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I am yet to meet a person like Dilip Saab – an epitome of etiquette, decorum, and eloquence par excellence : Dr Farooq

Sunita Vijay in conversation with Dr Farooq
Dr Farooq’s association with the cinematic legend, late Dilip Kumar, spans three decades plus. They would often meet in Delhi or Mumbai or by chance on a flight. Dr Farooq, philanthropist and President, The Himalaya Drug Company, shares some fond memories of the iconic actor, the heartthrob of baby boomers, who portrayed tragedy on-screen so immaculately that his performances are remembered with reverence.
Dilip Kumar (name changed from Yusuf Khan by Devika Rani, the owner of Bombay Talkies) is a name recognizable by all and sundry, surprisingly even by millennials. His debut with Jwaar Bhata in 1944 launched him into the orbit of the biggest names in Indian film history. Dr Farooq considers himself lucky to have known Dilip Saab. He adds enthusiastically, ‘Working in films was not considered a decent job when Dilip Saab joined the industry. Raj Kapoor, Prithviraj Kapoor, and Dilip Saab’s family lived close by. When PRK joined films, Dilip Saab’s father disapprovingly said to PRK’s father – Chala gaya film mein. Dilip Saab followed suit very soon without informing his father, and the name-change helped keep it under wraps initially. The family had a dry fruits shop, and the lucrative offer of acting in films poured in. He was offered Rs 50. Dilip Saab thought that this is a month’s salary but later realized that it was Rs 50/- per day (when annas were in circulation and even one rupee had a huge value)! I emphasize that his personality was highly impressive, and with a unique andaaz to top it, the offeror just didn’t want to lose him at any cost. And Dilip Saab accepted. Who knew that this entry would be the biggest name in the industry, the first Khan, the tragedy king of the film industry, who is still remembered as a legend, thespian and the God of acting.’

Dilip Saab’s accent, mannerism, and way of talking were nonpareil. He always detested the use of foul language on the sets or anywhere, at least in his presence. He validated tehzeeb – good mannerism and respectful talks. Dr Farooq narrates another incident that reaffirms Dilip Saab advocating civility. ‘During the shooting of Mughal-e-Azam, Dilip saab found Asif ji scolding the staff while using abusive words like ‘uloo ka pathaa’. This offended him. Dilip saab fixed a penalty of Rs 1000/- for every time an abusive slur was uttered. This was in the 1940s when one thousand rupees was an enormous sum. By the end of the day, the fine surged to Rs 12,000 for 12 counts. Asif ji never used any hurtful language from that day on, especially in front of Dilip Kumar. This was also the sole reason for Dilip Saab to attend only one session in Parliament. On the first day, the Parliamentarians were shouting rudely at Arun Shourie, telling him to sit down – aree baith jaa, and despite their repeated rude remarks, Shourie continued. Dilip Saab said, ‘humme koi aisa keh de toh hum sochegein ki zameen phat jaaye aur hum usme samaa jaayen’. For Dilip ji, it was an unacceptable gesture. And he never attended the session again. This was the real Dilip Kumar, off-screen, a sophisticated and well-behaved person.’

Dilip Kumar’s brothers, Aslam & Ehsan Khan visited Garhwal Post office some years ago when they were guests of Dr Farooq. Both his brothers are no more.

Dr Farooq remembers Dilip Kumar as an exciting, lively and warm-hearted person. He adds, ‘unke baat karne ka tareeqa hi kuch aisa tha ki poochyee mat. Once I was on a Delhi-Mumbai flight. Dilip ji and Saira ji were travelling on the same flight too. How courteously Dilip ji asked me to allow him to sit next to me, a vacant seat. I told him that it was my privilege to be sitting with him. We had a whale of a time. The quarter to two hours flight-time went in a swish. When the flight landed, Saira ji told us how our laughter was made known to all co-passengers!’

Another interesting revelation that Dr Farooq made was that Dilip Saab would go for walks at 2 am. Even at that hour, his fans would recognize him, stop him, try to speak with him, and his walk time would be affected. He would sleep late and consequently get up late – quite a common practice these days but astonishing back then.
On being asked how would he describe Dilip Saab in one line, Dr Farooq says, ‘ek sher hai – Aise bhi musafir hain khud jinke liye sadeeyon raahen bhi tarasti hain, aur manzileen bhi tarasati hain.’  He adds, ‘aisi shakshiyat jahan paida hoti hain woh jagah mubarak ho jai, jahan aise log rahe who jagah bhi mubarak ho jaaye.’ These lines say everything. The kind of popularity and fan following Dilip Saab had and still has is unbelievable.
Dilip Kumar’s film Madhumati, the 1958 Bimal Roy film which won several Filmfare awards and was a landmark work in Kumar’s career, was partly shot in Nainital, Uttarakhand. Dilip ji, his brothers, his co-stars and a couple of good friends – Mukri and his daughter – would often come and stay with Dr Farooq. The bond was strong, and Dr Farooq feels a colossal dent with the demise of Dilip Kumar.
Dilip Kumar, an outstanding chef, had promised Dr Farooq that he would prepare his delectable, mouth-watering biryani on his next visit to Dehradun. Dolefully, Dr Farooq avers, ‘Alas, that visit never materialized and I couldn’t taste savouries cooked by the illustrious Dilip ji who had always wished to be a chef had he not been an actor!’
In the end, he says, ‘Dilip Saab jaise actor ke baad doosra koi actor hume pasand hi nahin aaya.’