Skip to main content

Relevance of Dilip Kumar’s films amidst today's corrupt environment


By Harsh Thakor*
On his 99th birthday, there is reason to recall how legendary Dilip Kumar portrayed what today are qualified as neo-Marxist themes, or rebellion against injustice. Possibly even in this respect, none surpassed his talent.
An often forgotten movie was ‘Footpath’ which was a classic in it’s own right in conveying realism and championing Marxist spirit. Such films are relevant even in this day and age, with people becoming a slave of the environment, and lured by corruption. I rank it personally as the most progressive or realistic film of Dilip Kumars, projecting a Socialist theme. Poignancy was taken to regions rarely explored. I really admire the direct style of the projection of the theme, with sparse element of melodrama.
However entertaining or artistic Raj Kapoor films like ‘Awaara’ and ‘Shri 420’ have a considerable element of melodrama and lack the subtlety of movies like footpath in portraying social reality. It keeps a spectator detached and not get carried away. The film blended all the different elements in total package, like colours in a rainbow. The movie projected the dichotomy between crass materialism and idealism and how society literally makes a man sell his soul. It was also living proof that capitalism could not kill the rebellious spirit in man.
Dilip Kumar as Noshua convincingly portrays a young and idealistic man who diverges from his path, but still does not at the cost of morality. Even though Noshu indulges in black marketing, the journalist in him does not extinguish, and that is why he is determined to expose the grain hoarders and black marketeers by rebuilding them adopting a pen name. The movie portrays the various colours of Noshua and the manner he is transformed from a simple journalist into a millionaire with guilt written all over him. The dialogues, relevant even in today’s era, and their piercing delivery by Dilip Kumar make the movie a remarkable watch.
In film ‘Footpath’ Dilip Kumar portrayed the ebb and flow or flux in fortunes in a man’s life and how circumstances transform him in the very thick of the skin of the character .Most natural acting projecting human psychology in the mist of troubled times. The sheer movement of his eyes would tell the story. His range of expressions remind one of different works of a sculptor ,blending anger ,frustration ,despair, grief and joy.Dilip Saab proved he was master in enacting a character role in a social film. I doubt any Indian actor resembled Marlin Brando as much.
I wish a modified form of his movie could be reproduced today in accordance with the times. It could touch the core of the soul of the masses in days when globalization has patronized narcasm and materialism at an unprecedented height. Compassion has literally been thrown into a dustbin. Today it is routine to witness youth trapped in lure for wealth and totally abandon spirit of serving society. Manipulation is the order of the day. In the various movements like naxalbari or JP movement of the 1970’s, spirit of youth was channelized towards idealism.

Other progressive movies of Dilip Kumar

Even in ‘Mashaal’ and ’Mazdoor’ later in his career, Dilip Kumar took intensity of morality to magnified proportions Even if emotional he never lost touch with the essence of the character. Hard to visualize any star of that period emote as intensely or artistically. His burning intensity rekindled memories of his heydays. Above all he proved his mastery in projecting realism in a most detached manner.
In ‘Mashaal’ directed by Yash Chopra, it has Dilip Kumar as an angry old man who, troubled by the corrupt system, first starts a newspaper that targets corruption and is later forced by circumstances to take up arms. Anil Kapoor stars as his protégé. Dilip Kumar who was in his 60s at the time portrayed anguish in magnitude of rare proportions and portrayed how anger was channelized into a weapon to confront injustice. Most artistically he portrays how circumstances transform the life of a man.
In ‘Mazdoor’, directed by Ravi Chopra, Dilip Kumar was a commerce union chief who fought in opposition to Suresh Oberoi’s insurance policies. The son of Mr. Sinha) changes everything in order to maximize profits. This brings him into conflict with his employees including Dinanath Saxena.,enacted by Dilip Kumar.When Dinanath openly confronts Hiralal in a public meeting, Hiralal wants him to tender a written apology, but Dinanath instead resigns and decides to open his very own mill with the help of a struggling Engineer, Ashok Mathur. They do eventually succeed, go into production, hire employees, and soon earn a good reputation. Dinanath gets his daughter, Meena, married to Ashok, who becomes a housewife, much to the chagrin of Smita, the daughter of multi-millionaire Kundanlal Batra, who had expected Ashok to marry her. She soon concocts a scheme to bring discord in the Mathur family, and also ensure Ashok’s ruin. Rarely have I witnessed an actor expressing conviction in as volcanic proportions or project capitalist oppression as Dilip Kumar when replying to his employer, addressing workers or his final speech in the film. Even in intensity or agnony he is as natural as the flow in water, in the very thick of the skin of the character.
It is ironic that one of Dilip Saab’s most progressive portrayals in film ‘Sagina’ was hardly respected. Based on Bengali writer-activist Gour Kishore Ghosh’s account of another activist colleague, Sagina is the Hindi remake of the Bengali film Sagina Mahato (1971). Both films had the same lead pair, Dilip and Saira Banu. The star was in his fifth decade when the film was released but he remained as lively or melodious as ever. His portrayal of a free-spirited man dictated by fortune to become the leader of the oppressed remains one of his best performances.“Sagina”, which took four years in the making, and remaking, thanks to the thespian, turned out to be not a patch on the original. It also seemed to be a mellowed version of the Bengali “Sagina Mahato” (1970) by the same set of producers . Quoting “The Hindu”, “We do get to see vintage Dilip Kumar in four or five scenes: the telephone sequence; while addressing the workers from the hillock; when he pleads with police to release the associate who killed the rapist at his provocation; when he calls for a strike; when he confronts the mill owner; the scene with Aparna Sen when the two talk about their families and childhood, and the short climax. Otherwise, we see the thespian at his loudest, though the subject demanded a sober enactment of the role of a factory worker manipulated by the owners into becoming a labour leader.”

Critique of Dilip Kumar

However classical many of Dilip Kumar’s films projected seeking justice within the social order itself, unlike the best films of Raj Kapoor. Afterall Dilip Saab championed Nehruvian socialism. I regret Dilip did not project a movie challenging the repressive social order itself, to the extent of Balraj Sahni. Even if his intensity or sensitivity may have transcended regions unexplored both ‘Naya Daur’ and ‘Ganga Jamuna’ did not script an essay of rebellion against the system. I differ with analysts who classify films like ‘Naya Daur’, ‘Leader’ or ‘Azaad ‘ as those with Neo-Marxist themes. Even if expressing shades of realism and being progressive, the themes do not portray rebellion against feudalism.
Probing into the period when Dilip Saab’s career had a setback in the early 1970s, one finds that he resurrected like a phoenix from the ashes. Film ‘Kranti’ paved the path for his comeback. It was living proof that he was morally head and shoulders above everyone.
The saddest blot on Dilip Kumar’s career was his supporting the 1975 emergency unlike Dev Anand. I give some credence to Naseerudin Shah’s view that he later danced to the tune of the times and did not back a radical art form. I regret that Dilip Saab could not champion art films like Naseerudin Shah or Om Puri in his later career. Arguably he was apologetic and not vocal about the ethical degeneration of stars and movies in Bollywood and did not raise his voice on issues like globalization. Iraq war, etc.Ofcourse I greatly appreciate the moral solidarity he gave to the Muslim minority after Babri Masjid demolition and his boldness in expressing disgust.

*Freelance journalist

Comments

TRENDING

CAG’s audit report creates a case for dismantling of UIDAI, scrapping Aadhaar

By Gopal Krishna  The total estimated budget of the biometric UID/Aadhaar number project and its cost: benefit analysis has not been disclosed till date. Unless the total estimated budget of the project is revealed, all claims of benefits are suspect and untrustworthy. How can one know about total savings unless the total cost is disclosed? Can limited audit of continuing expenditure of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), an instrumentality of Union of India be deemed a substitute for total estimated budget of the biometric UID/Aadhaar number project of UIDAI? It has been admitted by CAG that the audit of functioning of the UIDAI is partial because of non-transparency. The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India arising from performance audit of functioning of the UIDAI for the period from 2014-15 to 2018-19 is incomplete because it is based on statistical information “to the extent as furnished by UIDAI” upto March 2021. There is also a need to compa

Women for Water: WICCI resource council for empowering women entrepreneurs, leaders

By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  The Water Resources Council of the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry is formed for 2022-24. A National Business Chamber for Women, the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry ( WICCI ) is a premier association empowering women entrepreneurs and leaders in all walks of life through advocacy, pro-active representations to government, implementing projects for women via funds allocated by various government agencies and corporates, plus bringing awareness on all issues that concern women. WICCI boosts and builds women’s entrepreneurship and businesses through greater engagement with government, institutions, global trade and networks. WICCI enables fundamental changes in governmental policies, laws, incentives and sanctions through proper channel, with a view to robustly encourage and empower women in business, industry and commerce across all sectors. WICCI is supported by the massive global networks of ALL Ladies League (ALL), Women Eco

75 yrs of water in India: whither decentralised governance to sustain the precious resource?

By Shubhangi Rai, Megha Gupta, Fawzia Tarannum, Mansee Bal Bhargava Looking into the last century, water resources management have come a long way from the living with water in the villages to the nimbyism and capitalism in the cities to coming full cycle with room for water in the villages. With the climate change induced water crisis, the focus on conservation and management of water resources if furthered in both national and local agenda. The Water management 2021 report by NITI Aayog acknowledges that water and sustainability are of immense importance for the sustenance of life on earth. Water is intricately linked to the health, food security and livelihood. With business as usual, India’s water availability will only be enough to meet 50% of its total demand and 40% of the population in India will have no access to drinking water and sanitation by 2030 . Its Composite Water Management Index 2021 states that ‘India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and mil

Grassroot innovations in water management: Policy challenges amidst climate change

By Shubhangi Rai[1], Megha Gupta[2], Mansee Bal Bhargava[3] India despite of having a vast traditional water management history continue to struggle with water crisis from disasters like floods and droughts but more with social distress leading to asymmetric access to water goods and services. The rising water crisis in a country that is abundant in water resources and wisdom is worth questioning and resolving. The knowledge that was passed on by our ancestors who used a diverse range of structures that helped harvest rainwater locally besides replenish and recharge the groundwater along the way. Formal and informal rules were locally crafted by the community on who to use the water, how much to use, when to use, how to penalise for misuse, how to resolve conflicts and many more. As a nation, we need to revive our dying wisdom of the traditional water management systems and as water commons, enable the governing mechanisms towards sustainability. In the session on ‘ Grassroot Innovatio

Need to destroy dowry, annihilate greed and toxic patriarchy in India

By IMPRI Team Talking about an evil ever-persistent in our society and highlighting the presence of toxic patriarchy, #IMPRI Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organized a panel discussion on Destroy Dowry: Annihilation of Greed and Toxic Patriarchy in India under the series The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps on May 4, 2022. The chair for the event was Prof Vibhuti Patel, Former Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai and a Visiting Professor, IMPRI. The distinguished panel included – Asha Kulkarni, General Secretary at Anti Dowry Movement, Mumbai ; Kamal Thakar, Sahiyar Stree Sangathan ; Adv Celin Thomas, Advocate at Celin Thomas and Associates, Bengaluru; Shalini Mathur, Honorary Secretary, Suraksha Dahej Maang Virodhi Sanstha Tatha Parivar Paraamarsh Kendra, Lucknow and Secretary, Nav Kalyani Foundation, Gender Resource and Training Centre; and Dr Bharti Sharma, Honorary Secretary, Shakti Shalini

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: Implications for India and emerging geopolitics

By IMPRI Team In the backdrop of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, #IMPRI Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi hosted a panel discussion on Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: Implications for India and Emerging Geopolitics. The event was chaired by Ambassador Anil Trigunayat (IFS Retd.), Former Ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Libya, and Malta; Former Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of India, Moscow. The panelists of the event were Prof Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu, Clinical Professor, Center for Global Affairs, New York University; H.E. Freddy Svane, Ambassador, Royal Danish Embassy, New Delhi; Maj. Gen. (Dr) P. K. Chakravorty, Strategic Thinker on Security Issues; and T. K. Arun, Senior Journalist, and Columnist. Ambassador Anil Trigunayat commenced the discussion by stating the fact that wars are evil. He opines that no war has ever brought peace and prosperity to any country and

Impact of climate change on Gujarat pastoralists' traditional livelihood

By Varsha Bhagat-Ganguly, Karen Pinerio* We are sharing a study[1] based learning on climate resilience and adaptation strategies of pastoralists of Kachchh district, Gujarat. There are two objectives of the study: (i) to examine the impact of climate on traditional livelihood of pastoralists of Gujarat state; and (ii) to explore and document the adaptation strategies of pastoralists in mitigating climate adversities, with a focus on the role of women in it. In order to meet these objectives, the research inquiries focused on how pastoralists perceive climate change, how climate change has impacted their traditional livelihood, i.e., pastoralism in drylands (Krätli 2015), and how these pastoral families have evolved adaptation strategies that address climate change (CC)/ variabilities, i.e., traditional livelihood of pastoralists of Kachchh district, Gujarat state. Pastoralism is more than 5,000 years old land-use strategy in India; it is practised by nomadic (their entire livelihood r

Making Indian cities disaster, climate resilient: Towards actionable urban planning

By IMPRI Team  Three-Day Online Certificate Training Programme on “Making Indian Cities Disaster and Climate Change Resilient: Towards Responsive and Actionable Urban Planning, Policy and Development”: Day 1 A three day Online Certificate Training Programme on the theme “Making Indian Cities Disaster and Climate Change Resilient: Towards Responsive and Actionable Urban Planning, Policy and Development”, a joint initiative of the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) , Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, was held at the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi. Inaugurating the session Ms. Karnika Arun, Researcher at IMPRI, welcomed the speakers and participants to the program with an introduction to the eminent panellists. Day 1 of the program included Prof Anil K Gupta, Head ECDRM, NIDM, New Delhi and Mr Tikender Singh Panwar, Former Deputy Mayor, Shimla; Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI as conveners, an

Gender gap: Women face disproportionate barriers in accessing finance

By IMPRI Team Women worldwide disproportionately face barriers to financial access that prevents them from participating in the economy and improving their lives. Providing access to finance for women is crucial for financial inclusion and, consequently, inclusive growth. To deliberate and encourage dialogue and discussion for growth, the Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC) of IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, organized a web policy talk by Mr S. S. Bhat, Chief Executive Officer Friends of Women’s World Banking India, Ahmedabad on ‘Access to Finance for Women’ as a part of its series The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps. The session was started by the moderator, Chavi Jain, by introducing the speaker and the discussants and inviting Prof. Vibhuti Patel to start the deliberation. Importance of access to finance for women Prof. Vibhuti Patel, Visiting Professor, IMPRI, New Delhi; Former Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, began by expre

Environment governance in small cities: Need for external intervention, capacity building

By IMPRI Team  The debate over environmental degradation has acquired substantial traction in recent years. Governments, civil communities and international organisations are all working to mitigate the environmental costs of economic expansion and growth. These reforms have also brought to light the concept of environmental governance in emerging towns, which refers to political changes aimed at influencing environmental activities and outcomes. It is under this backdrop that the #IMPRI Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi hosted a talk on Small Cities and Environmental Governance in Gujarat and West Bengal: Need for External Intervention or Capacity Building? as a part of #WebPolicyTalk series- The State of Cities – #CityConversations on January 28, 2022. The talk was chaired by Dr Soumyadip Chattopadhyay, an Associate Professor, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan and a Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI, New Delhi. The