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

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

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

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

Mr. Kumar’s love life also made news; he had relationships with the actresses Kamini Kaushal, Madhubala (they made the 1960 blockbuster “Mughal-e-Azam,” about thwarted lovers, long after they broke up) and Saira Banu, whom he married in 1966 when he was 44 and she was 22. In the 1980s, while still married to Ms. Banu, Mr. Kumar married the socialite Asma Rehman in secret. The news was quickly outed and it became a scandal, but Ms. Banu stuck with Mr. Kumar, who ended the second marriage. He is survived by Ms. Banu.

Professionally, Mr. Kumar’s record was spotless, with films that have not only been successful but have left a lasting impact. Films like “Naya Daur” (“New Era”) in 1957, “Yahudi” (“The Jews”) in 1958, “Madhumati,” also in 1958 and “Ram Aur Shyam” (“Ram and Shyam”) in 1967 are still remembered today.

In the 1970s, Mr. Kumar found fewer roles as younger, more agile actors were cast as heroes, and he took a break.

He returned in 1981 with a blockbuster, “Kranti” (“Revolution”), that reshaped his screen persona as the older moral center. He had similar roles in star-heavy mega-productions like “Vidhaata” (“The Creator”) in 1982, “Karma” (1986), Saudagar (“The Merchant”) in 1991 and especially “Shakti,” when he was cast for the first time opposite the reigning Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan.

Mr. Kumar’s last film was “Qila” (“Fort”) in 1998. By then, his style felt “more than just outdated,” a reviewer wrote in India Today. “It’s prehistoric. Dilip Kumar’s long, drawn-out dialogue delivery is out of sync with the times.”

Mr. Kumar received the Padma Bhushan, one of India’s highest civilian awards, in 1991, the Dadasaheb Phalke, India’s highest award for cinematic excellence, in 1994, and the Padma Vibhushan in 2015. From 2000 to 2006, he served as a member of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Parliament.

But these honors from the Indian government consumed far less newsprint than the decision by the Pakistani government, in 1998, to confer on him their highest civilian honor, the Nishan-e-Imtiaz. Amid heightened religious tensions, Mr. Kumar was branded an anti-national by Hindu politicians who asked him to return the award to Pakistan. He did not. He said in his autobiography that returning it “could have only soured relations further and produced bad vibes between India and Pakistan.”


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