Sunday, April 5, 2009

When Dilip Kumar Refused the Role in Sohrab Modi's Remake of Pukar - 1.

                                                               Dilip Kumar turns 86.


A news item in “Mumbai Mirror” of April 1, 2009 took me down the memory lane. The article mentioned that Muzaffar Ali, who had made the Rekha starrer, “Umrao Jaan”, in 1981 was now casting for another historical, “Noor Jahan Jahangir”. G.P. Sippy, too, had made a forgettable movie sometimes in mid-Fifties, entitled ADL-E-JAHANGIR, starring Pradeep Kumar and Meena Kumar in the lead roles.

Now, how many know that the role of Jahangir was refused by Dilip Kumar when veteran Sohrab Modi came to discuss the roles for the remake of his 1939 classic PUKAR? Not many, I’m sure. There’s no discussion about it in print either in the press or the internet as far as I know. But before elaborating our main story, let’s first discuss briefly, what is generally known about the roles refused by Dilip Kumar or about his movies that never saw the light of the day!

Yes, it is common knowledge that the Original On-Screen Legend of the Indian Film Industry, Dilip Kumar, had refused the main role in the blockbuster movies such as PYAASA (1957), MOTHER INDIA (1957), and SANGAM (1964). It is also known that much earlier in the Fifties, his films JANWAR with Suraiya , and SHIKWA with Nutan, did not take off. In fact, Sajjad Hussein had even composed some songs with Talat Mehmood for SHIKWA. Some scenes of this 1954 movie can be seen in FILM HI FILM which was a very interesting commentary on the Hindi movies and the movie buffs. In JANWAR, it was Suraiya who opted out on the ground that “Yusuf continued to act even after the Director said, ‘Cut’!” NAYA DIN NAYI RAAT was initially offered to him but he just settled for a commentary in that movie, with Sanjeev Kumar playing the nine roles in the film. It also appears that Dilip Kumar was the first choice for the award-winning role of Anari (1958) but at his instance, Hrishikesh Mukherjee passed on the script to Raj Kapoor who, as the former felt, would be the right person to do such a role. As for the role of Vijay in PYAASA, Dilip Kumar refused it on the ground that it was just an extension of his own award-winning role in DEVDAS (1955). For Raj Kapoor’s SANGAM, again Dilip Kumar was the first choice and Raj Kapoor gave him complete freedom to choose either his or Rajendra Kumar’s roles. However, no amount of blandishment by Raj Kapoor could convince Dilip Kumar to accept either of the roles. The role of Gopal was eventually played by Rajendra Kumar – zooming his career to all-time high.

As for MOTHER INDIA, according to some sources, Dilip Kumar was keen to play the roles of both father and son (Birju) opposite Nargis in the movie. But since the pair of Nargis and Dilip Kumar had appeared in many romantic movies earlier such as MELA, ANOKHA PYAAR, ANDAZ, JOGAN, HULCHAL and DEEDAR, it was felt that the public would not accept them as mother and son. Indeed, Mehboob Khan had many an anxious moment when he learnt that Nargis immediately wanted to marry Sunil Dutt who had saved her life during the shooting of the famous fire scene. Knowing the pulse of Indian public, Mehboob Khan felt that if the marriage took place before the release of his dream project, MOTHER INDIA would never be accepted by the people since Sunil Dutt had played the role of Birju, the son of Nargis, in the movie. The marriage took place about five months after the release of MOTHER INDIA. In the meantime, the movie was released in October 1957 and was lauded both by the public and the critics. The premiere was attended by almost the entire film industry including Dilip Kumar, but Sunil Dutt did not attend the premiere show. I remember reading another story as a child, and that was probably in Baburao’s Film India, that Nargis was not keen on having Dilip Kumar in the role of Birju. She had bluntly told Mehboob Khan that in that case it would be better if he made “FATHER INDIA”. According to another story, since Dilip Kumar was later offered the role of father and not that of the wayward son, Birju, he turned down the offer. Of course, what he had lost in MOTHER INDIA, Dilip Kumar gained when he came back with vengeance in GANGA JAMUNA which was his own home production. Dilip Kumar’s role of Ganga who turns a dacoit by the quirk of fate, is the best among his best roles.

Again, the 20th Century Fox’ offer of THE RAINS CAME was also turned down by Dilip Kumar. He also turned down the second-lead role of Sherif Ali ibn el-Kharish in David Lean’s LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962). Regarding this role, it is worthwhile to mention here that the Empire Magazine had stated that the camera shot of the emergence of Ali from the desert is the Number One cinematic moment in the entire history of Cinema. If only Dilip Kumar had accepted the offer! Had he done that, he would have certainly added more flair and deeper meaning to the role, with all respects to Omar Sharif who ultimately landed with this role. But then, Dilip Kumar believes that: “In your own bazaar you enjoy a certain status. What’s the point in venturing out into the fields unknown where you’ve no say, no contact with the subject-matter...”

Mentioned below are the Dilip Kumar’s films that were shelved or  remained incomplete or were not released are:

Nasir Hussain’s ZABARDAST
Rajinder Jain’s SHIKWAH

Also included in the above list are:
Allied Arts Production’s HAR SINGHAR - Director Mahesh Kol
CHANAKYA - Director: B.R. Chopra, Producer: Kishore Sharma
AAG KA DARIYA – Director Rajinder Singh, Director Premaliya
ASAR-THE IMPACT – Director: KuKu Kohli, Producer: Dinesh Patel
KALINGA – Director: Dilip Kumar

B.R. Chopra’s BAAGHBAAN was initially meant for Dilip Kumar but was delayed and the role ultimately went to Amitabh Bachchan in the next century. Then, much before SHAKTI (1982) happened, Eagle Films had signed Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan and Amjad Khan for their ambitious project which was to be directed by Yash Chopra. But there was no progress thereafter.

After his highly successful box office hits, KARMA, VIDHATA and SAUDAGAR, Subhash Ghai had Dilip Kumar in mind for his HOMELAND. Included in the lineup were the star-casts of Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan along with Preity Zinta. This project was finally shelved owing to the health problems of Shahrukh Khan and his inability to give dates even after a year when the revised dates did not suit Amitabh Bachchan and Preity Zinta. The last we heard was that Subhash Ghai had replaced Shahrukh Khan with Akshay Khanna. Heaven knows what has happened next.

There was also some news sometime in 2007 that KALINGA would be revived but that’s about it.

Dilip Kumar, who is indubitably the greatest and most revered actor of the Bombay film Industry which is commonly known as Bollywood, has left his imprint of his style of acting not only on his generation, but also on the next three generations of actors. He has no regrets for declining those roles of the movies which have now become classics. According to him, an actor has to be convinced that he is making the right choice. Dilip Kumar has no special attachment with any of his films since he worked with “equal zest and dedication” in all his films. Indeed, so single-minded was Dilip Kumar in his devotion to acting, that he always had an edge over Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand or any other actor. As an actor, “he’s never reached the point of Nirvana”.

To be concluded.....



  1. nice blog - very informative

  2. Thanks for your kind words Syed Sahaab!

  3. Intresting!! Thanks...you mentioned CHANAKYA, I came to know that the MD was Naushad sahab, who was the lyricist and who was the producer "Kishore Kumar"..the singer..?

  4. Oops. Not Kishore Kumar but Kishore Sharma was the Producer. I don't have the info on Music Director and Lyricists. But for the role of king Chandragupta, his loyal fan, Dharmendra was signed. Some of the other star-cast included Hema Malini,Parveen Babi and Vijayendra. Dilip Kumar's makeup of Chanakya was finalized in France.

  5. Thanks for drawing my attention to the name of the shelved Chanakya's Producer. It was inadvertently written as Kishore Kumar whereas the right name is Kishore Sharma which I have corrected accordingly.

    Thanks Qaseem bhai, and most welcome.

  6. Thanks, Nasir Bhai for clarification and the info!