While Bollywood was spearheading Indian cinema into an evocative dream, there was one actor who glacially established it as an art form of stature. Igniting films with his talent at a time when the Filmfare mattered, Dilip Kumar revolutionized cinema of India. Known for bringing in the concept of “realistic acting”, Dilip Kumar paved the way for future greats. Born as Muhammad Yusuf Khan, Dilip Kumar started off with Jwar Bhata (1944), which was produced by Bombay Talkies. Slowly transcending into the hearts of the critics and audience, the actor established as one of the bests. For this list, I have taken into account films which have had an impact on Kumar as a performer and the art itself. So, here is the list of the top 10 movies of Dilip Kumar.
10. Azaad (1955)
One of the biggest films of the decade, ‘Azad’ defines the Golden era of Indian cinema. Grasping his third “Filmfare for Best Actor”, Dilip Kumar is at his romantic best and elevates it perfectly with his impeccable comic timing. While the actor was glacially raising up the ranks as one the greats of tragedies, ‘Azaad’ showcased his proficiency in other genres.
9. Madhumati (1958)
Directed by Bimal Roy, ‘Madhumati’ is a paranormal romance revolves around Dilip Kumar’s Anand, a modern man, and Vyjayanthimala’s Madhumati, a tribal woman, who fall in love with each other. However, due to the societal dissemination, they are unable to have a relationship during their lifetimes and are reincarnated. With the film introducing Indian cinema to reincarnation and a gothic narrative, and Kumar’s and Vyjayanthimala’s impressive take on the character, the film tore through box-office chart and won nine Filmfare Awards.
8. Ram Aur Shyam (1967)
‘Ram Aur Shyam’ saw the king of tragedy delve into comedy. Directed by Tapi Chanakya, the movie saw Dilip Kumar in a double role as twins – Ram and Shyam – who separated at birth. Surprising audiences and surpassing their expectation with his comic timing, Dilip Kumar perfectly painted out the comical ideas of the director. What made the film such a treat to watch is the subtle look into Indian identity and culture. Brought up in different strata’s of society, both the characters develop different sensibilities and personalities. While these subtle references formed the foundation, Kumar’s brilliance united every idea with rib-tickling comedy.
7. Shakti (1982)
Considered to be one of the greatest films of Indian cinema, ‘Shakti’ brought two names which defined Indian Cinema – Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan. Directed by Ramesh Sippy, the film is a treat to watch. Releasing at a time when Bachchan was at the peak of his stardom, Kumar prove his brilliance and experience by subtly acting as a strong support to Bachchan’s Vijay Kumar. While the film could have easily drowned in commercial fallacy, the towering performances of Kumar and Bachchan held the film critical and commercial strength. ‘Shakti’ dealt with the teeming crime and corruption while maintaining a parallel storyline of a father-son relationship. Kumar’s torn and weary portrayal DCP Ashwini Kumar, infused with an unrequited love for Bachchan’s Vijay Kumar earned him critical applause and won him his last Filmfare Award for Best Actor.
6. Devdas (1955)
Directed by Bimal Roy, ‘Devdas’ was one of the first cinematic adaptations of Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s iconic novel. Considered a classic of Indian cinema, much of the film’s success can be credited to the profound performance of the rebellious character. The actor brilliantly sketched out the psychological and emotional functionality. Unlike Shah Rukh Khan’s ostentatious understanding, Kumar churned out a much more deep performance. With Devdas’ deep-rooted ego, alcoholism and rebellious attitude, infused with an innate humanity and unrequited live for Paro, Dilip Kumar provided a multi-faceted outlook to a seemingly one-dimensional character.
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5. Andaz (1949)
Sharing the screen with fellow great artists Raj Kapoor and Nargis, Dilip Kumar starred in ‘Andaaz’ as the lovelorn Dilip who fails to charm Nargis’ Neena, and invariably turns into the villain. Considered one of the all-time classics of early post-independence Hindi cinema, the film brought in the concept of “love triangles” to Hindi cinemas. Set in the Westernised upper-crust of the metropolitan, ‘Andaz’ deals with the platonic friendship between members of the opposite sex. Kumar creates a perfect structure for the character, where one would sympathise with him and ultimately start hating him for his vicious cunningness. While the concept of a “lovelorn” could have easily cemented Kumar as the “good yet unlucky guy”, the mature performance highlighting the shades of grey changed the trajectory of his character. With ‘Andaz’ being one of his initial ventures, Kumar surpassed expectations. By holding his own ground against the legendary Raj Kapoor, the actor showed early signs of the success that was yet to come.
4. Sagina Mahato (1970)
The first and only Bengali film of Dilip Kumar, ‘Sagina Mahato’, directed by Tapan Sinha is set against the backdrop of the Indian labour movement of 1942-43. Essaying the role of the titular character, Dilip Kumar showcased his mature take on the psychological and emotional functionality of the character. The film carries a certain aura of British cinema, which was influential in Sinha’s early career. Kumar represents the suppressed community which is trying to break the shekels of social hierarchy. Channelling his inner social consciousness, Kumar brilliantly portrayed the artistic sensibilities of the director. The team’s efforts earned the film 5 BFJA Awards, including the Best Actor for Dilip Kumar.
3. Mashaal (1984)
Directed by the enigmatic Yash Chopra, ‘Mashaal’ focuses on Vinod Kumar, an esteemed, law-abiding citizen who embroiled in the dirt of corruption, turns to crime for exacting revenge. Adapted from Marathi writer Vasant Kanetkar’s play ‘Ashroonchi Zhali Phule’ (1966), the film explores the theme of family, crime, corruption and punishment. Kumar brilliantly personified his charisma and acting capabilities. With an ensemble cast, Kumar led by example. Steering back to tragedies, Kumar churned out an inspired performance with calibre, charisma and charm.
2. Naya Daur (1957)
Establishing the themes of industrialization and post-independence trauma, ‘Naya Daur’, as the title suggests, is about a new era of change in India. Starring Dilip Kumar as Shankar, a tongawallah under the oppressive boot of industrial wealth, the films chronicles his attempts to challenge the authority for equality. Directed by B. R. Chopra, the film was quite ahead of its time. Releasing at a time when such concepts and thematic repression were not relatable to the audience, ‘Naya Daur’ brought in a wind of change in the art of filmmaking. Spearheaded by Kumar, the film won him his fourth “Filmfare Award for Best Actor”.
1. Mughal-E-Azam (1960)
A magnum-opus in the making, ‘Mughal-E-Azam’ was the vision of high ambition. Directed by K. Asif, the movie took 10 years to complete. Marred by controversies, financial inability and artistic impasse, ‘Mughal-E-Azam’ seemed to be a product of uncorroborated desire. However, with K. Asif attention to artistic detail, Shapoorji Pallonji’s foundational investment and the actors’ masterful grasp of the art, this 1960 epic historical drama tore through all barriers to become one the first blockbusters of Indian cinema. Tracing the story of Emperor Akbar, his son Salim and the beauteous Anarkali, the film explores the differences between father and son, duty over family, the trials and tribulations of women, and the resinous conflicts. Essaying the role of Salim, alongside Prithviraj Kapoor’s Akbar and Madhubala’s Anarkali, Dilip Kumar brought in a new wave of artistic humanity within Salim.
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