Being the only child of a Bengali couple, hailing from the "City of Joy", I was exposed to the world of music, rhythm and dance even before I could properly spell my name. While I was being familiarised with Tagore's tunes, I was also bitten by the Bollywood bug very early in my childhood. As a true 90's kid, I was inclined towards the movies of the Khans. However, I was also fascinated and mesmerised by old Bollywood movies and music. It was during one of my early adolescent days that I came across Madhumati (1958) and met Mohammed Yusuf Khan for the first time.
Following that first encounter, I watched several of his masterpieces, including Devdas (1955), Naya Daur (1957), Mughal-E-Azam (1960), Ram Aur Shyam (1967), Shakti (1982), and Saudagar (1991). I was absolutely in awe of him. Neither did he possess the typical 'romantic boy' image, nor did he belong to the school of the Angry Young Man. Yet there was some sort of sophisticated rawness and an inherent innocence in him, which aided him in portraying different kinds of characters, starting from the city-bred individuals, such as in Madhumati and Shakti, to the more rustic ones in Naya Daur and Ganga Jumna (1961).
Written by Ritwik Ghatak and Rajinder Singh Bedi, Madhumati is the perfect amalgamation of gothic romance and revenge drama. Though it wasn't the first Bollywood movie based on the theme of 'reincarnation-revenge', the sheer directorial brilliance of Bimal Roy was enough to weave magic on screen. With a stellar star cast of Dilip Kumar, Vyjayanthimala, Pran and Johnny Walker, the movie inspired later Bollywood movies such as Karz (1980), Kudrat (1981), Karan Arjun (1995) and Om Shanti Om (2007). The music by Salil Chowdhury is both haunting and melodious, and the lyrics by Shailendra are a pleasure to listen to.
I am full of admiration for the character of Anand (Dilip Kumar). The actor deftly portrayed both the professional and personal aspects of the character's life. The innate artistic personality that lay dormant in Anand got a medium of expression as he navigated the hills and forests as the new manager of the Shyamnagar Timber Estate. To me, this reflects the eternal concept of "Return to Nature", which is all about foregoing the physical/materialistic world and connecting more with the natural world on a spiritual level.
The scene where Anand hears Madhumati (Vyjayanthimala) singing "Aaja Re Pardesi" is the one closest to my heart. While Madhumati prepares herself for the arrival of her beloved, becoming one with nature, Anand continues to observe her through the song with a mix of surprise and restlessness. The scene goes to prove that music diminishes socially constructed barriers and unifies two souls in love.
Dilip Kumar's natural acting, poise and overall appearance are heartwarming. He has such an enigmatic and engrossing screen presence throughout that it is almost impossible not to notice him while watching the movie. His subtlety of expressions, calmness and ability to handle dramatic moments with confidence and ease are par excellence. His dialogue delivery, his expressions and the way he made the character convincing and believable are truly commendable.
The last of the trinity of the Indian cinema, the others being Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar will be remembered for his impeccable acting and charismatic demeanour. He was one of the forefathers of Bollywood who graced the silver screen in the post-Independence era and guided the newly-liberated Indians to explore Bollywood's world of dream, imagination and fantasy.
With a career spanning nearly six decades, Dilip Kumar has gifted the audience some unforgettable cinematic moments that shall be forever etched in our hearts, minds and memories.