Biographies Book

Book Review Dilip Kumar (Substance and Shadow, an Autobiography)

Author Dilip Kumar

Publisher Hay House India

450 pages

Price Rs 699/-

ISBN 9789381398869

It was mid-summer and the weather was hot and humid in Mumbai and the incident dates back to the year 2004. Dilip Sahab was helping Saira Banu rearrange the books on her bedroom shelf when he took a book written by an author who claimed to have known Dilip Kumar better than anyone else. “This is supposed to be my biography and it is full of distortions and misinformation,” Dilip Sahab told Saira. Pat came Saira’s response “Why don’t you write your life story yourself?” It was something that Saira always insisted that Dilip Sahab should write his own autobiography.

Dilip Sahab and Saira Ji’s perseverance for a decade witnessed comedian Dilip Kumar’s autobiography titled “The Substance and the Shadow” which chronicles his life from birth. The title says that as one walks through life, one’s shadow becomes larger than the actual image. Likewise, Yousuf Khan the substance grew bigger than Dilip Kumar as his shadow.

The book was published by Hay House India. The narration to put Dilip Sahab’s erudite words to paper was meticulously done by Udayatara Nayar who is known for her long association of nearly half a century with Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu. When Udayatara was new to the world of film journalism, she had written a long analytical article on Dilip Sahab in one of Screen’s issues. Dilip Sahab then addressed the former editor of Screen SSPillai: “Take care of her, make her work hard and she will go far. She has the potential to become a biographer one day. Little did she know that fate would make it happen for her too in real life and she would be chosen for Dilip Sahab’s book.

compulsive reader

While reading the book, I was impressed to learn that Dilip Sahab, apart from being a prolific actor, was also a compulsive reader. Whether it be novels, plays, or biographies, his love of classic literature has been paramount. As the book says, “When he reads, he’s like a child absorbed in his favorite game that doesn’t want to put it away until Saira Ji begs him to rest.” He’s always absorbed, whether it’s writing a script or a scene waiting to be photographed the next morning. He used to underline in pencil the sentences that aroused his curiosity and to note in the margins notes in green ink of his elegant handwriting.

As Dr. RCSharma recalls in this book, Dilip Sahab reads voraciously on all subjects, including medicine. He once also spoke at a medical conference and everyone in the medical fraternity listened in fascination to his speech which was full of information about the latest developments in the field. Nobody could say that Dilip Kumar was an actor and medicine was not his focus.

Dressing Power

Dilip Sahab’s communication is just not verbal, it is also reflected in his power to dress up. He believes in the practice of discipline, his clothes are aligned and maintained by color: “White is white and off-white is off-white”, which he is absolutely clear. Dilip Sahab also adores his fine collection of shoes, suits and ties. Over the years, Saira Ji admits to having learned from him Dilip Sahab how best to care for these items. She has also mastered the art of going through different stages to achieve a good polish of the exquisite Dilip Kumar shoes wrapped in covers to protect them from moisture.

Commitment to craftsmanship

Dilip Kumar, the son of a Pathan fruit seller, received a solid down to earth education from parents who always told him that he should be true to his profession, whatever profession he chose, and earn his wages sincerely. His hard work and commitment to the craft never wavered. A strong sense of integrity, commitment and compassion came naturally to this nonagenarian with Pathan genes.

Hay House India’s recently released autobiography Dilip Kumar: The Substance and the Shadow gives readers a wealth of comprehensive information about Dilip Sahab who started as a shy novice in Hindi cinema in the early 1940s and later rose to the pinnacle of stardom. in no time with its mesmerizing performances. A career spanning more than six decades based on his capacity for innovation, his determination and his hard work. To sum up Dilip Kumar: Thespian, connoisseur of the arts, voracious reader and very gifted multilingual speaker. I am convinced that readers would find this book instructive.

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