour de force. Hundreds of photographs add to the beauty of the book.

Arvind Gigoo is the author of The Ugly Kashmiri (Cameos in exile) published by Allied Publishers, New Delhi. The reviewer can be contacted at: