Indo-Caribbeans in America condoled the passing of Bollywood legend Dilip Kumar. He is the talk among Indo-Caribbeans in the diaspora. He was one of the brightest stars of Indian Cinema. He was popular during the 1950s thru 1970s along with such actors Pradeep Kumar, Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor, and Sunil Dutt (Sr), among others. Indo-Caribbeans describe him as one of the finest and greatest actor of his time. He was taken over by newer and younger actors like Shammi Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor, Manoj Kumar, Sanjay Khan, Jeetendra, Feroze Khan, among others. His role faded as new and younger stars came to dominate the screen. He began playing fatherly role in films during the 1980s and 1990s.
Dilip Kumar received India’s highest honors and countless awards for his acting including best film actor award.
The iconic actor passed away on Wednesday at age 98 and was buried the same day according to Islamic rites. He was undoubtedly the most popular actor in India and in the Indian diaspora. In fact, he was referred to by his fellow actors as “The Actor”. His movies showed to packed audiences.
Almost every Bolywood actor (actresses), including the Big B (Amitabh Bachchan), Dharmendra, Hema, Jeetendra, Anil Kapoor, SRK, went on social media paying tribute to him. Politicians (including PM Modi) and cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar showered accolades on the great actor. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that “he was a ‘cinematic legend’, blessed with unparalleled brilliance, due to which audiences across generations were enthralled. Our world is a little less bright today because one of our brightest has passed on. His passing away is a loss to our cultural world. Condolences to his family, friends and innumerable admirers”. Indian President Ram Nath Kovind said: “Dilip Kumar summarised in himself a history of emerging India. The thespian’s charm transcended all boundaries, and he was loved across the subcontinent. With his demise, an era ends.”
He had shared the screen space with countless celebrities during his career spanning over five decades. He was an institution in Bollywood. Everyone who knows of him says his death is heartbreaking. Amitabh Bachchan, one of Bollywood’s most popular stars, offered his condolences. “An institution has gone… whenever the history of Indian cinema will be written, it shall always be before Dilip Kumar, and after Dilip Kumar”. Dharmendra, expressed shock over the death of his friend. “I am extremely shocked… I used to go and keep watching his house before I became an actor. Watching him used to feel like I have been on hajj or some pilgrimage after watching him”.
Guyanese were not left out with almost every Guyanese who was born before the 1990s expressing appreciation for his acting skills. He acted in over one hundred films, many of which were big hits. Anyone who grew up in an Indian village in Guyana or Trinidad or Surinam or any other diaspora country would be exposed to a staple of Bollywood hits. Almost every Indian village in Guyana had a cinema showing Indian films. Dilip Kumar was a favorite. Cinemas were usually packed when movies were shown with popular stars like Dilip Kumar. He put in breathtaking performances in movies, according to Guyanese. And he held in awe by every film critic.
He was born Yusuf Khan, a Muslim, in Peshawar, Pakistan in 1922 and moved to Mumbai before the division of British India, becoming an actor in the 1940s. He married Saira Bhanu, who acted opposite him in several films. She was a legend in her own rights, also a favorite classical dancer among fans. Kumar, his stage name, remained in India post division and rose to great heights in the film industry. Though a Muslim, he was enormously popular among Hindus and film attendees of other faiths. Almost all of his films were Hindu oriented.
Most Guyanese I spoke with express sadness of his passing. They consider him as the greatest actor of all time who appeared on the screen long before Bachchan, Dharmendra, Jeetendra, and other legends. In fact, he tutored those acts. I remember Dilip Kumar as a child growing up going to repeatedly watch his film “Ram Aur Shyam” in which he played a double role. That film was one of the all-time hits in Guyana watched multiple times by film enthusiasts.
He has left behind a great legacy. As Guyanese Bollywood fans noted, he is irreplaceable on the screen. It is the end of an Era in Bollywood. They will miss him. He will continue to live in their hearts.