Veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah looks up to the spy Dilip Kumar as much as any other cinephile. But while acknowledging Dilip Kumar’s irreplaceable contributions to Indian cinema, Shah has questioned “whether his (Kumar’s) example as a star was worthy of imitation and whether he helped push the boundaries for progress or reverse the downward spiral of popular Hindi cinema in the total star-centricity it revolves in today.”
In an op-ed Naseeruddin Shah wrote for Bids For, he stressed that Kumar’s manner of expression fell short of the standards of “fake theatricality, curvaceous voice tones and constant wagging hands.”
“His hypnotic stillness and impeccable poise set a paradigm for good acting in Indian films. His frugality in movement and gesture seemed little understood by his peers and even those who came after, although many superficially mimicked his style,” Shah said.
However, he added that despite Dilip Kumar’s greatness, he did little to improve his kind of cinema. Naseeruddin Shah added in his piece: “Given the position he was in, it is more than clear that he was not doing enough apart from acting and being involved in social matters close to his heart.”
Dilip Kumar and Madhubala in a still from Mughal-E-Azam.
The actor, who was recently admitted to Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai due to pneumonia, claimed that Kumar produced only one film in his acting career and did not officially direct one. “He never passed on the benefit of his experience, didn’t bother to groom anyone, and other than his pre-1970s performances, he left no important lessons for future actors.”
Shah even believed that Kumar’s autobiography was “a repetition of old interviews.” He wrote: “It’s mind-boggling why a man as aware of his place in history as he was would be reluctant to record his interaction with some of the admittedly great filmmakers of his day or do anything truly informative. to say about the nature of his work and technique. I wish at some point he had at least been candid about the trials and tribulations that come with retaining legions of devoted fans.
In the article, Naseeruddin Shah wrote that Dilip Kumar is one of the best in the country, whose sheer presence could elevate a film. But for all the stardom, the legend chose to play it safe.