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When Raj Kapoor never forgave Ashok Kumar for outshining him at his wedding: ‘Krishnaji lifted her veil and gasped’

On Ashok Kumar's birth anniversary today, we recall anecdotes related to Dadamoni who starred in some of the most iconic Hindi films.

ashok kumarIt is Ashok Kumar's birth anniversary today. (Photo: Express Archive)

For a generation of filmgoers, Ashok Kumar is something of a faraway myth, a legend, too distant to comprehend. For millenials, he is perhaps the brother of the phenomenal singer Kishore Kumar, and is even related to Kiara Advani. However, he was much more than that, an icon and an iridescent star of the post-Independence India who had a long and storied career in films.

Born as Kumudlal Ganguly, he was the elder brother to Kishore Kumar and later became a force to reckon with in the film industry. He began his career as an actor in 1936 with Jeevan Naiya, he won hearts as a lead actor, antagonist and later character roles too. He starred in some of the most iconic Hindi films ever including Achut Kanya (1936), Bandhan (1939), Kismet (1943), Mahal (1949), Parineeta (1953), Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958), Howrah Bridge (1958), Bandini (1963) Mamta (1966), Jewel Thief (1967), Chhoti Si Baat (1975), Mili (1975) and Khoobsurat (1980). As hero, he romanced the top leading ladies of the era – from Devika Rani to Meena Kumari, Madhubala to Nutan.

Just like his brother, there are many anecdotes associated with Ashok Kumar, be it from his ‘happily married life’, or upstaging Raj Kapoor at his wedding with Krishna Malhotra — something he was allegedly never forgiven for. His elder daughter Bharti Jaffery had told Quint, “Papa was there, of course. And when he went up to congratulate the couple, the bride, Krishnaji, lifted up her ghunghat to gasp, ‘Oh it’s Ashok Kumar. I’m so happy!’ Raj Kapoor never forgave him for upstaging him at his own wedding.”

Ashok Kumar married Shobha Devi and they had four children — Bharti, Rupa, Preeti and Aroop. In an old 90’s interview, Ashok Kumar recalled how his marriage happened suddenly. “It happened suddenly. When I entered the film industry, marriage proposals stopped coming because the boy was in films. So one day, I got a telegram from my father to come immediately to Khandwa.” However, on the train, he was told that they were going to Calcutta, which perplexed him. And then he was told that he was going to get married. So he was taken to see Shobha and he agreed to marry her then and there.

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He also revealed the secret to keeping his wife happy. “I used to come home early. When I became a hero and producer Himanshu Rai told me that girls would be after me. I said ‘Isn’t that a good thing?’ He said, ‘No that’s not a good thing. You keep the home and hearth burning. You go home by 6:30.’ We promised (haath milao). So I would go home by 6:30, and my wife was very happy.”

Ashok Kumar remembered how he had planned a party for his wife for their fiftieth wedding anniversary. However, she fell ill a few days before and died two days before the golden jubilee. “It was going to be fiftieth. I had planned a party, that hundred people will come. Four days before, she fell ill. She tried hard to fight death, told everyone that she will attend the party and die.”

Ashok Kumar, fondly called Dadamoni, passed away in 2001 at the age of 90, after outliving his brothers.

First published on: 13-10-2021 at 12:02 IST
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