Bollywood actor Dilip Kumar, one of the most beloved figures in Indian cinema, died on Wednesday at the age of 98, his doctor confirmed.
Kumar was known to generations of moviegoers for appearing in cult Bollywood classics including the movies “Devdas”, “Naya Daur”, “Ganga Jamuna” and more. He often took on tragic roles, which earned him the nickname “Tragedy King”.
“Dilip Kumar died at 7:30 am this morning from a prolonged illness,” said Dr Jalil Parkar, who was treating him at Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai.
Kumar was taken to hospital in early June and then released from the hospital, but was re-admitted on June 30, according to articles posted on his official Twitter account.
On July 5, just two days before his death, Kumar’s wife Saira Banu Khan tweeted from her account saying her health was improving.
A tweet from Kumar’s account, signed by family friend Faisal Farooqui, confirmed his death on Wednesday. “With a heavy heart and deep sorrow, I announce the passing of our beloved Dilip Saab a few minutes ago,” the tweet said.
Kumar is survived by his wife. The couple did not have children.
People from all walks of life, including politicians, actors and athletes, shared their condolences on social media following news of his death.
“Dilip Kumar Ji will be remembered as a movie legend,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted Wednesday. “He was fortunate to have an unprecedented brilliance, thanks to which audiences of all generations have been captivated. His passing is a loss to our cultural world. Condolences to his family, friends and countless admirers.”
Amitabh Bachchan, another Bollywood heavyweight, tweeted that “an institution has disappeared” and added that he was “deeply saddened”.
“Whenever the history of Indian cinema is written, it will always be ‘before Dilip Kumar and after Dilip Kumar’,” he wrote.
From fruit seller to movie star
Kumar was born Muhammad Yusuf Khan in 1922, in Peshawar, in what is now part of Pakistan. His father was a fruit merchant and the family moved to Mumbai, then known as Bombay, during Kumar’s childhood in the 1930s. A decade later he moved to Pune to start a canteen business and provide fruit.
It was in Pune that he was spotted by actress Devika Rani, also the wife of a famous Bollywood film studio founder. She helped the young man enter the industry and found the screen name he would be known by – Dilip Kumar.
Although Kumar’s early films did not cause a stir, his 1947 film “Jugnu” marked a decisive success, followed by the success “Shaheed” the following year. It was on the set of “Shaheed” that he met and began a relationship with actress Kamini Kaushal – an on-screen couple who became a fan favorite, leading to three more consecutive hits featuring the duo.
Dilip Kumar with actress Meena Kumari in a scene from the 1958 film “Yahudi”. Credit: Matteo Omied / Alamy
By the 1950s he had become one of India’s biggest stars, racking up a long list of accolades, placing him on par with Bollywood legends like Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan.
But her personal life also made headlines offscreen. After his relationship with Kaushal ended in 1951, he met actress Madhubala, another onscreen couple who became popular with audiences and spawned the movie “Mughal-e-Azam” – widely regarded as one of Bollywood’s most successful films and an icon of its genre.
He married his wife, actress Saira Banu, in 1966.
But his professional life began to decline in his later years, with a string of box office flops in the 60s and 70s, save for a few blockbuster movies. He retired in 1998 due to poor health.
Aside from the film awards, Kumar has also been recognized for his long and illustrious career. He received both the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan – the third and second highest civilian awards given by the Indian government – for his contributions to cinema.