Be it Cricket, Hockey, Movies or Politics, India and Pakistan never agree on anything, except for Dilip Kumar. He was as big a legend in Pakistan as he was in India, and with his final act on 7thJuly, he united the two neighbors albeit momentarily.
Born as Mohammed Yusuf Khan on December 11, 1922 in Peshawar, Dilip Kumar was quite young when his fruit merchant father Ghulam Sarwar Khan moved to Mumbai in the 1930s. His main objective was to provide a better life to his twelve kids but even he had no idea that one of his sons would rise so high that others would be honored to be mentioned in the same sentence with him.
In 2006, when the all-color version of Dilip Kumar’s Mughal-e-Azam was released in Pakistan, the now-defunct Nishat Cinema was decorated in such a way that it looked like a Mughal palace, where Royals descended to meet their pupil. It was one of those rare moments when people of Pakistan were treated to a Dilip Kumar film, since Indian films were not released theatrically in the country since the 1960s.
Despite the two nations’ relations, one thing that stayed with the legendary actor was his love for his birthplace, Peshawar. Not only did he visit his ancestral home in Khudad Colony in Qissa Khwani Bazaar after partition in 1988, he used the fragrance of the area’s Chapli Kabab to unsuccessfully revive his fellow actor Raj Kapoor on his deathbed.
Senior journalist Qamar Ahmed remembers Dilip Kumar fondly and even mentions him repeatedly in his autobiography ‘Far More Than A Game’. According to the senior journalist, when he first saw Jugnu in cinema in 1947, he had little idea that one day the star of that film would invite him to the shooting of his film, thirty years later!
“It was during Pakistan Cricket team’s historic tour of India in 1979-80 when I got to first meet Dilip Kumar in a function organized by Pakistan High Commissioner. We met a couple of days later at Dev Anand’s house and that’s where he invited me over to the shooting of his film Shakti. It was a memory that will remain with me forever, for I got to see my favorite actor do the job first hand!’
Qamar Ahmed also shared some memorable pictures of himself with Dilip Kumar on Twitter, where he can be seen alongside his childhood friend Pakistani actor Mohammad Ali, his wife Zeba and Amitabh Bachchan on the sets of Shakti.
In 2012, Dilip Kumar’s ancestral home was declared a national heritage of Pakistan, and although the Government of Pakistan attempts to preserve the ancestral homes of Bollywood stars Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor in Peshawar, it is still an ongoing battle between the local authorities and the government.
The veteran actor visited his ancestral home for the first time after migrating to Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1988. He also visited the adjoining areas where he grew up and spent his childhood days. The locals still remember his trip where he prayed in the local mosque and met the residents as if they were his own family.
However, journalist Altamish Jiwa, whose father Nazim Jiwa was influential enough to convince Dilip Kumar to visit Pakistan officially in 1988, has fond memories of the veteran star who appeared at ease when in Pakistan.
‘I was hardly four years old when Dilip sahab came to Pakistan, but I have fond memories of my parents’ interaction with him and his wife Saira Banu. They were not just down-to-earth, humble people, there was nothing celebratory about them. Even then, wherever they went, the spotlight was on them, and it didn’t seem that he was in unfamiliar territory.’
He recalls that before Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu came to Pakistan, he was usually punished by his teachers at school. ‘However, once they came to Pakistan, and it became known that my parents knew them, the teachers became extra sweet so that they could get an invitation to meet the legendary actors.’
Altamish also posted a couple of photographs from Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu’s first visit toPakistan, where they were received like Kings. After all, he was the King of Tragedy, wasn’t he? Altamish remarked.
It was during his second ‘official’ trip to Pakistan ten years later that the President of Pakistanbestowed the actor with the Nishan-e-Pakistan, the highest civilian award of the country. He is the first and only Indian actor to receive the award, for his services in bringing the two nations closer.
Actors from this side of the border namely Waheed Murad and Nadeem were not just fans of Dilip Kumar, they even imitated him at the start of their careers. Just like in India, he is worshipped as an actor on this side of the border, and whenever an actor does well in a tragic scene, he is often found to be inspired by the legendary ‘Dilip sahab’.
Veteran actor Dilip Kumar was so loved on this side of the Wagah border that after his death, a group of people offered his Namaz e Janaza in absentia near his birthplace in Peshawar. They considered him a son of the soil when he was alive, and even death can’t do them apart!