Dilip Kumar, Film Star Who Brought Realism to Bollywood, Dies at 98

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Dilip Kumar, center right, in 2006 with the actor Shah Rukh Khan, center left, in Mumbai. He was one of three Indian movie stars who defined the post-independence Hindi film hero. Credit…Gautam Singh/Associated Press

Source: New York Times

By Baradwaj RanganPublished July 6, 2021Updated July 7, 2021, 12:48 p.m. ET

Dilip Kumar, the last of a triumvirate of actors who ruled Hindi cinema in the 1950s and ’60s, died on Wednesday in Mumbai, India. He was 98.

His death, at a hospital, was confirmed by Faisal Farooqui, a family friend, who posted a brief statement on Mr. Kumar’s official Twitter account.

In post-independence India, Mr. Kumar and two other stars set about defining the Hindi film hero. Raj Kapoor reflected the newly minted Indian’s confusion: his signature role was that of the Chaplinesque naïf negotiating a world that was losing its innocence. Dev Anand, known as the Gregory Peck of India, embodied a Western insouciance that still lingered; he became a stylish matinee idol.

Mr. Kumar, though, delved deeply into his characters, breaking free from the semaphoric silent-movie style of acting popularized by megastars like Sohrab Modi and Prithviraj Kapoor.

As one of the country’s earliest Method actors, he was often compared to Marlon Brando, another early adopter of the technique, even though Mr. Kumar claimed he had used it first.

“I learned the importance of studying the script and characters deeply and building upon my own gut observations and sensations about my own and other characters,” Mr. Kumar said in his autobiography, “The Substance and the Shadow” (2014). “The truth is that I am an actor who evolved a method.”

His preparation for roles became the stuff of legend. For his death scene in the 1961 megahit “Gunga Jumna,” he ran around the studio so that he could enter the set at the point of exhaustion.

For a song sequence in the 1960 film “Kohinoor” (“Mountain of Light”), he learned to play the sitar. For emotional sequences in the 1982 movie “Shakti” (“Power”) and the 1984 movie “Mashaal” (“Torch”), he drew from memories of when his brother died, recalling the pain that registered on his father’s face.

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  1. An excellent actor i had the pleasure of meeting him with his very loyal wife Saira Banu in 1994 at San Francisco Hayet Regency as Guest of Honor at the launching of Pakistan/India Friends Association.
    Both were very down to earth. I wondered Dilip sahab eluded to Khatamun Nabiyeen at a mixed Hindu Muslim event.
    I was a freelance journalist and there was question and answer session.

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