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Living With A Legend

Saira Banu reveals why her husband—superstar Dilip Kumar, who turns 90 on December 11—is her greatest love and their long-time marriage is a dream come true

On marrying her dream man Everyday, I thank the Almighty that I ended up marrying the man I was attracted to since I was 12. Like millions of girls my age back then, I was smitten by Dilip Kumar, India’s greatest superstar. I remember seeing him at a social event at director Mehboob Khan’s house for the first time—it was a thrilling moment. After all these years, I am still head over heels in love with Yousuf sahab.

On her husband’s acting legact He was a star who was extremely picky about his work. If sahab liked a story and was convinced that the producer and director were capable of delivering a good film, he chose to do it irrespective of remuneration and other factors. He once told me about a producer, who offered him a suitcase stacked with cash in exchange for doing a role that was absurd and which required him to ride a buffalo! He refused to do it. It is a well-known fact that Yousuf sahab never behaves like a superstar, whether he is at work or home. He is always unassuming and undemanding, putting the comfort of those around him first.

On the devdas vs pyaasa debate One of the questions people ask all the time is about why Sahab refused Guru Dutt’s 1957 classic Pyaasa. Well, if you study his films seriously you will see that he doesn’t like to repeat himself as an actor. They all dealt with varied subjects. When Pyaasa was offered to him, he was already making Bimal Roy’s Devdas (1955). As he stated in interviews before this, he thought it would be bad business sense to do two films, where he portrayed similar characters.

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On his social conscience and chemistry with other actresses Yousuf sahab’s films (like Gunga Jamuna and Naya Daur) often focussed on important issues because he believed
that an actor had a social responsibility to fulfil. He thought that he should be careful in selecting projects that had a social purpose, but at the same time possessed all the qualities that would draw audiences to the cinema. As far as his onscreen pairings go, I am a great fan of his films with Vyjayanthimala and I have always maintained that they had a magic that was unbeatable.

On Dilip Kumar, outside the movies He has always been a great conversationalist because of his extensive reading. He can speak on any topic and has a wonderful sense of humour. Yousuf sahab is also a people person. Even today when we go to weddings, people come up to him and chat. He still goes for a daily walk at Joggers Park in Bandra, where he is stopped every now and then by fans for a handshake. He is fond of food and particularly partial to egg bhurjis, chicken sandwiches and chaat. He used to be an avid traveller. Together, we have travelled to some of the most celebrated wildlife sanctuaries around India. He taught me how to enjoy the sort of silence, interrupted only by the roar of a lion or the shrill cry of a wild bird.

A few of his favourite things He likes his tea service to be elegant and perfect. He loves to read any kind of gripping fiction, listen to classical music and share Urdu poetry with like-minded, close friends. At one point in his life, he really enjoyed flying kites. He has a trunk full of kites, which he had collected from all over the country. He loves to watch sports, go for sunset drives and talk to all his sisters and brothers. In the movies, his favourite performers are James Stewart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Muni.

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PEOPLE: Dilip Kumar
TAGS: MoviesCelebsBollywood
OUTLOOK: 17 December, 2012
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