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My obsession with film stars and their reel life

I find myself sympathising with the poor and the jilted — never mind that their misfortune lasts only the length of the film

Gulf News

Some times when I look back, I smile at my own innocence — of my younger days. It was the innocence of an immature, little-informed lad of 13-14. That was when, like many other boys of my age, I also used to take the story of a movie at its face value and for real.

I would sympathise with the characters portrayed as poor, ill-fed, ill-clad or seriously sick or injured, not aware of the fact that soon after the shooting of that particular sequence, those “poor and seriously sick” actors would go home in their luxurious automobiles driving themselves or driven by their chauffeurs.

The same way, I would hate the villain for molesting some girl or a village Shylock fleecing a poor farmer to the hilt. Yes, I was, and continue to be sentimental. Tears rolled down my cheeks when in a Hindu movie ’Jagrati’, an infirm boy (played by Ratan Kumar who later migrated to Pakistan), “dies”, rendering his widowed mother a heart-broken destitute. So powerful was their acting that I cried.

While watching movie ‘Maa’ (Mother) I felt like thrashing the elder brother and his wife who were forging signatures to corner the money sent to the old and infirm lady in the house by her younger son (played by Bharat Bhushan).

I was not the only person to have been angered by the scene. Some persons sitting in the lowest class in the theatre threw sandals at the ‘crooked couple’ on the screen. The abhorrence in the child in me for such elements was so strong that I could not believe anybody telling me that the characters were paid for performing as such.

Actors Pran and Ranjeet remained in my bad books till somebody convinced me that they were very nice people in real life.

Like villainy and crookedness, the portrayal of extreme poverty equally cast a deep impression on this boy’s young mind. I have come across numerous instances but Balraj Sahni did evoke pity when he pulled a hand-driven rickshaw on the streets of the then Calcutta to earn a few coins in ‘Do Bigha Zameen’.

To be honest, I have always been on the side of losers — and they included losers in love as well. This, notwithstanding the fact that, at the age of 12-13, like other boys of my age, I was also too young to understand all the connotations of ‘love’. Initially, the word meant to me nothing more than pure and simple friendship between two little schoolboys or two school girls.

With no television, internet and cell phones around, and restricted mobility, there was little scope for exposure of young ones to the outside world, hence their ignorance in many respects. In my case, hormonal changes were slowly bringing about a change in my perception.

I felt strongly in matters of love. I started sympathising with whoever was jilted by his/her beloved or lover. Actor Dilip Kumar topped my list. Though not endowed by sharp features like those of Raj Kapoor or Dev Anand, his greatest asset has been his typically infectious smile which saw the onlooker esteem him more.

In the movie ‘Deedar’, Shyamoo (younger Dilip Kumar), the son of a poor widow, staying in a shanty, and his lady love, the daughter of the owner of a palace, like each other and take vows to never separate. The two ride a horse but after her fall and injury, the boy and his mother are thrown out of the shanty on the palace premises.

The boy loses his eyesight but keeps yearning for her even after he grows into manhood. However, the boy gets erased from the memory of the girl (played by Nargis) who is married to a rich surgeon. The poor blind man becomes a street singer, his songs reflecting his longing for her.

He happens to sing for the couple at their huge mansion not knowing that the happily married rich lady listening to him was his own separated sweetheart he has been looking for all those years. The lyrics speak of his pain, agony and love yet she fails to recognise him.

Dilip Kumar being my idol, the child in me felt quite agitated over his jilting. I strongly felt that she should have married the poor man who had loved her from the core of his heart right from his childhood days and was longing for her all the time.

That wasn’t all. What pained this lad more was the fact that Nargis jilted him again in movie ‘Andaz’ in favour of Raj Kapoor. How could she ditch my icon Dilip Kumar like this? I asked myself.

While penning this I am having another smile over the idiosyncrasies of an innocent boy nurturing his own fanciful ideas. However, one thing has not changed.

Dilip Kumar (real name Yusuf Khan) continues to be my favourite idol.

Lalit Raizada is a journalist based in India.