Dilip Kumar: The Substance and The Shadow – An Autobiography – as narrated to Udayatara Nayar

Hardback | 230 x 150 | 450pages | ISBN 9789381398869

Publishers: Hay House India


We have read the first  two of the four parts – The Seeds of a Flight of a Fruit Merchant’s Son, Yousuf Khan, The Substance, To The Legendary Thespian Dilip Kumar, The Shadow  and First and Second Innings at the Hindi Film Cinema – on  5 February and 19 February 2015, respectively.  We carry on to the third part….


Marriage and Life with Saira Banu

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Dilip Kumar has devoted five chapters of the book to passionately narrate his marriage and life with her wife, Saira Banu. The chapters The Woman In My Life, The Big Day, Celebrations Galore, Taking Care Of Saira, The Husband And Wife Team respectively present his intimate narration of his proposal to marriage, festive atmosphere, the marriage ceremony, life with Saira Banu and his four-film stint with her.

Naseem Banu, Saira’s mother, would always be invited by Dilip Kumar’s sister Akhtar. On one such evening, Saira, who was on a visit to India during her school days, had accompanied her mother to Khan Residence. Apparently, Saira had seen Aan and brewing a storm of liking Dilip Kumar. Possibly as result, she took upon to learn pristine Urdu and Persian. In this initial phase Dilip Kumar did not give “any importance” to this crush.

When discussions for casting for Dil Diya Dard Liya (eventually released in 1966) was on, Dilip Kumar dodged the idea of her working with him because he was ‘so much older’ to her. After her maiden venture Junglee (1961), in due course of her career, she was paired to all successful leading men of the time – Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Sunil Dutt, Shammi Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar, Joy Mukherjee, Manoj Kumar. Since she was still not paired with Dilip Kumar, there was huge demand for such a film. One such project was Mehboob Khan’s Habba Khatoon. Dilip Kumar ultimately withdrew from Habba Khatoom as he could not foresee himself doing Yousuf Chak’s (Habba Khatoon’s husband) character, which had some slants of negativity. He did have a special subject in his mind where pairing would be ideal and perfect. However, as the wait went to become rather lengthy, Saira did get ‘very annoyed’ with Dilip Kumar. ‘The polite, gracious and well-bred young lady was turning into an angry tigress..’

She was also suggested for a role in Ram Aur Shyam, against the character of timid among the two twin brothers. Dilip Kuamr had voiced his opinion to the producer of ram Aur Shyam that she was too delicate and innocent in appearance for a character that had to have loads of seductive appeal and a bold, buxom appearance. The role ultimately went in favour of Mumtaz.

imageIt was when Ram Aur Shyam was progressing hectically, that Dilip Kumar received an invitation form Naseem Banu, Saira’s mother, to join in the celebrations of Saira’s birthday. When he entered the beautiful garden of the Naseem Banu’s house, his eyes fell on a ‘breathtakingly beautiful’ looking Saira Banu. He was taken aback; because she no longer looked the young girl he had consciously avoided to be his heroine. She had indeed grown to full womanhood and was more beautiful in reality. He simply stepped forward and shook her hand, and time stood still. It did not take an instant for Dilip Kumar to realize that “she was the one Destiny had been knowingly reserving as his real-life partner while he refused to pair with her on screen. He found her to be intrinsically very Indian and rooted to her native culture.

During the filming of Azaad, Dilip Kumar happened to meet an astrologer. He predicted that ‘Dilip Kumar would marry in his forties; his bride would be half his age, as fair and beautiful as moon, would be from same profession. Soon after the marriage, she would take blow of his ‘karmas’ with a prolonged and near-fatal illness to absolve me, and that she would go through it ungrudgingly.’ The first part of the prediction had rang true, would then second part also come home?

To cut the long story short, Dilip Kumar formally proposed to Saira Banu. Obviously, the news spread like wild fire thereafter.

imageThey were married on 11 October, 1966. Having remained a confirmed, eligible bachelor for so long, did Dilip Kumar have any trepidation or any qualms as he walked into the married life? Dilip Kumar states No quite firmly. Instead, what he felt was a serene calm and tranquillity, as though having reached a safe Heaven of Peace, for he now had the person who would share his life and would be his very own.

The marriage was a surprise to all those who knew him. Naushad was the only one who had forthrightly asked if he wasn’t making a mistake. However, Dilip Kumar was firm in his conviction that he had considered the step with serious introspection. The nikah was beautiful – all his loved and dear ones (including Raj Kapoor who had made good his wow to walk in to the house on his knees without a moment’s hesitation) chipping in the mood of boisterous joy.

During their honeymoon at Bhutan Saira Banu had taken suddenly ill – being asphyxiated by the carbon monoxide in a small cabin of a log-house. Were that astrologer’s predictions going to ring true?

In the initial period of their marriage, the domestic life of the family was quite tough on Saira Banu. The stress had begun to tell on her health and she was taken quite ill with ulcerative colitis. She was taken to ‘one of the largest hospitals of UK’ and was put ‘under the the expert supervision of world-famous gastroenterologist…’. Saira recovered almost miraculously, and after a moth’s rest at the clinic resumed her shooting for Purab Aur Paschim (1970). Manoj Kumar had, admirably, waited for full recovery of Saira Banu. Years later, Dilip Kumar had “agreed to work in Kranti (1981)….to pay back (this) debt”.

On their return to India, they shifted to Saira Banu’s own bungalow at Pali Hill because ‘she needed special caretaking and also a specific diet. Soon, thereafter, “Saira adapted to (his) lifestyle and (his) pace.” ‘A marriage that is for keeps, even with all the good intentions of the couple, is not easy to sustain for either partner.’ They had their shares of ups and downs, but apart from (their) outwardly contrasting personalities, they shared the joy of living (together). The glamorous girl who took an hour for putting on her makeup, suddenly, changed totally. What Dilip Kumar has got to love and appreciate about Saira Banu down the years is her innate simplicity and softness of heart.

As The Husband-Wife Team, Dilip Kumar ‘began to discover the capacity (his) wife had for hard work and the pursuit of flawless work. She was receptive to sound advice and was quick to absorb the guidance (he) gave her in the scenes (they) came together. She co-starred with him in four films – Gopi (1970), Sagina (1970 in Bengali as Sagina Mahato and 1974 in Hindi), Bairag (1976) and Duniya (1984) – and (he) saw her tenacity and determination to get the nuances and emotional curves of the performances right.


The concluding part on  19 March, 2015…………….