Sunday, December 21, 2003



Book excerpt

Dilip Kumar and Suchitra Sen in Devdas
Dilip Kumar and Suchitra Sen in Devdas

IN 1948 Dilip Kumar was to be crucified on the altar of an intense and excruciating love, maybe not the first love of his life because intensely introverted and emotional young individuals like the Yusuf Khan he was then are perpetually in love — with love itself, as it were. And the first great love of his life, after he became a star, was his co-star in just four films — Nadiya Ke Paar (1948); Shaheed (1948); Shabnam (1949); and Arzoo (1950).

That co-star was Kamini Kaushal.

It was an intense, excruciatingly emotional — and hopeless — love from its very first pangs to its last dying embers, because Uma Sood (alias Kamini Kaushal — ed) was already committed to a marriage with her sister’s husband and there could be no ‘and-they-happily-ever-after’ end to this fairy tale.

According to Sitara Devi, Uma was the only woman Yusuf truly loved. He was a completely broken man when they parted.

Talking to Sushma Shelly (Super, July 1980), the late veteran film producer-director P.N. Arora recounted:

‘When Kamini Kaushal was working in my film Pugree (1948, later remade by Rajshri as Sunayna), she was also doing Shaheed with Dilip Kumar. She was already a married woman. Her husband, Mr Sood, was a senior officer in Bombay Port Trust, and had been allotted a beautiful bungalow behind the Docks. Such marriages were an accepted thing in those days, as it was believed, there could be no better stepmother than the mousi (maternal aunt) herself for the motherless children. Kamini Kaushal had earlier been working on the Delhi stage and had convinced her husband to let her join films.

‘Dilip Kumar visited her very often during the shooting of Pugree; but it was their personal affair and I didn’t think it my business to interfere. But one day, Kamini’s brother, a military man, strode on to the sets. He took out a pistol and threatened to shoot Kamini if she didn’t put a stop to her clandestine affair with Dilip Kumar.

‘It was then agreed that Kamini would be allowed to complete only the film on hand, and no more new films for her. No more acting. Kamini, who suspected me to have tattled to her people, was annoyed with me, though I don’t know from where she got that impression.

‘Anyway, since there was only about five to six days’ work left on Pugree, I didn’t have any problem. After that, we went our individual ways.’

***

THE Queen Bee of gossip columnists, Devyani Chaubal narrated the entire story best in her own inimitable style. It’s a long story but it is interesting and worth repeating here.

Listen...

‘.... So the curtain falls on the drama of the two begums (wives). It all began when I went to Agra, for the outdoor shooting of Gulshan Rai’s Vidhaata in September last year. Just one look at Dilip Kumar and I knew that Dilip Sahab was in perfect condition, every mood and muscle under control.

‘When he settled to sit at our press table instead of at Saira Banu’s side, I knew everything was right with Dilip, he was his witty pre-marriage self but everything was wrong with his marriage (with Saira).

‘Back in Bombay I kept on bumping into people who consciously revealed the threats of Dilip’s Marriage No.2. When my magazine would not accept my story, I tried to seduce Ayub Sayed, editor of Current into buying the story. After two nights and half a day, Ayub got seduced alright, but not sufficiently to buy the story or print it.

‘All the more since Dilip Kumar rang him early in the morning to say that my story was false and that Saira would commit suicide if it appeared, and not to print it,’ Devyani continued.

‘So, I was on my way to the Mid-Day office to try Busybee, because he is always ready for quick seduction. Imagine my surprise, when in a break in the traffic lights, the newspaper boy gave me a copy of Mid-Day which carried Dilip’s denial on the front page, complete with details like: "Some magazines (meaning us) are trying to increase their circulation by printing false stories."

‘I left for Delhi, en route to Ajmer. It was in Delhi that Idris Dehlvi, editor of Shama-Sushma and also my rakhi brother, pestered me for the marriage story. So I sold the story to Idris-bhai. Idris-bhai bought me gold earrings as part payment.’

‘After the story appeared he sent me a four-figure cheque,’ Devyani continued.’

***

AND how does Dilip Kumar himself recollect his feelings, emotions, and apprehensions in the gestatory, pre-production period of Devdas?

‘When I heard from Bimal-da that he was thinking of making his own version of the Sarat Chandra book, he told me that almost everyone associated with him strongly advised him not to do so. It was in Dada’s nature to ruminate deeply and then arrive at a decision.

‘So when he told me that he had decided to make Devdas, I know what he was going to say next. Yes! Even before he asked me — I knew! I knew it would be a challenge. It had been done before, and Bimal-da knew well enough how not to tread the already beaten path but to do full justice to Sarat Chandra, in a way that Sarat Chandra himself would have respected, if he were alive.

‘Normally, before the start of any assignment which I accept, I put in a lot of homework, a detailed study of the entire script and the character. In the case of Devdas, it was that much more difficult. I needed to see what Saigal Sahab had done so as to know what not to do. I wanted to be very close to Devdas as Sarat Chandra had visualised the character and moulded him within himself before putting pen to paper.

‘This also entailed long discussions with Bimal-da.’

(Excerpted from Dilip Kumar: The Star Legend of Indian Cinema by Bunny Reuben)

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