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Javed Akhtar: Dilip saab was first method actor in world cinema

Updated on: 08 July,2021 08:43 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Upala KBR |

Acclaimed writer, who credits the thespian for his most memorable films, recalls how Kumar introduced melodramatic Bollywood to immersive acting

Javed Akhtar: Dilip saab was first method actor in world cinema

Dilip Kumar

Javed AkhtarI first saw Dilip saab on screen when I was six or seven years old. My family was pleased that I had made it to the prestigious St Mary’s School in Lucknow, and wanted to treat me. They asked whether I would like to go to the zoo or watch a film, and I chose the latter. That led me to Aan [1952], the first movie I remember watching. Since then, Dilip saab was my favourite as I went on to devour Devdas [1955], Madhumati [1958], Gunga Jumna [1961], and many more films.

Decades later, when I was asked to speak at the release of his autobiography [The Substance And The Shadow], I said that each of us have our mental dictionary, where we conjure our own meanings. To me, the meaning of dignity has always been Dilip saab. He epitomised sophistication and refinement. 

He brought new sensibilities [to Indian cinema]; that’s what makes him unforgettable. He found a new language and style — method acting. We know that Russian theatre director-actor Konstantin Stanislavski had invented method acting. I have no idea whether Dilip saab had read about his form of acting, or developed his own style, but [the superstar] was cinema’s first method actor in the world. While Marlon Brando is credited for [introducing] the form, he was six years junior to Dilip saab, in terms of his career. Dilip saab has gone unsung on this count.

Also Read: Shah Rukh Khan, Dharmendra, Vidya Balan pay their last respects to Dilip Kumar

Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi with Dilip Kumar and Saira BanuJaved Akhtar and Shabana Azmi with Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu

Since Salim [Khan, writer] and I began our career in 1971, we were keen to write a film for Dilip saab. Our dream materialised with Ramesh Sippy’s Shakti [1982]. After that, we went on to work with him on Manoj Kumar’s Kranti [1981], Duniya [1984] and Mashaal [1984].

The distinguishing factor about him was that he knew that if the dialogues were powerful, an actor’s portrayal should be understated. [Conversely], in a scene in Paigham [1959], he is telling Vyjayanthimala’s character how he will move cities, regardless of whether he lands a job or not. The dialogues were prosaic, but his delivery made it sound as beautiful as a romantic scene. He would always go beyond the lines and make the scene his own. Also, unlike most actors whose five takes look identical, no two takes of Dilip saab would be similar.

Nobody can romance like him on screen. Most actors are so deeply in love with themselves that even when they look at their heroines, they want to see how they are looking. But when he looked at his heroines, he admired and appreciated them. In that moment, he surrendered [himself] to her, making it look so romantic.
Over the past decades, many actors have followed his style [of method acting]. They have no idea where it has come from. Only a few artistes today have the gravitas and dignity that he did. With [the passing of Dilip saab], an era of sensitivity and culture has ended.

Also Read:  Jeetendra pays heartfelt tribute to Dilip Kumar on the legend's demise

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