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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Beyond borders that divide, Pakistan mourns a son, an actor, a legend, & his ‘Dadi’s Yusfi’

Old timers recall how streets in Lahore went empty as people tuned in their TVs to watch Mughal-e- Azam — 16 years after it was released and was telecast on DD Amritsar

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana |
Updated: July 8, 2021 11:11:17 am
Locals holding prayers for Dilip Kumar at his ancestral house in Peshawar of Pakistan. (Express Photo: sourced)

Darwaaze ke baahar main Dilip Kumar tha, aur andar jaate hi Yusuf ban gaya. Mujhe laga jaise meri daadi ne aawaz di aur bola ‘Yusfi tum aa gaye’… (“I was Dilip Kumar till I stood outside that door, I became Yusuf as soon as I entered inside. It felt like my grandma called me and said ‘Yusfi, you have come..”)

Shakil Wahidullah Khan (54), a resident of Peshawar of Pakistan, remembers these words of legendary actor Dilip Kumar whom he met in 2011 in Mumbai and spoke in length about the actor’s first visit (after Partition) to his ancestral place in Peshawar in 1988. The actor visited Peshawar again ten years later, in 1998. Dilip’s family had moved from Peshawar way back in 1930.

“Dilip saab said that he was ‘Dilip Kumar’ till he was standing at the door of his house. But as soon as he entered inside, he became Yusuf again. He said he remembered his daadi (grandmother) in whose lap he would put his head and sleep. He said he felt like she was calling out to him and saying ‘Yusfi tum aa gaye’. He felt his parents and grandparents were sitting there waiting for him to return back home,” Khan says, remembering the actor’s words.

On Wednesday, when India was bidding farewell to its legendary actor Dilip Kumar (98) at Mumbai, some poignant ‘duas’ (prayers) in his remembrance were also being recited parallelly near his ancestral haveli in Mohalla Khudadad in Qissa Khwani Bazaar of Peshwar in Pakistan. Peshawar’s locals held namaaz-e-janaza (final prayers) at the actor’s ancestral haveli as his burial was taking place in Mumbai.

Dilip Kumar during his visit to Peshawar in 1988.

And that’s how Dilip Kumar became ‘the one and the only’ even in his death, with people from both countries — Pakistan (where he was born as Mohammed Yusuf Khan in 1922) and India (where he spent his entire life) — coming together to hold final prayers for the legendary actor while transcending borders.

He was honored with ‘Nishan-e-Imtiaz’ by the Pakistan government in 1998.

Shakil Wahidullah Khan, secretary, Cultural Heritage Council based in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the organization which organized the namaaz prayers for the actor on Wednesday, said that prayers in Peshawar were held at 4.30PM to match with India’s timing of 5PM (IST), when the actor’s burial was to take place in Mumbai.

“Nearly 250 people, including locals from that colony, businessmen, lawyers, and well-wishers who loved Dilip saab’s films or knew him in any way, gathered today and prayed for his soul’s peace. For us, he belonged to India and Pakistan both,” said Khan. “Our condolences are with his family, the Indian film fraternity, and the people of India. Though he was born in Peshawar, his entire career, which made him popular, was shaped in India. More than Yusuf, people in Pakistan too know him as Dilip Kumar because of the timeless classics that he had delivered,” he said.

The government of Pakistan had announced that the ancestral house of the actor would be converted into a heritage museum. The project, however, is yet to take off because the property’s current owner has moved court claiming that the government has assessed the property’s value at way less than its actual worth. “The matter is in court but the government has taken possession of the property,” says Khan.

Dilip Kumar’s ancestral house in Peshawar.

People of Lahore in Pakistan remembered how the roads of their city were deserted when Doordarshan had telecast ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ in 1976 for the first time on TV more than four decades ago.

“The signals from DD Amritsar were easily accessible on TV sets in Lahore and even as Mughal-e-Azam was released in 1960 in India, people in Pakistan could not watch it because Indian films were banned in Pakistan. So it was only after more than 15 years of its release, that Mughal-e-Azam was first telecast on Doordarshan and the entire city of Lahore went crazy. Everyone was inside their home watching it, such was the craze for Salim and Anarkali. We watched Mughal-e-Azam nearly 20 years after its release on DD. Uss din Lahore ki sadkein veeran ho gayi thi (Lahore’s streets were deserted that day),” says Saeed Ahmed (70) from Lahore, author of the book ‘Dilip Kumar- Ahadnama-e-Mohabbat’, in which he has critically analysed his films.

Dilip Kumar wearing Peshawari attire.

“Aan, Mela, Shaheed, Daag — each of his films was a story in themselves. I gave him a script of my book in 1997 when he came to Islamabad and he wrote back to me about it later. India’s greatest film maker Satyajit Ray had said that Dilip Kumar was the ultimate method actor, which means he lived his roles. He had learned how to play the ‘sitar’ for his film ‘Kohinoor’ so that he could justify his role,” says Ahmed.

Apart from films, what Ahmed remembers fondly is how the actor would introduce and treat his domestic helps to the guests. “He would never call them maids/domestic helps when they brought out tea. He would say this woman helps my wife in our house chores. He respected everyone who worked hard and earned,” says Ahmed.

“Dilip used to say that the Indian and Pakistani governments should allow their people to meet.. visa restrictions should go. Only then hate would perish and love would bloom. He wanted more interactions between people from both countries,” says Ahmed.

Ihsan H Nadeim, the chief editor of ‘Punjab Dey Rang’ in Lahore, remembers that it was like a festival the day ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ was aired on Doordarshan in India. “It was like a festival that day. Guests from as far as Gujranwala, Sahiwal, and Gujarat in Pakistan had traveled to Lahore to watch the film. Word had spread like wildfire that Mughal-e-Azam was going to be screened on DD and everyone got busy arranging their antennas to catch the signals from Amritsar. People even bought new TV sets and traveled from Karachi to watch the film. Entire Lahore was inside their homes that day to see Dilip Kumar,” remembers Nadeim.

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