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Yusuf Khan is dead, long live Dilip Kumar
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 07 - 07 - 2021

The contours of his face changed. With the eyebrows curled into wrinkles, he looked at me with squinted eyes. "Please don't repeat in front of anyone else what you just told me."
This was the reaction of one of my colleagues to my admission that I had not watched "Gunga Jumna" and "Devdas", two of Dilip Kumar's classics.
After this admission, he would come to my room everyday and ask whether I had the time to watch the two movies. I finally did.
Such is the fan-following of Dilip Kumar, whose list of admirers included former Pakistan president Gen. Zia-ul-Haq and India's first prime minister Pandit Nehru.
Fans adore the stars they idolize. But Dilip Kumar's fans did not only adore him, but venerated him. This was a kind of respect, which is earned by someone who is placed on a high pedestal either by virtue of his nobility or his scholastic ability.
And the reason for this reverence was the fact that the nom de guerre — Dilip Kumar — was a only a shadow of the substance, Yusuf Khan.
Yusuf Khan was a voracious reader, a scholar of repute and an orator of unmatched skills.
He recounts in his autobiography an incident when he was to deliver a speech as the Sheriff of Bombay to an international gathering of cardiologists.
He not only mesmerized the audience with his oratory, but left them totally surprised with his up-to-date knowledge about the advances in the field of cardiology.
The fate accompli of a shooting star is an obtrusive darkness after a sudden burst of light.
The same holds true of cine stars. They hog the limelight, have a horde of fans during their prime time. But as they grow old the limelight shifts to a new kid on the block. Many of them die an ignominious death.
But then there are stars who do not lose their radiance even when the limelight shifts. They shine in the memory of their fans. One such star was Dilip Kumar.
He was born to illuminate the lives of thousands of people, because — as he wrote in his autobiography — the night he was born, there was a big fire in Kissa Khawani Bazaar in Peshawar, his birthplace.
Dilip Kumar was destined to be different. His father wanted him to be a bureaucrat, he himself wanted to become a football player. But nobody — not even Dilip Kumar himself — had imaged that he would become a matinee idol given the fact that he came from a conservative Muslim family.
His journey from Peshawar to Pune is now part of folklore — so to say.
Although Dilip Kumar belonged to the generation of my grandfather and father, I had a wish of meeting him in person.
As a journalist I have interviewed celebrities from various fields, but when the opportunity came to meet Dilip Kumar a few years ago, my excitement surpassed even the nervousness of my first reporting assignment.
On Jan. 11, 2013, when I entered the suite of a starred hotel in Makkah, I saw Dilip Kumar sitting on the dining table along with his wife Saira Banu and other close family members enjoying breakfast prepared not by the hotel chef but by his personal cook.
When I stretched my hand for a handshake he held it tight for many seconds looking straight into my eyes. He did not say a word, just kept smiling. I congratulated him for performing Umrah.
Sitting in his hotel suite in his trademark high-neck, long-sleeve shirt and trousers, he was the epitome of grace and poise which were the hallmarks of his acting.


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