Muhammed Yusuf Khan, popularly known as Dilip Kumar, breathed his last on Wednesday (July 7) morning. Often referred to as ‘The Tragedy King’, Kumar is credited for introducing a new form of method acting in the Hindi film industry. His demise was mourned by his fans in India and Pakistan. Dilip Kumar was not just a great actor but also a director and a writer. However, he too had to face hurdles in his creative pursuit under the Nehru government.
The Congress party had become the gatekeepers of ‘social morality’ and began interfering in the film industry. Congress MP Lilavati Munshi, who headed the Society for the Prevention of Unhealthy Trends in Motion Pictures, had moved a resolution in the Parliament in 1954 seeking a ban on ‘undesirable’ and ‘objectionable’ scenes. As such, all kissing scenes were banned. The Nehru government thus adopted the resolution in 1959 under the Cinematography Act. Lilavati Munshi also had a problem with Dilip Kumar’s hairstyle. She alleged that it had an ‘adverse’ effect on the youth.
Dilip Kumar’s tryst with censorship under Nehru Raj
When Dilip Kumar’s Ganga Jamuna movie was being made, the actor learnt that it had been banned by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I & B). The then Minister, Dr. BV Keskar, was least bothered about films and also frequently banned the airing of movie songs on All India Radio (AIR). Keskar was firm in his resolve of banning the movie Ganga Jamuna on grounds of violence and vulgarity. The Censor Board had recommended 250 cuts in the movie for it to be released. A desperate Dilip Kumar reached out to PM Nehru for help.
The meeting was scheduled for 15 minutes initially by Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi. During the meeting, Dilip Kumar explained how the Censor Board officials behaved like demigods and would not listen to the film directors or producers. He had highlighted several instances where the Censor Board failed to do its job and it somehow impressed PM Nehru. The meeting lasted for over 1.5 hours, following which the ban on his movie Ganga Jamuna was lifted. A few days later, Dr BV Keskar was sacked from the I&B Ministry.
Dilip Kumar – Career in Politics
In his book, ‘Nehru’s Hero: Dilip Kumar in the Life of India’, British Parliamentarian Lord Meghnad Desai wrote that Dilip Kumar was a Nehruvian man and also the hero of the first Prime Minister. PM Nehru invited the veteran actor to address a conference of Indian Youth Congress (IYC) during the 1950s. He even pressurised Dilip Kumar to campaign for VK Krishna Menon in the 1957 Lok Sabha election from the North Mumbai seat. As a result of the actor’s efforts, Menon managed to become an MP. However, Dilip Kumar distanced himself from Menon following India’s loss in the 1962 war.
Reportedly, the actor never joined electoral politics as such and remained committed to the principles enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Kumar was made the Sheriff of Mumbai between 1980-1981 during which he worked for the welfare of the differently-abled people. He had campaigned for several politicians such as VP Singh (1994 fundraiser), Manmohan Singh (1999), and a Congress candidate from Alwar in 1996. It was only in the year 2000 that the veteran actor Dilip Kumar was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the Congress party from Maharashtra.
During his 6-year tenure, the actor actively participated in parliamentary proceedings and development work. He was also a member of the Standing Committee of the Parliament on Health and Family Welfare. The committee prepared a report, which eventually led to the amendment of the Indian Medical Council Act, 2006. Dilip Kumar also used MPLAD funds for the development of gardens in Bandra Fort, the construction of Jogger’s Park, and the Bandstand Promenade. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1991, followed by Nishan-e-Imtiaz in 1998. The Modi government also awarded him with Padma Vibhushan in 2015.