By Mujtaba Khan
13 June 2015
Heere ki qadar ek jauhri hi jaanta hai. The Modi Government deserves all the accolades for doing justice to India’s foremost thespian who was left in oblivion by the Congress regimes
If the media reports that the Narendra Modi Government is contemplating to bestow India’s highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, on Dilip Kumar are to be believed, then one has to agree with the popular Indian dictum “Heere ki qadar ek jauhri hi jaanta hai” (only a connoisseur knows the worth of a diamond) and Gujaratis are known for their connoisseurship in judging the real diamonds. It is a blissful vindication that the present Government is well aware of who and what is in the Indian society. The Modi Government deserves to be congratulated for this gesture.
It is a sad commentary that the several Congress regimes at the Centre failed to confer this long overdue recognition on the thespian. It is no secret that Dilip Kumar has carved a distinct niche for himself not only in the Indian Cine World but also acquired a prominent place in the pantheon of Urdu Literature and Oratory, besides the social service sector. An epitome of compassionate humanism, Dilip Kumar enjoys a special place in Indian society that even eminent scholars like Lord Meghnad Desai (incidentally a Gujarati) acknowledged in his famous book Nehru’s Hero: Dilip Kumar.
In Independent India, Dilip Kumar unswervingly worked for the preservation, consolidation and promotion of India’s characteristic traditions of cultural diversity, communal harmony, democratic values and social justice not only in his personal life but also in the films in which he worked. Although he was infamous as an extremely choosy artist of his roles, the thematic of the films and for frequently tampering into the film scripts, nevertheless, all this he did, in order to ensure that the films remain more akin to the fundamental values of Indian culture.
Despite bitter antipathy from the coterie of his hardened critics, Dilip Kumar saw to it, with the benign intervention of Prime Minister Nehru, that the death scene he enacted in his own production Ganga Jamuna could get through the censor board wherein he emulated Mahatma Gandhi uttering the last words “Hey Ram”. Who else could have played cymbals (Jhaal) so meticulously as Yusuf Khan (screen name Dilip Kumar) did in Gopi or worshiped Lord Shiva as a devout in Bairaag or who else could have performed the character of a Brahminical priest and deliver perfect Sanskrit Shlokas as Dilip Sahib did in Dharm Adhikari? His role in Shaheed particularly the last song reminiscences the last journey of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. Similarly the poem in Leader, Apni Aazadi ko Hum hargiz mita saktey nahin, and the song in Karma, Dil Diya Hai Jaan Bhi Deinge, aye watan terey liye or the famous lyric from Paigham, Insaan ka Insaan se ho Bhaichara stirs up the spirit and sentiments of nationalism and brotherhood even this day.
An equally pertinent aspect of his persona has been that right from the beginning Dilip Kumar maintained an image of high esteem and continued it even after retirement from Bollywood and unlike the present day super or mega stars, be it from Bollywood or Tollywood or Kollywood, Dilip Kumar always refrained from engaging in the commercial world of advertisements and thus remained completely insulated from the unpleasant controversies.
Dilip sahib, despite being admired as a darling across the board in Indian society and the subcontinent, had to face the wrath of a miniscule segment of zealots when the Government of Pakistan honoured him with their highest civilian award, Nishan-e-Pakistan. Thanks to the farsightedness and timely intervention of the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpai, the issue was smoothly resolved and Indo-Pak relations scaled renewed heights of cordiality.
Like many Indians, Yusuf Khan had a fascination for Jawaharlal Nehru and in turn Panditji also greatly admired Dilip sahib as documented by Lord Meghnad Desai in the very title of his book. It is a pity that despite strong associations with the first Prime Minister of India; his camaraderie with General Shahnawaz Khan (an associate of Subhash Chandra Bose) and his pro-active role in the electoral campaigns of General sahib and many other tall stalwarts of the Congress Party coupled with his own track record of exemplary performances and social services, Dilip Kumar had to wait for over fifty long years to qualify for the Dada Saheb Phalke award, or to enter the Rajya
Sabha while many of his junior co-stars with mediocre credentials could make into the parliament.
Intriguingly enough, the Congress in its new avatar as the vanguard in UPA-II, besides committing political blunders such as thoughtlessly dividing the state of Andhra Pradesh or making a mess of the Indian education system also made a mockery of the prestigious National awards by conferring them on several undeserving characters on considerations only known to the party leadership and thus in the process lowered the sanctity and prestige of the awards! The fact that, several distinguished awardees declined to accept the awards bear ample testimony to their anger over the choice and selection process of the Congress Government.
The Narendra Modi Government has done a commendable job in conferring Dilip Kumar with Padma Vibhushan in 2014 though many felt that Dilip sahib deserved much more and now the reported loud thinking in the echelons of power to consider for India’s highest honour for Dilip Kumar will not only restore the prestige of the award but also send a signal that the Narendra Modi regime is in no mood to compromise with merit in conferring the National Honours.
(Mujtaba Khan is Director, UGC-Human Resource Development Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia)