Gurinder Osan / AP
NEW DELHI – Bollywood icon Dilip Kumar, hailed as the “king of tragedy” and one of the greatest actors of Indian cinema, died on Wednesday in a Mumbai hospital after a long illness. He was 98 years old.
The title “King of Tragedy” came from many serious roles of Kumar. On several occasions, his character as a frustrated and drunken lover has died out. He was also known as the only actor in Bollywood for his expressive performance that defines the character’s emotions.
Kumar was hospitalized twice last month after complaining of shortness of breath, and his family tweeted “with a sad heart and deep sadness” announcing his death.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet, “Dilipp Kumar will be remembered as a cinema legend. He was blessed with unparalleled brilliance, admiring audiences through generations. His death is a loss to our cultural world.”
Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan wrote on Twitter, “It’s gone institution.” When will the history of Indian cinema be written, it will always be ‘before Dilip Kumar and after Dilip Kumar’..’
Kumar’s body, draped in the Indian flag, attended a state funeral, led by a police squad. He was buried in a Muslim cemetery in Mumbai.
Big Bollywood stars, including SRK, have visited Kumar’s residence to pay their respects.
“It’s the end of an era,” director Madhur Bhandarkar said.
Kumar Muhammad Yusuf Khan, a Muslim, was born on December 11, 1922. His family hails from Peshawar, in what became post-partition Pakistan, and he visited his ancestral home in the late 1980s.
Kumar was very popular among the movie lovers in Pakistan as well. In 1998, he was awarded the Nishan Imtiaz, Pakistan’s highest civilian honor, and became the only Indian national to have received it.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was saddened to learn of Kumar’s death. He wrote on Twitter: “For my generation, Dilip Kumar has been the greatest and most versatile actor.
Khan also noted Kumar’s generosity in helping raise funds in Pakistan and London to create a trust to establish cancer hospitals in his mother’s memory.
He changed his name when he made his debut in Bollywood, the Mumbai-based Hindi film industry, with “Jwar Bhata” or “Sea Tides” in 1944.
Kumar’s career spanned over six decades with more than 60 films. His first box office success was “Jugnu” or “Firefly” in 1947 where he starred alongside Nur Jehan and the 1948 film “The Shahid”.
He played a variety of characters – a romantic hero in “Andaz”, an arrogant in “An”, a dramatic drunkard in “Devdas”, a comedic role in “Azad”. But his portrayal of a Muslim prince in the historical epic “Mughal the Great” boosted his popularity with audiences and propelled Indian cinema onto the world stage.
Mehboob Khan’s blockbuster “Ann” in 1952 was his first in Technicolor and was among a series of lighter roles he took on the suggestion of his psychiatrist to cast the picture of “Traji King”.
He starred in many social dramas such as “Footpath”, “Naya Daur” (“New Era”), “Musafir” (“Traveller”) and “Paigham” (“Message”) in the 1950s.
Its co-stars include Madhubala, Nargis, Nemi, Meena Kumari, Kamini Kaushal and Viganthimala.
In 1966, Dilip Kumar married Saira Banu, who was 22 years younger than him, and the couple acted in the films “Gopi”, “Sagina Mahato” and “Bairaag”. They had no children.
In 1961, he produced and starred in ‘Ganga Jamuna’ in which he and his brother Nasir Khan played the title roles. It was the only movie he produced. According to Indian media reports, he turned down the role of Sharif Ali in the 1962 film “Lawrence of Arabia” by David Lane. The role went to Egyptian actor Omar Sharif.
He took a break in the late 1970s but returned with character roles in the successful 1981 Kranti or Revolution. He went on to play major roles in films such as Shakti, Karma and Sudagar. His last movie was “Castle” in 1998.
In 1994, he was awarded the “Dadasaheb Phalke”, the highest honor for his contributions to Hindi cinema. He also served in the upper house of the Indian Parliament after being nominated for a six-year term.
Kumar is survived by his wife, actress Saira Banu.