Dilip Kumar, Bollywood's 'tragedy king', dies aged 98

Dilip Kumar, Bollywood’s ‘tragedy king’, dies aged 98


New Delhi: Dilip Kumar, one of Bollywood’s most accomplished and respected film stars, died on Wednesday at the age of 98, which has triggered the condolences of Indian film and politicians.

Along with Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor, Kumar was one of the top three celebrities who dominated the golden age of Indian cinema from the 1940s to the 1960s. His career spanned more than 50 years and shot nearly 60 films.

Because of his melancholy beauty, messy hair and low voice, he was nicknamed “The King of Tragedy” and he played the leading role in some of the most commercially successful films in the Indian film industry at the time.

However, after famously rejecting the opportunity to play Sharif Ali in David Lane’s 1962 classic “Lawrence of Arabia”, he missed out on international fame. This part was performed by the little-known Egyptian actor Omar Sharif at the time.

Originally known as Mohammed Yusuf Khan, Kumar was born on December 11, 1922 in Peshawar, Pakistan, when he was part of British-ruled India. His father was a fruit merchant and brought his family to the entertainment capital of India in the 1930s.

Nicknamed “The Tragedy King” because of his brooding good looks, tousled hair and deep voice, he played the lead in some of the Indian film industry’s most commercially successful films of the period.

But he missed out on international fame after famously turning down the chance to play Sherif Ali in David Lean’s 1962 classic “Lawrence of Arabia”. The part went to then little known Egyptian actor Omar Sharif.

Kumar was born Mohammed Yusuf Khan on December 11, 1922, in Peshawar, Pakistan, then part of British-ruled India. His father was a fruit merchant who took his family to India’s entertainment capital in the 1930s.

One of his most memorable roles is the luxurious historical romance “Mughal Azam” based on the life of a great Mughal prince in India.

The film was released in 1960 and lasted eight years, costing a staggering 15 million rupees, but it quickly became one of Bollywood’s best-selling movies ever.

Kumar, who cited Hollywood greats Marlon Brando, Gary Cooper and Spencer Tracy as influences, later won acclaim in 1964 for the nationalistic “Leader”, screened against a backdrop of recent wars against China and Pakistan.

The 1970s saw fewer roles, as younger actors like Amitabh Bachchan took centre stage.

He even took a five-year break after a string of flops, returning in 1981 with the hit “Kranti” (Revolution) and a part alongside Bachchan in “Shakti” (Strength) the following year, plus a string of character roles.

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