[Book Excerpt] Dilip Kumar: Films that were not to be

In their book, Dilip Kumar: Peerless Icon Inspiring Generations, authors Trinetra and Anshula Bajpai take you on a fascinating up close and personal journey that will unveil the many facets of the magnificent personality of this legend.

 |  21-minute read |   07-07-2021
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With a heavy heart, we bid farewell to the legendary Dilip Sahab, who breathed his last early morning today.

Few actors become legends in their own lifetimes and Dilip Kumar was one of them.

Mohammad Yusuf Khan, better known by his screen name Dilip Kumar, was not merely a living legend who has straddled the celluloid firmament like a colossus over the last five decades — he was far above that unattainable peak of fame. Instead, he was on a loftier pedestal in the hearts of legions of admirers encompassing several generations. With the millions of hearts that he had stolen with his charm and romantic style, it is then little wonder that so many years later the legendary thespian’s work continues to be both admired and studied by actors even now.

Lavishly illustrated with over a hundred rare and familiar pictures, Dilip Kumar: Peerless Icon Inspiring Generations includes chapters on Dilip Kumar’s early years and family, his evolution as an actor, an exhaustive filmography, his relationship with his contemporaries and colleagues, his romances and eventual marriage to Saira Banu, which has stood the test of time.

Authors Trinetra and Anshula Bajpai have produced this comprehensive and unputdownable book that is filled with movies and memories, written in a style that carries the reader through over fifty of Hindi cinema’s most memorable years.

We present an exclusive excerpt from the book of the chapter titled Films That Were Not To Be that explores the ill-fated films of Dilip Kumar that never saw the light of the day. 

Come, discover the great thespian that Dilip Kumar was and why his legacy will endure. 


main_dilip-kumar-boo_070721020505.jpgDilip Kumar: Peerless Icon Inspiring Generations | ₹1299 | Hardback | Bloomsbury Publishing


Films That Were Not To Be

Dilip Kumar could slip into disparate personalities as easily as a hand slips into a glove. That is why, he is the actor we all love to love. His 59 completed films are testimony to his peerless histrionics. But, only a few would know that there were a number of ill-fated Dilipian films that were either partly canned or remained incomplete; there were also a couple which did not get a release even after completion for reasons best known to the thespian himself or the respective producers/directors. One can imagine as to what more captivating histrionic splendour was in store for Dilip fans had these films seen the light of the day. This chapter makes an effort in cataloguing such films based on research and available information.

The Post-Amar jinx with Mehboob Khan

In our several interactions with Dilip Saheb, he very fondly referred to a specific film titled ‘Mere Watan’, which according to him was based on a very good script but did not take-off. However, the thespian could not recall the cast and credits of the ill-fated film. Our best guess is that perhaps it was a film planned by the legendary Mehboob Khan after the failure of his Son of India (1963) with the title ‘Hamara Watan’. It was to be mounted on the scale of a magnum opus with the cast including top names such as Dilip Kumar, Raaj Kumar, Rajendra Kumar and Saira Banu. Naushad and Sahir Ludhianvi were to be teamed for the first time in the venture. Sadly, this dream production probably died with Mehboob Khan’s death in June 1964. However, post the critically acclaimed Amar (1954), some sort of a jinx seemed to have cast its shadow on the Mehboob–Dilip collaboration. First, Dilip Kumar declined to play the role of Birjoo, one of the two sons of Nargis, in the celebrated classic Mother India (which was eventually played Sunil Dutt). Second was a film called ‘Habba Khatoon’. The legendary filmmaker Mehboob Khan was very fond of the story of 16th-century Kashmiri poetess Habba Khatoon, also known as the Nightingale of Kashmir. He made the writing department of Mehboob Productions slog to evolve a perfect script on her life. Mehboob Saheb wanted to launch the film immediately after the super-duper success of Mother India (1957). In fact, some posters of Mother India carried the announcement of ‘Habba Khatoon’ starring Dilip Kumar as the next venture of Mehboob Productions. Apparently, Dilip Kumar was to play the role of Yousuf Shah Chak, a ruler of Kashmir and the husband of Habba Khatoon, with Nargis playing the legendary poetess. Perhaps, Dilip Saheb did not like the negative traits in the character of Chak or whatever be the reason, Mehboob Saheb shelved the film and a complete bound script of ‘Habba Khatoon’ is said to be languishing in the offices of Mehboob Productions. Meanwhile, the story of the poetess appears to be jinxed as many efforts to bring her life on screen have proved futile. For example, in 1988, Muzaffar Ali’s Vinod Khanna–Dimple Kapadia starrer ‘ Zoonie’, based on the poetess' story, was canned after ten reels and ten lovely songs had been recorded by Khayyam. Similarly, filmmaker Roshanlal Wadhera had announced a film on Habba Khatoon in 1983 starring Saira Banu and Sanjay Khan under the direction of legendary B.R. Chopra, with music by Naushad. But, for reasons unknown, the film did not progress beyond recording of a fabulous Mohammad Rafi song 'Jis Raat Ke Khwab Aaye, Woh Khwabon Ki Raat Aayi', penned by Ali Sardar Jafri.

Probable Mughal-E-Azams?

Karimuddin Asif (or K. Asif), the legendary maker of Mughal-E-Azam, after his first multi-starrer film Phool (1946), launched an ambitious project titled ‘Janwar’, starring the then reigning singing star Suraiya and Dilip Kumar. A grand mahurat was held and shooting commenced to can three–four reels. Then, for mysterious reasons, the shooting halted and eventually the movie was shelved. Some say that there was a tiff between the lead pair while others say the perfectionist K. Asif did not like the script. The real reason shall remain shrouded in mystery! Down the years, K. Asif had also planned a film on the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar titled ‘Aakhri Mughal’ with Dilip Kumar in the lead role. The film remained a dream with the untimely demise of Asif. Meanwhile, K. Asif had also announced another film with Dilip Kumar titled ‘Taj Mahal’, which too never saw the light of the day.

Incomplete Dilip Kumar–Madhubala Starrers

Director-producer Mahesh Kaul had made a hit film Gopinath, starring Raj Kapoor and Tripti Mitra in 1948. He then wanted to make a romantic film titled ‘Har Singaar’ with the popular pair of Dilip Kumar and Madhubala as the protagonists. The movie was launched with high expectations under the banner of Allied Art Productions and its music direction was assigned to Anil Biswas. After completing six reels, the film was inexplicably shelved. Unfortunately, nobody has cared to retrieve the priceless footage of some enchanting Dilip Kumar–Madhubala scenes shot for the film, which must be languishing in cans in some musty godown.

Dr V.N. Sinha, the owner of Republic Films, which later produced the super hit Dilip Kumar–Meena Kumari starrer Kohinoor, had signed up the Dilip Kumar– Madhubala pair to star in his supposedly debut production titled ‘Faasla’. The film was to be co-produced and directed by Zia Sarhady of Foot Path (1953, starring Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari) and Hum Log (1951) fame. A mahurat of the film was held at Modern Studios in Dadar but the film did not proceed beyond that as Zia Sarhady opted to migrate to Pakistan. Yet another Dilip Kumar–Madhubala starrer titled ‘Gohar’ was planned by the veteran producer-director P.N. Arora, owner of All India Pictures. The film did not proceed beyond the announcement, reportedly, because of Dilip Saheb pointing too many pitfalls in the story’s scenario. The film was eventually made in 1953 with actor Rehman as the leading man, with music by Ghulam Mohammad.

Jinxed Dilip Kumar–Madan Mohan Pairing

The association of Dilip Kumar and Melody King Madan Mohan was jinxed or so it seems. Whenever a Dilip Kumar starrer was announced to have a musical score by Madan Mohan, the film did not materialise. Producer-director R.C. Talwar, after the release of his Dilip Kumar–Madhubala starrer Sangdil, announced another film titled ‘Bank Manager’ with Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari in the lead roles, with music by Madan Mohan. The film did not proceed beyond the announcement and Talwar instead went on to make Rukhsana (1955) with Meena Kumari and Kishore Kumar for unknown reasons. Director-producer Ramesh Saigal, who had worked with Dilip Kumar in films like Shaheed and Shikast, was to co-produce and direct ‘ Kala Aadmi’ with Dilip Saheb’s elder brother Ayub Khan. The music of the film was to be scored by Madan Mohan. The film was based on the life of coal miners and quite a lot of research and groundwork went into the scripting of the film; advance preparations for the shooting had also been made. Both Dilip and Ramesh even visited the coal mines in Dhanbad and Jharia in Jharkhand (then a part of unified Bihar). Ayub Khan, who had a failing health, passed away and the film was shelved, probably for this reason.

Dilip Kumar–Mithun Chakraborty: Another Jinx

Just like the earlier jinxed combo, there is another ill-fated pairing of Dilip Kumar and Mithun Chakraborty. Whenever they tried to come together on a project, it somehow did not materialise. First was a film by Ramanand Sagar titled ‘Sanam’, co-starring the two actors along with Rakhee, Reena Roy and Ranjeeta, which was launched with great fanfare under his banner, Sagar Arts. But, the film got shelved soon after its grand announcement when Sagar’s magnum opus Baghavat (1982) bombed at the box office. Then, in July 1987, producers C.D. Mehta and Neeta Arora announced, under the banner of AGM International, an ambitious venture titled ‘Raasta’ starring Dilip Kumar, Mithun Chakraborty, Sridevi, Anupam Kher and others. Although some shooting of the film took place, the movie was eventually abandoned and shelved.

The Almost Complete Film: Shikwa

Seth Makhan Lal Jain and his son Rajinder Jain, who owned the Filmkar Production House, had produced the golden jubilee hit Deedar starring Ashok Kumar, Dilip Kumar, Nargis and Nimmi. Encouraged by the film’s grand success, they decided to launch another Dilip Kumar starrer, co-starring Nutan, titled ‘Shikwa’. The film was directed by Ramesh Saigal, who also played a role in it, and the music was to be composed by Anil Biswas. More than 99 per cent of the film was shot, canning around 100,000 feet of edited footage, but couldn’t be completed. Based on a story by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, it was an anti-war film which centred around an army officer Ram (Dilip Kumar), who criticises the martial instincts pervasive in the army, and his beloved, Indu (Nutan). Plunged in a war, Ram implores the warring soldiers of both the sides to not kill each other. Ram is caught in a crossfire in which he losses an arm and one eye. Ram is court-martialed for his anti-war act. Indu in a bid to save Ram from the gallows agrees to marry the commanding officer of the court martial (Saigal). Unaware that she has struck a deal to save his life, Ram is shocked and confronts her. Looking at the footage of the unreleased film available on the internet1, one can easily say that it was another fine performance by Dilip Saheb, showcasing his sheer acting brilliance. A couple of scenes of the film were used in producer Shahab Ahmad’s Film Hi Film (1983). Grapevine has it that the film remained incomplete owing to differences between the director and the producers. There are others who say it stalled because Filmkar launched another film titled ‘Anarkali’ when the production of Mughal-E-Azam had just been revived, which upset K. Asif and Dilip Kumar, subsequently leading to a court case. Apparently, another bone of contention was Kamaal Amrohi who wrote both the films.

main_dilip-kumar-boo_070721024052.jpgCourtesy: Bloomsbury

Halted at Start/After Initial Shooting

Samandar: The iconic Bombay Talkies Studios downed its shutters on 13 October 1953 with its premises being closed permanently. The studio’s workmen floated a new concern in the name of Bombay Talkies Workers’ Industrial Co-operative Society Limited to produce a classic motion picture Baadbaan (1954), directed by the famous Phani Majumdar with a formidable star cast including Ashok Kumar, Dev Anand, Meena Kumari, Usha Kiron, Jairaj, Shaikh Mukhtar, et al. The artistes reportedly worked free in the spirit of reviving the legendary banner. The film did reasonably well at the box office. Egged on by the successful experiment, the co-operative society launched an even bigger venture titled ‘Samandar’ with an even bigger cast, bringing together greats like Ashok Kumar, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Meena Kumari, etc. But, their casting coup remained a pipe dream as the film never took off.

An untitled film with Shanta Apte: Dilip Kumar was also to star with Shanta Apte, a great actress of the 1940s whose super hit Swayamsiddha (1947) is remembered even to this date. Apte was to play his sister in the untitled film. Nothing much is known about the movie or the reason as to why it got shelved. All we are left with is a copy of the working still (placed alongside). It is rather unfortunate that the firebrand Shanta Apte and the endearingly suave Dilip Kumar could never be seen on screen and the cinegoers were denied the opportunity of witnessing the two acting greats together.

Chanakya Chandragupta: Kishore Sharma was a well-known barrister in Mumbai and had been in the film industry for decades. As a scholar who had specialised in ancient Indian history, his fascination for the legendary character of Chanakya, the mentor of Samrat Chandragupta Maurya and the creator of Chanakya Neeti, ran deep in his heart. He wanted to produce a period film ‘Chanakya Chandragupta’, under his own banner of Madhu Malvika, with B.R. Chopra as its director and a script by Satish Bhatnagar. Dilip Kumar was persuaded to play the main role of Chanakya, while Dharmendra was cast as Chandragupta, Hema Malini as his Greek wife Helena and Salma Agha was to play Malvika. Music director Naushad had even recorded a beautiful number, 'Dil Kisakaa Pyaar Nibhaaye Aur Kaise Pyaar Nibhaaye', penned by Indivar, in the voice of Lata Mangeshkar to officially announce the film. The film, planned to be made as a magnum opus, was to have its mahurat on 11 November 1977. Extensive advance preparations were made and a number of trials for the look of Dilip Kumar as Chanakya were successfully conducted. London-based professional make-up expert Annie Spiers and Indian make-up man Pandhari Juker worked together to create the looks of the main artistes, including Dilip Saheb. The work was carried out in London over three weeks with an active participation of Dilip Kumar, B.R. Chopra, Kishore Sharma, Pandhari Juker and Laxmikant Joshi, an expert on Chanakya. However, this ambitious venture could never reach the setsas Sharma suddenly passed away.

The Unrealised Casting Coup

Sohrab Modi’s magnum opus remake of Pukar: Veteran filmmaker and actor Sohrab Modi wanted to remake his super hit film Pukar (1939) in the early 1970s with a stellar star cast playing the roles from the original: Dilip Kumar as Emperor Jehangir, Raj Kapoor as washerman, Saira Banu as Empress Noor Jahan, Shashi Kapoor as Sangram Singh and Rakhee as washerwoman. Music director Naushad (Ali) had even recorded two songs for the filmfilm—'Toree Nazaron Se Dhobaniyaa Laage Man Maa Kaantaa Re', sung by Mukesh, and, 'Tore Kurte Se Toraa Badan Jhalake, Kaahe Dhoyaa Re Dhobaniyaa', a duet in the voices of Mukesh and Asha Bhosle. The lyrics were penned by Jan Nisar Akhtar. Some scenes were also picturised on Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu but the magnum opus somehow got shelved.

Sunkavalli’s untitled film: A producer from south Indian film industry, V.K.P. Sunkavalli announced an untitled Dilip Kumar–Saira Babu starrer to be directed by veteran K.S. Prakash Rao with music by Shankar–Jaikishan. A gala mahurat was held with much fanfare followed by an initial shooting stint in Chennai (then Madras). It was a light-hearted script based on the Telugu hit Vichitra Kutumbam (1969), with Dilip Saheb playing a lawyer and Saira Banu playing his wife. The film was reportedly financed by the political heavyweight Biju Patnaik from Odisha (then Orissa). Inexplicably, the film did not proceed beyond the initial shooting schedule and was shelved.

Zabardast: Veteran producer-director Nasir Hussain launched his most ambitious venture titled ‘Zabardast’, starring Dilip Kumar, Asha Parekh, Sharda, Dharmendra, Zeenat Aman, Rishi Kapoor, Tina Munim, Amjad Khan, Kajal Kiran, etc. The film’s other major credits included Sachin Bhowmick (script), R.D. Burman (music) and Majrooh Sultanpuri (lyrics). The shooting of the multi- starrer (in Cinemascope and stereophonic sound) commenced in right earnest at Filmalaya Studios but somewhere along the way Dilip Saheb and Nasir Saheb developed creative differences and the project was shelved. Asha Parekh till date deeply regrets missing the chance of working with Dilip Saheb.

Discovery of India: During the emergency days (1975–1977), producer G.P. Sippy launched an ambitious project titled ‘Discovery of India’, based on Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru’s famous book by the same title, with Dilip Kumar playing the main protagonist. It was to be directed by Ramesh Sippy (of Sholay fame) and written by writer duo Salim (Khan)–Javed (Akhtar). A grand mahurat was held in New Delhi which was attended by the then Information and Broadcasting Minister Vidya Charan Shukla. The film, however, did not proceed beyond the mahurat.

Masterji: Chandra Barot, who directed the Amitabh Bachchan–Zeenat Aman starrer Don (1978) which was produced by ace cinematographer Nariman Irani, launched his own film titled ‘Masterji’ based on George Bernard Shaw’s celebrated play, Pygmalion. He signed up Dilip Kumar to play Professor Higgins and Saira Banu as Eliza Dolittle. An initial shooting schedule at Juhu Beach was completed but the film did not proceed beyond that.

Majnoon: Superstar Rajesh Khanna with great fanfare launched an ambitious production under his own banner of Aashirwad Films titled ‘Majnoon’, starring himself and Rakhi in the main leads, with music by Khayyam and lyrics by Naqsh Lyallpuri under the direction of Kamaal Amrohi. Full page advertisements were run in the Screen magazine pompously announcing a mega film with other co- stars being Ashok Kumar, Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor. A grand gala mahurat was held with the inaugural shot taken on Raj Kapoor. Two sonorous songs/title music of the film were recorded under the baton of Khayyam. However, Dilip Saheb ran counter advertisements in the Screen magazine denying that he had signed the film. In any case, the film got shelved after picturisation of the songs.

Asar: Producer Dinesh Gandhi, under the banner of Sonu Films, launched a film titled ‘Asar’ on 27 August 2001 starring Dilip Kumar, Ajay Devgn and Priyanka Chopra under the direction of Kuku Kohli. Dilip Saheb had sounded the clapper board, Aruna Irani switched on the camera, guest director Indra Kumar broke the auspicious coconut and Saira Banu called for ‘action’. The film had music by Nadeem–Shravan, lyrics by Sameer, editing by Sanjay Jaiswal and cinematography by Baba Azmi. Shooting of the movie commenced at Royal Palm Club in Goregaon but the project was shelved after around four reels were canned.

Adaa: Producer-directors Tanvi Ahmed and JhamuS ugandh had pulled off a major casting coup by signing Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan for their film titled ‘Adaa’, based on a story spanning four generations. The music was assigned to A.R. Rahman but the film never took off.

Sahara’s untitled film: Dilip Kumar and Manoj Bajpayee were signed for a film by Sahara One Motion Pictures to be directed by Tinnu Anand but this project also remained unrealised.

Subhash Ghai’s ‘Homeland’: Producer-director Subhash Ghai, under his banner Mukta Arts, had launched a mega venture titled ‘Homeland’ and brought together three major stars Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan to play the leads. But, this dream project also failed to take shape.

Film Ideas That Remained Just That

After the astounding success of his home production Gunga Jumna, Dilip Kumar was keen on working on a script titled ‘Kaar Begaar’. It was based on the trials and tribulations of some cotton weavers who help a tycoon set up a factory in their hamlet, assuming that it will generate employment and change their lives for the better. But, they are met with disillusionment as the tycoon goes back on his words. The villagers then take up cudgels against the tycoon seeking justice. The film never got made. Sairaji told us that she was keen on playing the woman protagonist and regretted that the film was not made. Some other films that the megastar’s own banner, Citizen Films, had announced were ‘Kaali Sarson’, ‘Banmanas’, and ‘Satya’. ‘Kaali Sarson’ was a dark-skinned girl’s story and was to star Saira Banu in the lead role.

Dilip Saheb had another dream project titled ‘Oh Baba Jaan’ for which he had crafted nine different versions of a script on schizophrenia and wanted the film to be directed by the well-known Marathi director Jabbar Patel. Baba Jaan was probably the name of a horse which the protagonist with split personality rides in the nights. The story had a riveting, suspense plot about a schizophrenic banker’s diabolic bid to rob a bank. Dilip Saheb had several meetings with Jabbar Pater but somehow the film did not get off ground. The dream project sadly remained a dream. Another subject which remained on paper only was titled ‘Kashmir Valley’ or ‘Song of the Valley’ set against the backdrop of Kashmir and was specially written for Saira Banu before the couple had married.

Producer-director R.K. Nayyar had announced an ambitious film titled ‘Bewafa’ with an unusual star cast comprising his actress wife Sadhana, Dilip Kumar and Shammi Kapoor. The project did not move beyond the trade paper reports. Similarly, the ace producer-director Manmohan Desai had planned a film titled ‘Hazaar Laakh Crore’ starring Dilip Kumar in early 1960s but the project never took off.

The Roles Dilip Kumar Declined

Dilip Saheb’s dear friend, contemporary and iconic actor-director-producer Raj Kapoor wanted to make a film titled ‘Gharonda’ starring Nargis, himself and Dilip Kumar with music by Shankar–Jaikishan on the same subject as his later day super hit film Sangam (1964). Raj Kapoor was extremely keen to have Dilip Kumar play the role which was eventually performed by Rajendra Kumar in Sangam. The late veteran director Lekh Tandon, then an assistant to Raj Kapoor (and a close family friend of the authors), was with Raj Kapoor when he broached the subject with Dilip Kumar. Lekhji personally recounted the conversation which he said was in chaste Punjabi. Dilip Saheb’s response to Raj Kapoor was, ‘Subject vi twada, actor vi tu, director vi tu, hoar kainchi vi twade haath... ton saada ki hai?' He thus politely declined the offer.

Besides this, Dilip Saheb declined quite a few roles in films that later turned out to be classics. He had his own logic for turning down the lead roles in films like Vijay Bhatt’s Baiju Bawra (1952), Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa (1957) and Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962), and Mehboob Khan’s Mother India. We have already dwelled on his reasons for declining the role of Birju in Mother India in Chapter 3. Dilip Sahab, on his refusal to play the poet of Pyaasa, said, ‘I did not do Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa which was offered to me since I saw no wisdom in doing it while I was playing a similar role in Bimal Roy’s Devdas (1955). In both the pictures, I would have been heavily drinking, the characterisations were similar and any glimmer of repetition would have been unfair to both the directors.’ Well, he seems to have a point there.

There was also an offer from the iconic Hollywood director David Lean, a friend of Dilip Kumar, to act in his landmark film Lawrence of Arabia (1962). But, for reasons best known to him, Dilip Saheb declined the offer. Similarly, the well-known British producer-director-distributor Sir Alexander Korda wanted to launch a magnum opus production titled ‘Taj Mahal’ but again Dilip Kumar politely declined. There also were rumours that the ‘Master of Suspense’ Alfred Hitchcock, during his visit to Mumbai, had considered making a thriller with Dilip Kumar. When we posed the question of working with Hitchcock to Dilip Saheb, he merely answered with his engaging smile. Despite our best efforts, we could not ascertain whether there was any truth in the said rumours.

In the 1960s, there were rumours of a possible collaboration between the legendary film director Satyajit Ray and Dilip Saheb to make a film. Apparently, the film was based on the famous sort by Munshi Premchand, Kafan. Ray and Dilip Saheb had a long friendship and the iconic director was very fond of the thespians, acting calibre and films. Dilip Kumar attended the Mumbai premier of Ray’s Abhijan (1962) and that’s where the possibility of such a film said to have been discussed. However, the Satyajit Ray–Dilip Kumar film did not materialise and that was a loss of Indian cinema.

Also Read: Dilip Kumar's magnum opus Mughal-E-Azam is a masterclass on love


Trinetra and Anshula Bajpai @trinetrabajpai

Trinetra and Anshula Bajpai are acclaimed authors of DEV eternal ANAND and Dilip Kumar: Peerless Icon Inspiring Generations. Trinetra Bajpai is a chemical engineer, entrepreneur and music composer.

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