Obituary: An Ode To A Legend

By Amit Khanna

Dilip Sahab undoubtedly is one of the greatest actors we have seen, not only in India but perhaps across the world. He pioneered, what we today call the method school of acting, and generations of actors have used him as their role model.

I first met Yusuf Sahab more than 50 years ago when I had just started working with his contemporary and friend Dev Anand. Soon thereafter, when I went to Bombay to work, I used to see him at the studios and wherever he went, I would see that he was looked upon by actors and other unit members and workers with awe.

I don’t remember the exact date but in 1972, I met him again at a common friend’s residence. That was the first time we chatted and I was pleasantly surprised to see him speak with authority not only on cinema but other subjects like politics, art, and literature.

I also used to address him as Lala. Over the years, I got to know his family and you know, his brothers and sisters. Over time, I cannot claim he was a friend, but he was somebody who was warm and affectionate towards me. He would talk to me as I was a younger member of his family.

Contrary to the myth, I remember those days where Dilip Sahab, Dev Sahab, and Raj Kapoor Sahab were very warm and affectionate. Yusuf Sahab was very concerned about the pride of the film workers, he would ask all of us as to what we were doing for welfare.

He raised funds for various causes, in the mid-70s there were floods in many parts of India, he organised a film star rally, and most of his contemporaries like Dev Sahab and younger stars like Dharmendra and all the leading ladies came together.

Whenever there was a natural calamity or even after the 1971 War, he was actively involved in organising premiere shows and star nights for collecting money for the welfare of people.

We grew closer over the years. I would go to his house or drop at his film shootings and we would talk about projects. Our common friend JK Kapoor had produced a film with Dilip Sahab and Saira Ji in both Hindi and Bengali called ‘Sagina Mahato’.

One day, JK Kapoor called me and said Dilip Sahab has to do some scenes because he had written them in Urdu and he needed someone to translate them into Hindi so he asked me why don’t you do it? I said I am very busy but then I met Dilip Sahab, I translated what was written, I got one of my persons to work with him for a while.

He got to know then that I was a writer. Every time I would bump into him, he would ask me what song have you written? He behaved like someone elder in the family and when I became the producer, I started India’s first integrated media company, which did several TV shows and movies. Whenever I called him for functions, he would always come. Even if he was busy, he used to say for you I will come. Younger people in the generation looked up to him. Mr Amitabh Bachchan has always looked up to him, the same can be said for Shahrukh Khan.

When I talk about the current generation, I remember one incident related to Rani Mukherjee. Once, she had spent the whole evening sitting at Dilip Sahab’s feet and she kept on talking to him.

‘Hulchul’, ‘Deedar’, ‘Shikhar’, all these films were hits, but then came his first Filmfare Award in 1954 for ‘Daag’. The film ‘Devdas’ (1930) originally starred KL Saigal and in that film, Bimal Roy was the cinematographer.

Bimal Roy then made ‘Devdas’ in 1955 and he casted Dilip Kumar. Dilip Sahab gave such a nuanced performance that it still remains as a test book for all actors. Everyone watches that film and of course, Shahrukh Khan played Devdas in the next remake.

Yusuf Sahab has also given some powerful performances in movies like ‘Ganga Jamuna’, ‘Mughal-E-Azam’, ‘Naya Daur’, and ‘Karma’.

Yusuf Sahab was very big in public life also, he was a member of the parliament in Rajya Sabha. He was given the Padma Bhushan and later on Padma Vibhushan by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. Dilip Sahab is the only actor who has won eight Filmfare Awards. Now, the number of awards has gone up but Dilip Sahab has won every possible Lifetime Achievement Award.

For the last 10-12 years, Yusuf Sahab was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. He had forgotten faces and he would often forget who is there. It was sad to see him like that.

The last time I met him on his birthday three-four years ago, he kept holding my hand and he said thank you for coming. Age had caught up with him, but I must give full credit to Saira Bhanu ji, she has looked after him really well.

For me, it was more of a personal loss.

(Amit Khanna is a filmmaker, writer and industry veteran). (ANI)

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