© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Bollywood star Dilip Kumar smiles after receiving a lifetime achievement award from President of India Pratibha Patil (invisible) during the 54th National Film Awards in New Delhi on September 2, 2008. REUTERS / B Mathur (INDIA) / File Photo
By Shilpa Jamkhandikar
MUMBAI (Reuters) – Dilip Kumar, one of India’s most respected actors known for his role as a tragic hero in Bollywood movies, died on Wednesday morning, his family said.
Kumar was 98 years old and had been ill for some time, one of the doctors treating him told reporters.
“He had a hard time breathing … We tried very hard. We expected him to hit 100,” said actor Jalil Parkar’s doctor.
Born Mohammed Yusuf Khan in 1922 in Peshawar, now Pakistan, he was known by the nickname Dilip Kumar once he joined Bollywood in the 1940s. He is survived by his wife, Saira Banu, one of Bollywood’s leading stars in the 1960s and 1970s.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan expressed their condolences, and Modi said Kumar was “blessed with incomparable brilliance.”
“For my generation, Dilip Kumar was the greatest and most versatile actor,” Khan said on Twitter.
At his residence in Mumbai, Bollywood stars flocked to pay their respects, including actor Shah Rukh Khan, producer Karan Johar and actress Vidya Balan.
The funeral will be held later on Wednesday.
Authorities in Peshawar, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said they planned to restore the actor’s ancestral home in a narrow lane in the city.
“Now we are working on its conservation,” said Dr. Abdus Samad, director general of the department of archeology.
KING OF TRAGEDY
After moving from Peshawar to Pune in India, Kumar made his first film, “Jwar Bhata” in 1944, which fell apart. His breakthrough role came in 1949, with “Andaz”, where he played an abandoned lover trapped in a triangle between the woman he loves and her husband.
That role catapulted him to stardom, and it was the beginning of a decade in which he made a career out of playing tragic roles.
Bimal Roy’s adaptation of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s seminal novel “Devdas” was the turning point in an already successful career, catapulting him to superstardom.
For his role as a doomed lover in “Devdas,” Kumar earned the epithet “king of tragedy,” the man who embodied melancholy on screen.
“An institution is gone … as long as the history of Indian cinema is written, it will always be ‘before Dilip Kumar and after Dilip Kumar,” actor Amitabh Bachchan said on Twitter.
Kumar said he was feeling overwhelmed after years of playing tragic roles. In the late 1950s, he made a conscious attempt to play more optimistic roles, acting in romantic films such as “Madhumati”, “Aan” and “Naya Daur”.
Another major milestone in his career was K Asif’s “Mughal-E-Azam”, in which Kumar played Prince Salim, son of the Mughal Emperor Akbar.
A masterpiece that told the story of the prince’s cursed affair with a ballerina, the 1960 film was one of the most expensive productions of the time, but it became the highest-grossing film of the year, wowing audiences with opulent settings. and a magnificent musical score.
In his later years, though hits were harder to come by, Kumar retained his stature as India’s first marquee star, whose face on a billboard was enough for audiences to fill the theaters.