The first Khan of Bollywood

Osama Siddiqui     

Although there are many Khans in Bollywood who have made a shining history, but if we talk about how the relationship of Pakhtun (Pathan) actors was established with the Bollywood industry, we shall definitely remember one legendary Pakhtun film actor and producer – Mohammed Yusuf Khan, who is mostly known by his stage name Dilip Kumar. He was actually the first Khan who made a heroic entry to Bollywood and earned a remarkable place and respect among the Indian film fraternity as well as the public of the Subcontinent. Being a very successful film star of the Hindi cinema, he also won the most Filmfare Awards for Best Actor (8 awards), which was later on equaled by Bollywood King – Shah Rukh Khan.

Yusuf Khan was born in a Hindko speaking family to Lala Ghulam Sarwar Khan and Ayesha Begum in Peshawar on December 11, 1922. His father was a fruit merchant. His birth took place in the heart of the city – the place is known as Qissa Khwani which literally means the area of the story tellers. Later, his family moved to Mumbai because of the fear that the World War I would affect the trade in Peshawar city. So, his father went to see the future of business in Mumbai and got settled there. After that he also took his family over there.

While growing up in Mumbai, Dilip Kumar interacted with a number of communities and families but one good day he met with film actor, director and producer Raj Kapoor – who also belonged to Peshawar and his parents used to visit the house of Dilip Kumar in Peshawar as there were cordial relations and terms between the two families.

Dilip Kumar’s debut film was made in 1944 of which name was Jwar Bhata. He was spotted by Devika Rani. Actually, he was hired for three films by a production company – Bombay Talkies. Unfortunately, Jwar Bhata was not his successful movie. However, his second film Jugnu was a hit and Andaaz assured his success in the film industry. It is worth to mention that Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand were also present in his time, but the shining star – Dilip Kumar greatly inspired the youth.

From his walking style to his gate, he was the most charismatic actor Indian cinema had ever seen. Dilip Kumar – tall, fair and handsome, was the most inspiring figure in the Indian subcontinent at that time. Every woman wanted to be his bride and every man wanted to look like him. The boys of 40s started making his hairstyles. Many men came forward in the film industry who were inspired by him. Dharmendra was also one of them who used to love Dilip Kumar till his passing away.

Dilip Ji’s political thinking was completely secular and liberal. He was the favorite hero of Jawaharlal Nehru. He always believed in equality and never passed any racist comment that reflected the alienation of any minority group or oppression of any majority group. He was always associated to the Indian National Congress since it was a party of the most of Indians. He supported Indira Gandhi in 1970s during the emergency and it is debatable that it was a correct decision or otherwise but his loyalty to Congress was unquestionable. However, he also befriended Vajpayee Ji who was a senior most leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

While discussing the life story of Dilip Ji, his personal life cannot be ignored. He was actually known as the Tragedy King. Unfortunately, he also faced a tragedy when it came to his real life as well. Actually, he was strongly touched by doll like heroine Madhubala. She ruled the hearts of men from every age group. No one was able to match the couple as they were not only good looking but extremely complimentary of each other but fate had some other story as Dilip Ji fell in a conflicting situation with Madhubala’s father and they both never married. However, one can be assured of the fact that matches are made in the heaven, so he married Saira Banu.

Saira was just 12 when Mughal-e-Azam was released. She was a huge fan of him. Dilip Kumar avoided working with her in films because the age gap between them was 22 years but once she established herself as an actor, Dilip Kumar saw her in a garden in their house and was impressed that she was destined to fill womanhood and was more beautiful then what he thought about her. Interestingly, she left working in films in 1976 and the king of tragedy supported her decision. They lived together till the very end and she lovingly called him ‘Dilip Sahab’.

At the last, it is to be noted that Dilip Kumar inspired a large number of Indian actors who credit him as an inspiration. And when he passed away, Amitabh Bachchan paid him a rich tribute, saying, “Whenever the history of Indian cinema will be written, it shall always be before and after Dilip Kumar.” Dilip Ji highly inspired the legendary actor Dharmendra as well who always used to reach Dilip Kumar’s house on his every birthday and celebrate the event. Similarly, Shah Rukh Khan is also one of such actors who is greatly inspired with Dilip Ji.

The writer has done MSc Business and Management from the Cardiff University, United Kingdom and BBA from the Institute of Management Sciences (IMSciences), Peshawar. He has keen interest in cricket, films and the history of South Asia, particularly the Subcontinent. He may be reached at: He also tweets at: @osamasidd97.

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