Bollywood Tragedy King Dilip Kumar dies aged 98

Bollywood Tragedy King Dilip Kumar Dies Aged 98
Bollywood actor Dilip Kumar received a Lifetime Achievement award, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Ashok Sharma, Associated Press

Bollywood icon Dilip Kumar, hailed as the Tragedy King and one of Hindi cinema’s greatest actors, has died aged 98.

The Tragedy King title came from Kumar’s numerous serious roles and, in several, his character died as a frustrated lover and a drunkard.


He also was known as Bollywood’s only method actor for his expressive performances identifying a character’s emotions.

Kumar was admitted to hospital twice last month after he complained of breathlessness, and his family tweeted “with a heavy heart and profound grief” the announcement of his passing.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences to Kumar’s family and admirers in a tweet.


He added: “Dilip Kumar will be remembered as a cinematic legend. He was blessed with unparalleled brilliance, due to which audiences across generations were enthralled. His passing away is a loss to our cultural world.”

Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan tweeted: “An institution has gone. Whenever the history of Indian Cinema will be written, it shall always be ‘before Dilip Kumar, and after Dilip Kumar’.”

“It’s the end of an era,” filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar said.

He was born Muhammad Yusuf Khan, a Muslim, on December 11, 1922. His Pathan family hailed from Peshawar, in what became Pakistan after partition, and he visited his ancestral home in the late 1980s.


Saira Banu, wife of Indian actor Dilip Kumar, mourns near his body at a hospital in Mumbai, India
Saira Banu, wife of Indian actor Dilip Kumar, mourns near his body at a hospital in Mumbai, India (Rafiq Maqbool/AP)

He changed his name as he debuted in Bollywood, the Hindi-language film industry centred in Mumbai, with Jwar Bhata, or Sea Tides, in 1944.

His career spanned over six decades with over 60 films. His first major box-office hits were Jugnu, or Firefly, in 1947 in which he starred alongside Noor Jehan, and the 1948 film Shaheed, or Martyr.


Indian media reports say he declined the role of Sherif Ali in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia in 1962, the role eventually going to Egyptian actor Omar Sharif.

In 1966, Kumar married Saira Banu, who was 22 years younger than him, and the couple acted in Gopi, Sagina Mahato and Bairaag.

In 1994, he was given the Dadasaheb Phalke award, the highest honour for contributions to Indian cinema, and he also served in the upper house of Indian Parliament after being nominated for a six-year term.

Kumar was hugely popular among cinema lovers in Pakistan as well.

Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan said he was saddened to learn of Kumar’s death. “For my generation, Dilip Kumar was the greatest and most versatile actor,” he tweeted.

Mr Khan also recalled Kumar’s generosity in helping to raise funds in Pakistan and London for a trust to set up cancer hospitals in his mother’s memory.

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