Dilip Kumar’s ancestral home, where he was born and spent his early days, recently made it to the news, for the Pakistani Government wished to buy it and turn it into a museum, along with Raj Kapoor’s ancestral property.
The house, located in the Qissa Khawani Bazaar of Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, is more than 100 years old, and has been declared a national heritage of Pakistan. Raj Kapoor was not only Dilip Kumar’s contemporary. Their association goes back to living in neigbouring “havelis”, being schoolmates and studying in the same college (Khalsa College). And, evidently, it was Raj Kapoor who first told Dilip that he could be a star.
When Dilip’s father, Lala Ghulam Sarwar Khan, came to know of his career switch from fruit trader to film actor, Raj, as a true friend, came to his rescue and made his father, Prithviraj Kapoor, reason with him.
The only Indian actor to receive Pakistan’s highest civilian award, Nishan-e-Imtiaz in 1998, Dilip Kumar was later pressurised to return the honour during the 1999 Kargil war by then coalition government of Shiv Sena in Maharashtra.
He had thought that the protests outside his house would die down soon, but when they didn’t, he met then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who intervened.
“There’s no doubt about Dilip’s patriotism and commitment to the nation. He has proved that time and again during his film career. He has received the award at an individual level. It’s his will to keep it or return it. No one can pressurise him,” Vajpayee had said.
It was revealed later that in a letter that Dilip Kumar wrote to arrange a meeting with Vajpayee, he mentioned that if returning the award was in the best interests of the nation, he would gladly do so.
Former Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri described Dilip as the “one who could bring India and Pakistan together” in his book titled “Neither a Hawk nor a Dove”.
Dilip’s picture greeting Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the independence activist, advocate of Hindu-Muslim unity, who was against partition, on his visit to India at Meenambakkam Airport, Chennai, bears witness of him being the figure of peace throughout his life.
The First Khan
Referred as “The First Khan”, Dilip Kumar has been credited for bringing the method acting technique to Indian cinema This pathan from Peshawar, who started as a fruit trader, was fluent in Pashto, Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Marathi, Bengali and English It was his proficiency in Urdu that got him a job in Bombay Talkies (owned by the legendary Devika Rani) in 1942, as a script writer