Various leading ladies figured prominently in Dilip Kumar's life and times. Yet such was the magnetism Dilip Kumar brought to screen acting that Kamini Kaushal, Nimmi, Madhubala, Meena Kumari and Vyjayanthimala looked like mere 'conquests' in a career studded with achievement.
Reflect upon how Madhubala starred with Dilip Kumar in Mehboob's Amar (1954), and K Asif's Mughal-e-Azam (1960). In both these films, Dilip held on to his mantle without a single song's going on his lips.
In Gunga Jumna, so fondly made by him, Dilip even handpicked the shade of sari that Vyjayanthimala would wear in every scene, only to lose her to Raj Kapoor with Sangam.
In Sangam itself, Raj offered Dilip the choice of either his or Rajendra Kumar's role. Just as Guru Dutt had waited in vain for Dilip Kumar to play Pyaasa, Raj had to wait as well because Dilip just wouldn't bite in Sangam. Shrewdly, Dilip reasoned that, even if he got to essay the younger hero's role (ultimately done by Rajendra Kumar), the man in control, behind the camera, would be Raj Kapoor himself, as director, to determine the placement of Radhu Karmakar's camera!
Rajendra Kumar himself, alongside Sangam, rose to his box-office zenith, in 1964, with Ayee Milan Ki Bela opposite Saira Banu. This led to a sizzling affair between Saira and the 'Jubilee' Kumar.
That was when Saira's mother, Naseem, took matters in hand to call a firm halt to her daughter's dalliance with a married man. Swiftly, Naseem arranged Saira's nikaah with the older Dilip Kumar -- who startled us by noting that Saira had the makings of a very good actress on the evidence of their 1970 Gopi teaming.
Did Dilip Kumar then ever meet his acting match? He did, briefly, in Raaj Kumar, if you remember Gemini's Paigham. In the same Gemini's Insaniyat four years earlier, Bharat Bhushan (after accepting) had cried away from playing opposite Dilip Kumar -- to be replaced by Dev Anand. Only for Dilip to just outclass Dev in Insaniyat.
Dev privately argued that Dilip had got the Insaniyat script slanted in his favour. Yet, it is well known that Dilip took on his roles only after a thorough study of the script.
Indeed, Dilip had even developed the calibre to go beyond the script, as we saw in H S Rawail's Sunghursh. But gone, by 1968, was the mesmeric presence that had made Dilip Kumar such a captive draw, opposite Vyjayanthimala, in Bimal Roy's Madhumati (1958).
In S Mukerji's 1964 Leader itself, opposite a by-then-recalcitrant Vyjayanthimala, Dilip Kumar no longer looked the matinee-idol part. Yet he remained the mood player nonpareil, opposite Waheeda Rehman, in Dil Diya Dard Liya. But Saira did not look too pleased when Waheeda praised Dilipsaab skyhigh, in her presence, during a television programme featuring the three.
Yet it was as Dilip Kumar rose to his full acting stature -- in the late 1960s -- that his one-time audience deserted him. Dilip Kumar did show his pace, as a very special character actor, opposite Waheeda Rehman in Yash Chopra's Mashaal. Even before that, opposite Rakhee, he had excelled in Ramesh Sippy's Shakti (1982), thereby proving he had conserved his performing skills into the era of Amitabh Bachchan and Anil Kapoor. Dilip Kumar even proceeded to settle the Raaj Kumar Paigham score with his cute showing in Subhash Ghai's Saudagar.
Dilip's ambition to direct a film remained unfulfilled. His biography, similarly, is still on the way. There was even a spell when it was suggested that his acting style had dated. An audience growing progressively younger failed to tune with his maturely measured approach to high histrionics.
In the picture: Dilip Kumar in Mughal-E-Azam
Also Read: Showcasing Mughal-E-Azam