'She was the ideal balm for his bruised heart'

Updated: Oct 27, 2019, 07:54 IST | Team SMD | Mumbai

Dilip Kumar and Madhubala had a near, perfect romance, until her interfering father got in the way. A new illustrated biography on the veteran actor, challenges some myths around the famed love story

Dilip Kumar with Madhubala
Dilip Kumar with Madhubala

After a somewhat tentative debut in Jwar Bhata and Pratima, the actor came of age in Milan, which was followed by the super-duper hit Jugnu opposite none other than Noor Jehan. Dilip Kumar had now hit the purple patch of his career and three mega hits followed in quick succession —Shaheed, Shabnam and Nadiya Ke Paar. The leading lady of all these hits was the comely Kamini Kaushal—reportedly Dilip Kumar's first flame and also his first serious heartbreak.

Kamini Kaushal's real name was Uma Kashyap. She was the daughter of Rai Bahadur S.R. Kashyap, a renowned Botanist, president of Indian Science Congress and dean of the pre-partition Punjab University. She was one of his five children which included three brothers and two sisters. She was very well-educated and had studied at Lady MacLagan School and Emily Kinnaird College of Lahore. She was also a champion swimmer. When her elder sister, who was married to B.S. Sood, a high ranking official of Bombay Port Trust, died in a car crash leaving behind two small kids, Uma married him and moved to Mumbai. It was here that legendary director Chetan Anand discovered her talent and cast her in his award-winning Neecha Nagar as Kamini Kaushal. As an actress, she quickly ascended to stardom with films like Jail Yatra, Aag (opposite Raj Kapoor), Do Bhai, etc. Soon, Filmistan's S. Mukerji signed her opposite Dilip Kumar in his Shaheed (1948) which was a box-office success.

The actor with Kamini Kaushal, his first love and also his first serious heartbreak
The actor with Kamini Kaushal, his first love and also his first serious heartbreak

Famous Kathak exponent and actress Sitara Devi (who starred with Dilip in Hulchul and shared a sister-brother relationship with him) and producer director P.N. Arora of All India Pictures (in whose super hit Pugree Kamini Kaushal starred) have been on-record authenticating the Dilip Kumar–Kamini Kaushal romance. It is said that Sitara Deviji had met the rumoured couple huddled together and travelling aimlessly in the first-class compartment of Mumbai's local trains. P.N. Arora has said, on-record, that Dilip Kumar often visited Kamini Kaushal on the sets of Pugree and once Kamini's military-man brother strode on the film's sets, brandishing a pistol, threatening to kill Kamini if she did not call off her clandestine romance with Dilip Kumar. He also threatened to kill Dilip Kumar. Around that time, Shahi Latif–Ismat Chugtai's Aarzoo, in which Dilip–Kamini featured for the last time, was in the making. Ismat Aapa had reportedly warned Dilip Saheb against the futility of the said romance. The hot-headed brother of Kamini Kaushal reportedly shot himself, having failed to end the Dilip–Kamini romance. This came as a blow to Kamini Kaushal and Dilip Kumar and they put a stop to their romance.

Kamini exuded urbane sophistication and bonded very well at an intellectual level with Dilip. On the other hand, both Madhubala and Dilip being Pathans shared a commonality of ethnic and cultural background. Thus, a vivacious Madhubala's ceaseless laughter became an ideal balm for Dilip Kumar's bruised heart. Madhubala's real name was Mumtaz Jehan Begum Dehlavi. She was third born among the seven daughters (Kaneez, Fatima, Altaf, Chanchal, Zahida and Shahida being others) of a handsome Pathan Attaullah Khan and his beautiful Iranian wife. Her father was a headstrong, stubborn and egoistic man, and a harsh disciplinarian. Her mother was simple, illiterate and a homely woman. Attaullah Khan apparently had lost his job with the Imperial Tobacco Company, Delhi due to his arrogant, hot-tempered behaviour and attitude. He moved to Mumbai with his family but could not fend for them. He made his daughter work in films to make ends meet.

Dilip Kumar with Madhubala. Pics/Dilip Kumar: Peerless Icon Inspiring Generations, Bloomsbury India
Dilip Kumar with Madhubala. Pics/Dilip Kumar: Peerless Icon Inspiring Generations, Bloomsbury India

The legendary Dilip Kumar–Madhubala romance is said to have took off on the sets of this film, as the duo hit the ground running, enacting the dulcet duet, 'Nain mile nai huey baware'. One has to revisit Tarana to fathom the chemistry between Dr Motilal (Dilip Kumar) and Tarana (Madhubala) which even after six decades floors you with its innocent charm. Prior to being romantically drawn to Dilip Kumar, Madhubala was reportedly dating the leading man of her hit film Badal, the handsome Prem Nath. Grapevine has it that there was some time when Madhu was dating Dilip and Prem Nath simultaneously. Reportedly, when Prem Nath came to know that his friend Dilip was seriously involved with Madhubala and that she was drawn to him as well, he withdrew and married Bina Rai, his charming co-star of Aurat.

On his part, Dilip Kumar never missed any opportunity to recommend Madhubala for a role opposite himself. The iconic Amar originally had Meena Kumari in the female lead, but she fell off with its renowned maker Mehboob Khan after the latter's squabble with her husband writer-director Kamaal Amrohi. Dilip Kumar promptly persuaded Mehboob Saheb to take in Madhubala. Similarly, when Nargis opted out of Mughal-E-Azam, Dilip Kumar convinced K. Asif to let Madhubala play Anarkali which ultimately became her best ever performance. The mahurat announcement of the celebrated classic Daag also had Madhubala's name as the leading lady but something went wrong and Nimmi played the part.

However, the perfect romance of this well-matched perfect couple did not culminate into marriage. Many were of the opinion that it was Madhubala's father Attaullah Khan who stood in the way of their marriage for the fear of losing the breadwinner for the large family. The truth lies somewhere around this premise. As the Dilip Kumar–Madhubala romance was peaking, Attaullah Khan once asked Dilip Kumar to star as the hero of a film he wanted to produce under his own banner and also had his daughter Madhubala in it. We believe that the moment Attaullah did that, he encroached upon Dilip Sahab's professional side via his personal life. Yusuf Saheb never wanted Dilip Kumar to be exploited for somebody's gain.

As is widely believed, Attaullah Khan was not opposed to the Dilip Kumar–Madhubala marriage but had his own axe to grind in the whole affair. He wanted the superstar of the era to work exclusively and on priority for his own home productions. On the other hand, Dilip Kumar, who had been positively considering marriage to Madhubala, was unwilling to tolerate any interference in his professional endeavours. Dilip Saheb reportedly laid down two conditions for getting married to Madhubala. One, he would financially support the Khan's family but Madhubala would have nothing to do with her father after wedding; and second, she would stop working in films. This was a clever killing-two-birds-with-one-stone strategy—if Madhubala agreed to quit films, her father's hold on her would automatically diminish. Both Dilip Saheb and Attaullah hardened their positions in the ensuing tug of war to the point that Madhu had Dilip's ultimatum to choose between him and her father. She opted for her father ending the fairy-tale romance.

Excerpted with permission from Dilip Kumar: Peerless Icon Inspiring Generations by Trinetra Bajpai and Anshula Bajpai, published by Bloomsbury India

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