BY AVTAR MOTA
Dilip Kumar has a strong connection with Kashmir that begins from the actor’s childhood. As child, the actor and his brother lived with the family of Dr. Haseeb A. Drabu after they were diagnosed with tuberculosis.Since antibiotics or streptomycin was not discovered at that point of time, the only medical advice to Tuberculosis patients was to move to some hill station or sanatorium .Dilip Kumar’s father had close links with Drabu family of Rajpora , Kashmir on account of his fruit business. Sarwar Khan , Dilip Kumar’s father was trading in Kashmiri apples. This could be much before 1947.
In 1956, when Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad invited him for the Jashn-e-Kashmir,Dilip Kumar was more than happy to come to Srinagar and don white dress for an exhibition cricket match played by participating film stars . He brought Raj Kapoor, Nargis ,Om Prakash, Nirupa Roy and a large group of some prominent film actors with him.
Dilip Kumar loved to stay in houseboats and Pahalghaam remained his favourite destination .Sometimes, he would stay at ‘Hotel Oberoi Palace’ in Srinagar or ‘Highland Park’ in Gulmarg.He also liked Nigeen lake and its peaceful ambiance.
He had many friends in Kashmir that include Dr Farooq Abdullah,M.Y.Khan ( former chairman of J&K Bank), Ghulam Ahmed Shonthu ( former Chief Secretary), Sheikh Amin family, Tramboo family , Janki Ganju, Bashir Bakshi , Nazir Bakshi, Mir Inayatullah ( Chief Warden Wild Life ), G R Renzu , Gani Sahib( hotelier) and many more.The list is long and accordingly , I am mentioning some prominent people who come to my mind at the moment. He loved Kashmiri food especially Goshtaba and Dum Alu . Coming from a family trading in Kashmir fruits, he loved cherries and Ambri apple of Kashmir . These special fruits were arranged for him and his family by a Mumbai fruit merchant .The actor loved Kashmiri handicrafts especially papier machie and wood carving . A Purohit from Mattan told me that Dilip Kumar would drop inside the Mattan spring to feed fish as and when he visited Pahalgham. The owner of Mir Paan House on the fashionable Residency Road ( Srinagar ) has old me that he has personally offered a simple Paan to Dilip Kumar when some local host brought him to the shop during night time. The Sardar Ji, owner of Hind Book Shop on the Residency Road ( Srinagar) has told me that in 1973 or 1974 , Dilip Kumar visited his shop and purchased J. M. Barrie’s ‘The Admirable Crichton ‘.The manager of Ahdoo’s Hotel on the Bund once told me that he arranged a late night dinner for Dilip Kumar, Saira Banu and their local host in the restaurant . They entered from the Bund entrance and a sitting arrangement had been created for them inside in a separate enclosure that was not visible to other guests.
Saira Banu has a Kashmir ancestry from her mother’s side. Saira Banu’s grandmother belonged to a Kashmiri family from Amritsar. Along with Dilip kumar , Saira Banu once paid a visit to Baba Rishi Ziyarat near Gulmarg seeking the boon of a child that her family desperately desired. Saira Banu had conceived in 1972, but developed complications in the pregnancy, leading to the child’s death.
In early sixties of the last century, Dilip Kumar wanted to make a film on “Habba Khatoon” . The project was discussed in detail with Mehboob Khan who had even got the screenplay written. Dilip kumar wanted to play a prominent role in the movie but the project was dropped due to sudden death of Mehboob Khan in 1964.He then decided to make a film on Begaar ( forced labour ). The project was named ‘ Kar Begaar’. This project too was dropped at the last moment . He was seriously interested in setting up a film studio in Srinagar. Some meeting were held with entrepreneurs local artists and government officials. Tramboo family especially, Nazir Tramboo was also actively involved in this project that could prove highly beneficial for artists from Kashmir and also give a flip to tourism sector. This project too could not see the light of the day.
Ghulam Mohammad Dug, proprietor of ‘Taj Hotel’ at Amirakadal in Srinagar, who had links with Dilip Kumar told me this:-
“I visited him once in Mumbai in1967 and got introduced to the thespian.Thereafter as and when he visited Kashmir , he would ask for me . Together we went to Tcraar e Sharif Hazratbal or many other places. Although I was worried lest some untoward may not happen due to crowds that thronged to see him but he would talk to people,wait for them and reciprocate their love and affection.
One day I went to see him in the houseboat. I found him sleeping on the narrow wooden walking passage around the houseboat. He was sleeping without any bedding or sheet or pillows. Just like a commoner. As he got up, he told me that he loved to sleep like that to see the lake, the birds and the silence. According to him he felt more happy when he came very close to nature. While talking to me, he said ‘ You must save this lake. Save your culture and save the unique and appreciable ways of your living from rapid westernisation. “
Although , Ghulam Mohammad Dug has closed the Taj Hotel at Amirakadal, he continues to remain in the hotel business . He has opened ‘Hotel Pine Grove’ on Boulevard, Srinagar. On his Facebook wall, he has also written this:-
“ 1971 and 1973 I remained associated with him for all the days he stayed in Srinagar. He was here to select locations and to consult authors/historians of Kashmir in connection with the making of his new film titled “ Kar Begar” under his own banner “Citizen Films India” The said film project was later on abandoned for unknown reasons. Here I would like to make a mention of an incident which may not be of much significance to readers but it shows how careful he was in pointing out shortcomings of others to them. It so happened that while in Srinagar during his stay in a house boat in Dal Lake he fell ill and Dr. G.Q. Allaqaband visited him to treated him. On the day of his departure when he was about to cross in a shikara, he thanked houseboat owner for the services rendered to him but very soberly added ,” Chacha agli bar jab hum ayenge apni boat mein ek peene ke paani ka nal zaroor laga lena” please remember those days direct tap water supply system was yet be launched in the Dal Lake area and houseboat owners had to fetch it from banks of the lake in a Shikara. I gather at that time from Dilip Kumar’s specific remark made to houseboat owner was perhaps the supply of “ polluted drinking water to him” during his stay in his houseboat was the cause of his illness. It shows how great he was to draw the attention of the houseboat owner for committing the negligence, in such a polite and beautiful manner when he had other options, like reporting the matter to the authorities, was also available so as to initiate action under law .”
Padamshri Pran Kishore told me this :-
“I was entrusted the job of recording detailed interview of the thespian by Shri N.L. Chawla , the then Station Director AIR, Srinagar.It was a challenging task. We invited him to the Radio Station. Dilip Kumar arrived on time and I recorded something great for the AIR. As usual , he was tidy and well dressed.He had profound knowledge of English literature, music, Urdu poetry, Bangla literature and novels of Munshi Prem Chand . From the interview, I could understand the depth of his study and his understanding of the issues relating to cinema.
After the recording, I requested him to join special cultural show at Tagore hall in the evening that day. We, the members of Akashvani Club were holding an event in aid of victims of Budgam earthquake. When he heard the details, he immediately agreed to come. Joined by Saira Banu,he was there on time.His presence served a great purpose .
In the interview, I touched the question of ‘New Wave Cinema’ and he was forthright in his reply. While he appreciated the talent of all the artists and directors connected with the ‘New Wave Cinema’, he clarified that cinema has a commercial angle as well. One needs money to create a film. If one is able to recover at least what he spends , it is fine . With losses, how long can one continue making films. He believed that commercial aspect of a film can’t be ignored or overlooked. “
Dilip Kumar has also attended the marriage ceremony of two daughters of Janki Ganju of Srinagar. Janki Ganju was a close friend of the thespian .Janki was a very well-known and well connected Washington based NRI .Capt. S K.Tikoo has told a beautiful story with regard to his interaction and proximity to the thespian. He told me this:-
“ It may sound strange but I am telling you something that is true . I met Dilip Kumar in 1974 at Chandrajeet Yaday’s house in New Delhi.Yadav was then general secretary AICC in-charge youth affairs .It was a dramatic meeting wherein I made every effort to impress the thespian with theatrics taught to me by Padamshri Moti Lal Kemu and I succeeded . He didn’t forget me. Surprisingly, the great actor had conveyed minutest details of this meeting to his close family including Saira Banu and Naseem Banu . I was possibly presented as some special character by the thespian to his family.
Back in Srinagar, sometime later, I received a call from Hotel Broadway that Dilip Kumar was in Srinagar and wanted to see me .When I went to the hotel, the emperor of Hindi cinema, accompanied by Bakshi Bashir , came to me and gave me a tight hug. He sent a word to his waiting family members to go to their suites after pointing his finger towards me. I could see them smiling. I reciprocated the smile.
He had come to Srinagar alongwith Saira Ji, Naseem Bano and two more ladies to join the marriage function in the family of Janki Ganju ,his close friend.The boarding and lodging arrangements were done for the family in Hotel Broadway. Janki Ganju was the in-house guest of the then governor and was staying with him in Raj Bhavan. The marriage was to be solemnised at Karan Nagar.Dilip Kumar wanted to attend all family functions and remain near by,so Hotel Broadway was the most suitable choice.
For me , It was amazing to see three greats of Hindi cinema ; I mean Pari Chehra Naseem Banu,Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu. While the ladies went to their suites, Dilip Kumar and I sat at the bar that was in the hotel lobby itself.Sita Ram, the then bartender at Hotel Broadway had served Dilip Kumar in some hotel in South India. He called his wife from the house telephone and smilingly conveyed to me what Saira had just talked to him,’ hum to samjhay thei aap hum se mazaaq kar rahey thei magar yeh to waqai ek moajaza hai”. He had discussed me and our meeting in Chanderjeet Yadav’ house thoroughly with Saira Ji in particular. I could feel it.
We talked about many things, many issues. The thespian was warm and affectionate to me in the entire conversation. After he left, I stayed at the bar for sometime. Another 15 minutes and Sita Ram,the highly impressive bartender, handed over the telephone receiver to me ; it was an in-house call and it was Dilip Kumar,” kal aath baje, idhar he, theek hai’. I said ,’ theek hai ‘
Next day ,Janki Ganju was also there. Dilip Kumar introduced him to me. Janki was warm and cheerful. From the conversation, I could feel that Dilip Kumar was very close to Janki Ganju. He would always call him “Jaan”. Speaking in chaste Urdu, Dilip Kumar addressed his friend,’ janki tumhe dekh kar aisa lag raha hai mai booda hota ja raha hoon.”
I had some gala time with Mr Ganju, he was full of life and liked all good things in life.However I could not join the reception and some functions in Janki Ganju’s house as the dates clashed with the prefixed appointment that I had with my Delhi doctors.
Dilip Kumar was a regular visitor to Kashmir I met him again and he invited me to Mumbai. I could feel that Dilip Kumar’s love for Kashmir was deep and sincere. He wanted to do something for Kashmir. To me , he talked about the hurdles that came in his way. Let me tell you in short, Hindi cinema will not see another Dilip Kumar for many many years to come. I have more to convey about the great actor. Let us keep that for our next meeting. “
Some days back ,I was participating in an online discussion relating to acting skills of the thespian. It was organised by Prof. Liaqat Jafri of Jammu. Film lyricist and screenplay writer , Hassan Kamaal ( who wrote songs of BR Chopra production Nikaah ) ,who was also in the panel said this :-
“ The greatness of Dilip Kumar was revealed to me when he asked me to change dialogues of the actor who was to face him in a movie for which I was engaged to write screen play ,dialogues and songs. Dilip Sahib told me ,” Bhai agar aap ne mujhe bees (20) Kar Diya, inn ko to Unees (19 ) Karo.’ I changed the dialogues. In the movie, It had a dramatic effect on the personality of that particular actor. Dilip Sahib also looked more majestic with that upgradation.’
Do we see this type of involvement from actors presently ? How many actors can be identified as rank twenty ( according to Dilip Kumar ‘s parameters ) ? Have we learnt to compromise with rank 8 or 9 at the most ? As per my knowledge ,only a few can come near to rank twenty or the bright sunlight that illuminates the darkness around it . I conclude this post with two couplets of Urdu poet Bashir Badr….
“Meray saath jugnu hai ham-safar magar iss sharar ki bisaat kya ,
Ye charaag koyi charaag hai na jalaa hua na bujhaa hua..
Jisse le gayi hai abhi havaa vo varaq tha dil ki kitaab ka,
Kahin aansuon se mita hua kahin aansuon se se likha hua…”
Avtar Mota is a blogger, noted writer and columnist