December is proving to be a month of nostalgia.
First Dev Anand’s passing away brought back several memories of what he meant to us when we were young and triggered a search for my old scrap books, clippings and photographs.
Rummaging through an old steel trunk, I discovered a virtual treasure trove—a bunch of old science lab journals-turned neatly- maintained- scrap-books, a task Neha undertook after we got married in 1988.
The scrap books contain pieces of my early writings: a seemingly immature critique of the Indian cricket fan for elevating the members of the 1983 World Cup winning Indian cricket team to a demi-God status; interviews with Asha Parekh and Soli Sorabjee in the same week and my close encounter with Atal Behari Vajpayee a month after the BJP was reduced to a two-member Party in the Lok Sabha. The writings reflect my inexperience but they also demonstrate the opportunities one got at a very early stage in the profession.
In The Sentinel, the newspaper that made me a journalist, we were encouraged to write on whatever we wished. The incentive was the extra payment one got: One rupee for a column centimeter of writing. So we often wrote upto 100 cm to earn hundred rupees for an article. And in those days when your salary was all of 736 rupees, an extra hundred bucks was always welcome. So one wrote on cinema and cricket; did movie and book reviews.
Flipping through one of the many scrap books this Sunday I came across a piece—a reappraisal of the inimitable Dilip Kumar after Mashaal was released–I wrote Twenty-five years ago, when I was barely 24.
It was my humble attempt to encapsulate the thespian’s celluloid life.
|Dilip Kumar as I saw him in 1986!!|
In 1985-86, Dilip Kumar had made a comeback of sorts: Majdoor, Vidhataa, Mashaal, Shakti, a flood of movies had pitted him against the up and coming Anil Kapoor, the reigning superstar like Amitabh Bachchan and the emerging Raj Babbar.
I was never a big fan of Dilip Kumar; For me, his early movies were too morbid, too pessimistic. Some movies of his I did like: Ganga Jamuna, Ram aur Shyam, Azad, Di Diya Dard Liya. Raj Kapoor, I considered a buffoon.
But my favourite stars remained Dev Anand and Shammi Kapoor for their never-say-die spirit and the carefree attitude they exuded, something perhaps all of us in our Twenties want to be.
And yet in the mid-1980s when Dilip Kumar not only held his own but at times overshadowed the actors of my generation, I found looking at his craft more objectively.
Today 25 years after having written that piece, I am willing to admit that I did not realize the importance of Dilip Kumar to Indian cinema then.
His influence over a posse of actors from Manoj Kumar and Rajendra Kumar and from Amitabh Bachchan to Shah Rukh Khan is now an acknowledged fact.
Some of his songs (Aaj ki Raat mere Dil ki, Dilruba Mein Tere, Tere husn ki kya tarrif karoon to name just three) are now in my favourites list.
Today as the world pays birthday tributes to the Prince Salim of Indian actors, I have belatedly realised that he is right up there among the biggest star-actors of Indian cinema.