According to PTI reports, when Asha Parekh was asked why the audience did not see her and Dilip Kumar romancing on the screen, the former replied: “Who I don’t like, I don’t work with.” She was being felicitated by the IFFI at Panaji for her completion of 50 years in Bollywood.
Yes, everyone has a right to his or her dislikes, including Asha Parekh. However, this was one of the most unexpected statements coming from an actress who is only 3 three years away from 70. In normal course, such statements when they come in a package labeled, “Grapes are Sour” should be consigned to the trash-can. However, her statement forces me to rewind to the past to examine the merit of her said statement. The question is, whether any role was offered to her at all opposite Dilip Kumar. Or rather, did Dilip Kumar need an Asha Parekh.
When Asha Parekh was born in 1942, Yusuf Khan (Dilip Kumar) was in jail overnight, he refused to have his breakfast of eggs, toast and tea that was offered to him the next morning because that day Mahatma Gandhi was on on fast. The nation was busy with the Quit India Movement of 1942, for driving out the British Raj. During the next two years life was to take unexpected turn for Yusuf Khan when Devika Rani, the lady boss of Bombay Talkies, offered him a contract to act in her films. After initial hiccups Yusuf Khan accepted the offer and thus landed a role in Jwar Bhata (1944) under the name that the First Lady of the Indian Screen selected for him – Dilip Kumar - the name that was to cast spell on generations of film goers and fraternity for the next six decades. Thus he made his debut as an actor opposite Mridula and Shamim under the direction of Amiya Chakarborty. Dilip Kumar did two more films, Pratima (1945) and Milan (1946) after Jwar Bhata.
Now, when Asha Parekh started out as Baby Parekh in Aasmaan (1952) which is only remembered for the full-fledged musical debut of the king of rhythm, O.P. Nayyar (after scoring background music in Kaneez 1949), Dilip Kumar had mesmerized the nation with his powerhouse of acting talent and charisma in the following movies: Jugnu (1947), Ghar Ki Izzat, Mela, Shaheed, Anokha Pyaar and Nadiya Ke Paar (all 1948); Shabnam and Andaz (1949); Jogan, Babul and Arzoo (all 1950); Hulchal, Tarana and Deedar in 1951; Aan, Sangdil, and Daag (1952). Daag which was inspired by the 1950 Marathi movie, Mee Daaru Sodli, won for Dilip Kumar his first Filmfare Award in 1953 for his stellar performance of an alcoholic who having set out to purchase medicines for his dying mother, instead succumbs to his temptation and buys liquor for himself, and who finally manages to give up his drinking habits for good. In 1953, Dilip Kumar featured in Shikast and his favourite Foot-Path “where stark reality was mingled with thought-provoking romanticism.”
Baby Parekh got a small role in Kishore Kumar-Usha Kiran starrer, Dhobi Doctor (1954). The same year, Asha Parekh was noticed by Bimal Roy who cast her in Baap Beti (1954) when she was twelve.
At that time, Bimal Roy was busy shooting with Dilip Kumar his prestigious Devdas which was based on the Bengali novel of Sharatchandra Chattopadhyay.
In 1954, Mehboob Khan released his Amar, starring Dilip Kumar, Madhubala and Nimmi. From 1955 till 1959 Dilip Kumar starred in such movies as Devdas and Udan Khatola, (1955); Insaniyat, and Azaad (1956); Naya Daur and Musafir (1957), Madhumati and Yahudi (both Bimal Roy’s – 1958). During these years, Dilip Kumar won the Filmfare Best Actor Awards for his roles in Devdas, Azaad and Naya Daur! He also got the nomination for the said Award in Madhumati. Dilip Kumar did Paigham (1959) along with Raj Kumar, Vyjayantimala and B. Saroja Devi. He was cited for the Filmfare Best Actor Award nomination.
Asha Parekh was doing uncredited roles in some films, and Aasha (1957) was one of them. She continued her schooling and later joined the Filmalaya School of Acting. This school belonged to Sashadhar Mukherjee who was once a producer in the famous Bombay Talkies of Devika Rani and Himanshu Rai. In 1943, he left the Bombay Talkies to form his own Filmistan Studio at Goregaon, Mumbai, in partnership with Rai Bahadur Chunilal, Gyan Mukherjee, and Ashok Kumar whose brother in law he was, having married the only sister of the last-named Super Star of that era. Nasir Hussain was one of the regular writers with Filmistan. Sashadhar Mukherjee gave Nasir Hussain an opportunity to direct Filmistan’s Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957), starring Shammi Kapoor and Ameeta. This movie proved to be a great hit, especially for the hero who tasted success after his nine films had flopped in a row. When Sashadhar broke away from Filmistan to set up his Filmalaya Studio at Amboli, Mumbai, he again asked Nasir Husain to direct a movie for him. This time it was Dil Deke Dekho (1959). In the meantime, Asha Parekh tried her luck for a heroine’s role in Vijay Bhatt’s Goonj UThi Shehnai (1959) but was rejected since according to the film-maker she was not a heroine material. That role went to Ameeta – also known as the Tumsa Nahin Dekha girl. The very next day, Sashadhar Mukherjee asked Nasir Husain to choose between Sadhna, and Asha Parekh, and Nasir Hussain chose the latter for the tomboyish role in Dil Deke Dekho. Thus she landed her first role as the leading lady opposite Shammi Kapoor.
Nasir Hussain’s choice of Asha Parekh as against Sadhna for the heroine’s role in Dil Deke Dekho set off a long term of relationship between them, on both professional as well as personal level. So when Nasir Hussain also turned producer by establishing his own production house under the banner of Nasir Hussain Films he never failed to take Asha Parekh as his leading heroine right from Jab Pyaar Kisise Hota Hai (1961) till Caravan (1971). His other films with Asha Parekh were Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon (1963), Teesri Manzil (directed by Vijay Anand, 1966), Baharon Ke Sapne (1967), and Pyar Ka Mausam (1969). After 1971, he turned in favour of younger heroines such as Zeenat Aman, Kajal Kiran, Padmini Kolhapure, Dimple Kapadia and Jaya Pradha for his films. Nasir Hussain was already a married man with wife Ayesha, and a daughter Nuzhat and son Mansoor Khan who took over the reins of direction from Nasir Hussain for Qayamat Se Qayamat tak pairing the almost-debutantes, Amir Khan and Juhi Chawla.
Her role in Chiragh won her the nomination while that in Kati Patang won her the Filmfare Best Actress Award. Incidentally, in her interview with Jitesh Pillai, published in Film Fare magazine of September 2001 Mumtaz stated: "I should have won the Best Actress Award for Tere Mere Sapne. I really deserved it. Instead it went to Asha Parekh for Kati Patang in which she wore white and stood in front of piano doing precious little. Khair, jaane do (let it go). God has given me so much..." Earlier, the Kati Patang role had been offered to Sharmila Tagore who turned it down for "some silly reasons."
The other movies that won Asha Parekh the Filmfare nominations in the Best Supporting Actress category were Udhar ka Sindur (1976) and Main Tulsi Tere Angan ki (1978). She won the Filmfare Lifetime Award in 2002.
Dilip Kumar was the most eligible bachelor of his time. When he finally tied the knots with Saira Banu he was 44 years old and she just 22 . Despite gloomy predictions and some unexpected happenings, this marriage has remained as one of the most enduring ones in the film industry.
Asha Parekh never married though according to her nothing is more therapeutic in life than companionship. She confides that men found her unapproachable. Even Shammi Kapoor who is her favourite and who played hero opposite her in four films, Dil Deke Dekho (1959), Teesri Manzil (1966), Pagla Kahin Ka (1969), and Jawan Mohabbat (1971) used to call her Bhatijee (“Niece”) while she addressed him as “Chacha” (i.e.Paternal Uncle).
She admitted that she had had a longtime boy friend and it was good while it lasted. Dev Anand was the other senior actor who paired with her in Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai which did silver jubilee at the Alankar Cinema in Mumbai.
To take the bull by the horns: What prompted Asha Parekh to make such a sweeping statement? Was it her comparative past youth? Was it her past beauty? Was it acting talent?
On seeking the answers to the above questions, we find that Dilip Kumar, even in his Fifties, has romanced a much younger and beautiful actress viz., Leena Chandavarkar when she played the role of heroine opposite Dilip Kumar in Bairaag (1976).
Again, his spouse Saira Banu was 2 years younger than Asha Parekh and 22 younger than Dilip Kumar at the time of her marriage in 1966. Then there’s the case of Rakhee who acted opposite Dilip Kumar as his wife in Shakti (1982). She is twenty-five years younger than Dilip Kumar and five years younger than Asha Parekh. Then we had the gorgeous Rekha acting opposite him in the shelved Aag Ka Darya (1982) and later in 1998 in Qila as his romantic interest where she is even “raped” by him. She is 32 years his junior. One can see some twelve-year old Rekha along with many other children, twisting away to the song and music of AAYEE HAIN BAHAAREN MITE ZULM-O-SITAM in Ram Aur Shyam. So what was it? Dilip Kumar has acted with beautiful actresses such as Madhubala and Saira Banu to name just a couple. Being an institution of acting unto himself, Dilip Kumar has acted with most powerful actresses such as Nargis, Meena Kumari, Nalini Jaywant, Vyjayantimala, Nimmi, Waheeda Rehman and Nutan. So we can conclude that there was no question of youth or beauty or acting talent involved in the reported statement of Asha Parekh that she doesn’t like Dilip Kumar.
Was it something personal then? Nasir Hussain had announced a movie, called Kala Aadmi which was to star Dilip Kumar. But this one did not see the light of the day and was shelved. This much we know. From this it appears that that this must have happened in the early Sixties. Likewise, maybe Asha Parekh was selected as the heroine as usual by Nasir Hussain. Maybe Dilip Kumar wanted Vyjayantimala as his heroine, since this was a hit pair of the late Nineteen Fifties and early Sixties. Sadly, there are no details. We can only conclude by quoting Congreve: "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned."
(based on information from internet sources)