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Monday, March 13, 2017

A Few Hours with Dileep Kumar

Reading the great thespian Dilip Kumar's recently launched absorbing autobiography 'The Substance & The Shadow', the memories of my first ever meeting with the great actor got refurbished in my heart and mind. I met him in 2002 at Turf Club, Poona. Many old timers are aware of Dilip Kumar's fondness for Poona and Deolali camp, Nasik. Till 2008, Dilip Kumar used to come to Poona. I'd gone to meet a friend of mine at Turf Club and saw a familiar-looking gentleman watch a Test match along with a friend.

I rushed to the manager and enquired about the gentleman I just saw in the TV room. 'Yes, he's Mr Dilip Kumar.' He confirmed my doubt. Elated to see him there, I waited till tea-time so that he could watch the match without any interruption. When it was tea-break, I entered the TV room with a customaryaadaab to the great actor. He replied back with extreme politeness that put me in ease. I said, 'Main janaab ka qadeem paristaar hoon' (I'm your old admirer). He looked amused. ' Par aap toh zaeef nahin dikhte' (But you don't look old). He asked me. We both laughed. I asked for a few minutes of him. He readily agreed.

Contrary to his stature, Dilip Kumar is an extremely down-to-earth person who never lets his fans down and talks very nicely. While talking to him, I realised how well the man cultivated himself. Without much formal education, his knowledge about Urdu and English poetry mesmerised me. I've got the opportunity of meeting many stalwarts of Urdu literature and  anglicised Indian English writers, who give you the impression of thinking in English. But the way Dilip Kumar spoke English, I thought he lived all his life in England and hobnobbed with the professors of English at Oxford and Cambridge! It was impeccable and the diction was just perfect. His high-falutin Urdu was peppered with rare couplets from Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Ahmad Faraz and 'Firaq' Gorakhpuri's poetry. Faiz is Dilip Kumar's favourite poet and very few people know that he and Spanish literary great and Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda wrote to the Nobel Committee in 1969 to consider the name of Faiz Ahmad Faiz for the Nobel in literature. Dilip Kumar's fans are aware of his fondness for cricket. He told me that Pakistan's first cricket captain, the maverick Abdul Hafeez Kaardaar was a close friend.

Vinoo Mankad and Vijay Hazare would always invite him to watch a Test match. Dilip Kumar honed his cricketing skills by playing with the British artillery officers at Deolali camp. He and Pran, the famous villain, would often meet the legendary West Indian Sir Frank Worrell. That he deigned to spend time with an ordinary fan like me, shows the unassuming nature of the great man. I'll always remember my meeting with him. I didn't meet him after 2002 and it pained me sorely to know that nowadays he tends to forget everything because of senile degeneration. Long live Dilip Sahab. We adore you. 

                                          ---Sumit Paul

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