They called him the Tragedy King.
Dilip Kumar was known to throw himself into serious roles, but the result was always humbler and more complicated than his surname. Born Mohammad Yusuf Khan, he died on wednesday on 98. The last of a golden trio of Bollywood Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor, Kumar was among the key figures who helped shape the cinematic image of post-independence India. During a career spanning six decades, he starred in some of the most beloved and successful Indian films of all time, including the largely black-and-white historical epic “Mughal-e-Azam” (1960), known for its Technicolor dance moves. is most remembered for. sequence”what to fear when in love(“Why be afraid when you’re in love?”).
In the 1950s and 60s, his work struck such an enduring chord that it set the blueprint for all the genres that defined Hindi cinema. The “dual role”, for example, is a commonly employed device in which an actor plays multiple roles, either in lost twins or reincarnation stories; So sure were Kumar’s films that he had a hand in popularizing both versions of the concept. They also played twin brothers in their last film, “Qila” (1998).
Three of Kumar’s most famous works are available to stream in the United States. The advantage of watching them is that they contain not three or four, but five of their greatest performances, each of which is more dynamic and subtle than the last.
Although it was not the first Hindi film to have the theme of reincarnation, “Madhumati” cemented the now famous “Reincarnation Badla” saga, which eventually led to “Karz” (1980), “Karan Arjun” (1995) and “Om Shanti Om”. (2007). Directed by Bimal Roy and written by Rithvik Ghatak, “Madhumati” follows Devinder (Kumar), a world-weary engineer, who takes refuge in an old mansion during a storm. The walls and paintings of the mansion seem inexplicably familiar to him. Before long, he begins to recall memories of a life that was not his own, in which a young artist and estate manager, Anand (also Kumar), falls in love with a local tribal woman, Madhumati (Vyjayanthimala). , before both of them arrived. He is murdered by Anand’s jealous employer, Raja Ugra Narayan (Pran).
Devinder’s attempt to extract a confession from the still-living Narayan would inspire wider plots of many imitators, but in “Madhumati” this revenge plan is turned into the final act. Much of the film is luxuriant in the star-crossed romance of Anand and Madhumati, set against the serene hills of Nainital. As Anand, Kumar has an infinite grace and simplicity; He is subtly mischievous in Madhumati’s presence, and is clearly distracted by an untold romantic high whenever they are separated. However, as Devinder, Kumar transforms déj vu – a fleeting sensation – into an ever-present emotional fabric, as he begins to miss and be reckoned with an impossible kind of grief, Although he cannot yet fathom its origin.
‘Ram Aur Shyam’ (1967)
Like “Madhumati”, Taapsee Chanakya’s prince and pauper twin comedy will spawn a horde of imitators, who even cast lead stars to play opposite themselves. The blockbuster success of “Ram Aur Shyam” is largely due to its playing as a one-man variety act. Kumar portrays twins separated at birth in a story who play hopscotch in boxes of tone and style (a “masala movie”). Kumar plays Ram, a timid, soft-spoken man who grew up in a wealthy family, and his long-lost twin brother, Shyam, a rooster villager whose magnetic aura lends itself to the action hero, both plays the role of.
As Ram, Kumar hides in the corner of every frame, especially in the presence of his violent brother-in-law Gajendra (Pran). He pounces through posture, often lowering himself to the height of his 8-year-old niece, while his hands tremble and hover near her chest. In contrast, Kumar practically covers the screen as Shyam, standing tall even while leaning against walls and pillars. Kumar was known for his immersive legal approach, but “Ram Aur Shyam” proves that no matter how inward he was, he was always aware of the camera’s gaze and his relationship with her.
Kumar plays only a part in “Devdas”, but the spiritual struggle of the title character makes it feel as though there are two entities at war. The film is based on Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s 1917 novel of the same name, of which there have been 20 screen adaptations. The title role is a calling card akin to Hamlet, and a chance for the actors to spiral into the abyss of drunken grief. Many great actors interrupt it along the way (see Shah Rukh Khan in the 2002 foreign version), but Kumar’s role in Bimal Roy’s adaptation is a painfully realistic portrait of a man wrestling with the worst parts of his nature. is.
When Devdas is reunited with his childhood sweetheart Paro (suchitra Sen), we hear Kumar’s soft voice whispers from offscreen. His eyes are thrilled and captivated when he finally emerges from the shadows, one of the most impressive gateways into Indian cinema. It’s hard not to fall in love with Devdas – which makes it all the more painful when his demons and insecurities make him violently abrasive. Caught between his love for Paro, the prostitute Chandramukhi (Vyjayanthimala) and the bottom of his glass, he is consumed by his mistakes. The more he drinks, the more ill he becomes, and Kumar’s masterstroke is the way he turns a physical illness into an emotional one, mixing his anguish and self-loathing together until all that is left is He is an inevitable haze of regret. Some performances feel like they run the whole gamut of human emotions. When Devdas drinks for the first time, Kumar runs that gamut in a single scene.