Mumbai: Legendary late actor Dilip Kumar also known as the tragedy king of Hindi cinema is known by the variety of characters he played during the vast career spanning over decades.
For some, he was Salim of Mughal-e-Azam. For others, he was Deva as he became the second actor to play the role of Devdas in an adaptation of Saratchandra Chattopadhyay’s novella of the same name. Then there were Ram, Shyam, Rana Vishwa Pratap Singh and Veer Singh, among many others. But what was his real name?
Dilip Kumar was, in fact, the late actor’s screen name given by producer Devika Rani. The actor was born as Muhammad Yusuf Khan in an Awan family in Pakistan’s Peshawar.
Yusuf Khan to Dilip Kumar
Born as Muhammad Yusuf Khan on December 11, 1922, to Lala Ghulam Sarwar Khan and his wife Ayesha Begum of Peshawar (now in Pakistan), Dilip Kumar opted for a screen name on producer Devika Rani’s request. The producer later gave him his lead role in the 1944 film Jwar Bhata.
In his autobiography, Dilip Kumar: The Substance and the Shadow, the veteran actor revealed why he changed his name from Muhammad Yusuf Khan to Dilip Kumar.
He wrote, “She (Devika Rani) said, quite matter-of-factly: ‘Yousuf, I was thinking about your launch soon as an actor and I felt it would not be a bad idea if you adopted a screen name. You know, a name you would be known by and which will be very appropriate for your audience to relate to and one that will be in tune with the romantic image you are bound to acquire through your screen presence. I thought Dilip Kumar was a nice name. It just popped up in my mind when I was thinking about a suitable name for you. How does it sound to you?”
“I was speechless for a moment, being totally unprepared for the new identity she was proposing to me. I said it sounded nice but asked her whether it was really necessary,” Kumar says in the book.
“She gave her sweet smile and told me that it would be prudent to do so. She added that it was after considerable thought that she came to the conclusion of giving me a screen name.”
It was not just Devika Rani who influenced Dilip Kumar to change his name. In an interview with Mahendra Kaul in 1970, Dilip Kumar had said the real reason he changed his name was the ‘pitayi ka darr’ (fear of thrashing) from his father. The late actor had said that his father never liked his acting career and called it ‘nautanki’. Interestingly, his father never appreciated his friend Dewan Basheshwarnath Kapoor’s grandson Raj Kapoor doing films either. Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor were neighbours in Peshawar. Their ancestral havelis in the Pakistani city will be turned into museums now.
The rest as they say is history. Dilip Kumar went on to debut with Jwar Bhata in 1944, becoming one of the biggest names in Indian cinema history.