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Dilip Kumar's fans in Dubai fondly recall thespian’s endearing qualities

suneeti@khaleejtimes.com Filed on July 7, 2021

(KT file)

The legendary actor was always warm and friendly and didn’t have a starry air, his admirers say.

Veteran actor Dilip Kumar was the Kohinoor of Indian cinema, according to Naresh Oberoi, the Founder and Chairman of Oberoi Middle East Events.

Oberoi, a long-time UAE resident, has fond memories of the time he had spent with the “warm and friendly” thespian in the early 1970s.

“I was an active member of my college’s student body at that time, and we had organised a Cine Musical Nite in Pune, a city in western India. It was a mega event, which was attended by several Bollywood celebrities, including Meena Kumari, Kamal Amrohi, Sanjeev Kumar, Farida Jalal. Dilip sahab (sir) was the chief guest at the function,” Oberoi said.

“People started arriving for the event, but to our surprise most of them didn’t enter the venue. They waited outside and wanted to be sure that Dilip sahab had arrived. We pleaded but the crowd did not budge, so I went to Dilip sahab, who was staying in a nearby hotel and briefed him about the impasse. He calmly asked for a car, got into it, took rounds of the venue, waved at the crowd and asked them to get seated. Everyone was enthralled,” said Oberoi.

Dilip sahab had no starry airs and he was neither pretentious nor boastful. “He was an institution in himself and there is no one who can fill the void that he has left behind,” said Oberoi, who has organised numerous events in the UAE over the past three decades.

“Even when he was in Pune for that event, he chose to stay in the Grand Hotel, which wasn’t a five-star property. It had high ceilings and old-style furniture and decor. But Dilip loved the antiquated surroundings and was happy to stay there. He never threw tantrums like a superstar. He was a charming personality and that made him an endearing star on and off screen,” said Oberoi, who regretted his inability to invite him to Dubai for any of his gala events.

“He was a humble soul and I’ve spent many weekends playing cricket with him in his backyard at his Mumbai bungalow. His earthiness and gentle behaviour were lifelong attributes. Success didn’t corrode his personality,” said Oberoi while drawing a parallel between him and playback singer Mohammed Rafi.

“I’m a big fan of Rafi sahab and so was Dilip sahab. Rafi had sung most of the songs for Dilip Kumar,” he said.

The legendary actor shone bright on the silver screen for his talent and grit.

He essayed all kinds of roles and his body of work, and a radiant smile would remain his enduring legacy, Oberoi added.

Syed Fazeel, an information technology (IT) professional, too, remembered the late actor fondly.

“Dilip sahab had made a surprise visit to our office, if my memory serves me accurately. It was either in 1995 or ‘96. He was dressed in a white suit. His off-screen personality was as stunning as on screen. He was close to the owner of my company. He came on the shop floor to greet us at the behest of a few employees, who were his die-hard fans. I was starstruck, shy and overawed by the occasion to even ask for a photograph. We didn’t have smartphones by in the day. Else, I’d have taken a picture of him. But the lingering image such as his gentle face with a warm glow is forever etched in my mind. May his soul rest in peace. The Hindi film industry has lost a legend,” he added.

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Suneeti Ahuja Kohli

Suneeti Ahuja-Kohli has been in Dubai long enough to call it her spiritual home. She loves to travel but plans to settle down in Koi Samui, Thailand eventually to spend her sunset years by the sea. For now, she writes frequently on personal finance, retirement planning, business news and features, health and almost anything assigned by her editor. Her sojourns can be followed on instagram (suneetiahujakohli), news and views on Twitter @suneetiahuja, and for the rest, there’s a Facebook account.