Ashok Kumar: 100 years of a legend

Ashok Kumar
The celebrations of the birth centenary of Indian cinema’s first superstar Ashok Kumar will starton a low-key on Thursday as it coincides with the death anniversary of his brother Kishore Kumar.

Ashok Kumar’s eldest daughter, Bharti Jaffrey, who runs the Ashok Kumar Foundation that is organizing a series of events, said, “That is the reason we don’t have anything planned for October 13. We will be having an art exhibition in November where we will display all his paintings.”

Historian Amrit Gangar said it was actor If tikar who initiated Ashok Kumar into painting. “If tikar was introduced to Ashok Kumar by Kanan Deviin Calcutta in 1946-47. As I understand, he was fond of painting nudes from his imagination, without using models.”

The foundation will organize an art exhibition with works of well-known artists of India at Kamdar Hall on November 11, which will be followed by an auction. The proceeds will be used for nurturing various forms of art and causes of the foundation.

The legendary actor’s daughter is surprised that the world of cinema forgot the birth centenary of Ashok Kumar. The Mumbai Film Festival that begins on October 13 has no mention of the event. She said, “They forgot about Ashok Kumar completely. At least one of his films could’ve been screened.”

Ashok Kumar was a chess player, an astrologer and a homeopath. Recalls Bharti, “He practiced homeopathy for 45 years. He used to treat patients on Sunday and holidays and a number of people from the film industry too used to come home.’’ Ashok Kumar was open to learning all his life. Bharti said, “He had a passion for learning. He learnt to write his dialogue in Urdu from Dilip Kumar; he spoke French and German fluently. He used to say that one should be open to learning till one dies.”

Ashok Kumar came to be known as the‘Dadamoni’ of the film industry. But his nephew Subir Mukherji said, “My mother, who was his sister, loved him the most and gave him the name.” He adds, “The car that was used in the film Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi belonged to my father but Dadamoni drove it most of the time.”

Subir is in the process of selling the satellite rights of Ashok Kumar and Kishore Kumar-starrer Love in Bombay. He said, “The film was completed just before Kishoreda’s death. It is censored and ready. It was not easy getting the two brothers to shoot a film together. When I went to Dadamoni to discuss his lines, he would ask what Kishore was supposed to be doing in the scene. All the same, I am hoping to show the film on the small screen.”

Kishore Kumar’s son Amit said that his father hero-worshipped his brother. He said, “Kishore Kumar would not have become the man he became if Ashok Kumar had not brought him from Khandwa. It was he who got Kishore Kumar to sing his first song in Dev Anand’s Ziddi in 1949. My uncle did criticize my father saying that there was no modulation in his voice. But when my father started performing on stage at Shanmukhanand Hall, Ashok Kumar would be seen sitting in the first row to listen to him.”

Tragic Surprise

Kishore Kumar called Ashok Kumar on his birthday in 1987. Kishore Kumar’s son, Amit Kumar recalls, “He called my uncle and said I will surprise you by visiting you in Chembur. My uncle told him that he was shooting in Film City for the serial ‘Bahadur Shah Zafar’ and that there was no point in coming all the way. Ashok Kumar got a call at 5.15 pm that Kishore Kumar had passed away—that was the surprise my father gave him.”

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