The year 2022 is witnessing the centenary of many tall veterans of Indian cinema, including Dilip Kumar, Hritikesh Mukherjee, K Asif, Dina Pathak, Ajit Khan, Ghantasala, Ajit Khan, Allu Ramalingaiah. A look at the legends and their contribution.
Dilip Kumar (1922-2021)
Dilip Kumar was one of the finest film actors the subcontinent has ever seen. With an active Hindi cinema career that spanned over five decades, he built a fan following on both sides of the India-Pakistan border. As a showbiz icon, he shone as bright as anybody ever has.
He made his debut in the Bombay Talkies production Jwar Bhata (1944), directed by Amiya Chakravarty. As he delivered hit after hit in the 1950s and 1960s – Andaz, Jogan, Aan (the first Hindi film to receive wide commercial distribution in the West), Daag, Footpath, Amar, Devdas, Madhumati, Leader, Mughal-e-Azam, Ganga Jamuna and Ram Aur Shyam, a range of films that revealed his awe-inspiring versatility – his name became synonymous with perfection.
Dilip Saab or Yusufbhai, as an ever-admiring Mumbai industry addressed him, broke away from the theatrical style of acting that was popular in his time and developed a mode perfectly suited to the movie camera. Dilip Kumar will, therefore, always remain an inspiration for every male actor who faces the movie camera.
Hrishikesh Mukherjee (1922-2006)
Hrishikesh Mukherjee was a film director, editor and writer regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers of Indian cinema, known for a number of films, including Anari, Satyakam, Chupke Chupke, Anupama, Anand, Abhimaan, Guddi, Gol Maal, Majhli Didi, Chaitali, Aashirwad, Bawarchi, Khubsoorat, Kissi Se Na Kehna, and Namak Haraam.
The visionary director revolutionised the art of storytelling and was also known as the man behind bringing extravagant commercial films and social storytelling in one frame, giving birth to the ‘middle cinema’ in India. Hrishikesh Mukherjee was not only an excellent director but had also proved the mettle of his geniuses in the fields of film editing and scripting.
K Asif (1922-1971)
K. Asif was a film director, film producer and screenwriter who is known for his epic film, Mughal-e-Azam (1960). His directorial debut, Phool (1945), did very well at the box-office.
Born as Asif Karim was a Persian, directed the huge, blockbuster Mughal-e-Azam movie. The film as well as the director acquired the cult, iconic status even today. Asif is still fondly remembered even after living such a short span of life. Despite his fame, he was known for his unbelievably simplistic lifestyle. Most of his life, he lived in a rented apartment, commuted in taxis, borrowed cigarettes from his friends.
Shankar (1922-1987) (music composer Shankar of Shankar Jaikishan fame)
Shankar–Jaikishan (also known as S-J), were a composer duo of the Hindi film industry, working together from 1949 to 1971. They are widely considered to be the greatest ever music composers of the Hindi film industry. Later, Shankar continued to function as a music director alone, still giving music under the banner Shankar–Jaikishan, till 1987.
Shankar–Jaikishan, along with other artists, composed “everlasting” and “immortal melodies” in the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. Their best work was noted for being “raga-based and having both lilt and sonority”. They were commercial geniuses in addition to be wonderfully god-blessed in music. They led the Bollywood music in spite of tough competition from maestros.
Dina Pathak (1922-2002)
Dina Pathak was an actress and director of Gujarati theatre and also a film actor. She was an activist and President of the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW). A doyenne of Hindi and Gujarati films as well as theatre, Dina Pathak acted in over 120 films in a career spanning over six decades. Her production Mena Gurjari in Bhavai folk theatre style, ran successfully for many years, and is now a part of its repertoire.
She is best known for her memorable roles in the Hindi films Gol Maal and Khubsoorat. She was a favourite of the Art Cinema in India where she played powerful roles in films like Koshish, Umrao Jaan, Mirch Masala and Mohan Joshi Hazir Ho!. Her notable Gujarati films were Moti Ba, Malela Jeev and Bhavni Bhavai, while her well-known plays include Dinglegar, Doll’s House, Vijan Sheni and Girish Karnad’s Hayavadana, directed by Satyadev Dubey.
Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao, known mononymously as Ghantasala, was a film composer, playback singer known for his works predominantly in Telugu cinema and Kannada cinema and also in Tamil, Malayalam, Tulu and Hindi language films. In 1970, he received the Padma Shri award, India’s fourth highest civilian award for his contribution to Indian cinema.
Ghantasala helped Telugu film music develop its own distinct character and his contribution is hailed as unparalleled. He is referred to as the “Gaana Gandharva” for his mesmerising voice and musical skills Ghantasala performed in the United States, England and Germany, and for the United Nations Organisation. The government of Andhra Pradesh marked the occasion of 25 years of his film career as Silver Jubilee Celebrations of Ghantasala in Hyderabad on 1 February 1970. Statutes of him have been installed across Andhra Pradesh. Every year, the anniversaries of his birth and death are celebrated in India and overseas.
Ajit Khan (1922-1998)
Ajit Khan had acted in over two hundred movies over almost four decades. Ajit is also credited for starring as a lead actor in popular Bollywood movies such as Beqasoor, Nastik, Bada Bhai, Milan, Bara Dari, and later as a second lead in Mughal-e-Azam and Naya Daur.
His dialogue delivery remains popular even to this date. His famous dialogues included the “Mona darling” bit in Yaadon Ki Baraat, “Lily don’t be silly” in Zanjeer and the one about a “Lion” in Kallicharan. Ajit’s other well known films were Naya Daur, Nastik and Shikari to name only a few. In his four decades of film career, Ajit had acted along with the legendary Prithviraj Kapoor, Sohrab Modi, Amitabh Bachchan, I S Johar, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Shammi Kapoor, Dharmendra and many actresses, both young and old.
Bharati Devi (1922-2011)
She had reigned Bengali celluloid even before the era of Uttam Kumar, Soumitro Chatterjee and Suchitra Sen. It was just after the silent era of celluloid was over, and the black and white age started. She was Bharati Devi, who was often seen pairing with Asit Baran, in all her grace and poise. Remember films like Doctor, Shapmukti, Kashinath, Chandrashekhar or even Nurse Didi? Her charismatic screen presence in every film she acted in, made her a great actress of her times.
Throughout her career, she has worked with every legendary director, starting from Devaki Bose of New Theatres period to Satyajit Ray and Tapan Sinha. Her story inspires every progressive-minded girl of any time, and inspire her to take tough decisions of life with ease. She dared to come out of the cloistered world called home, at a time when the society was not as liberal as today.
Allu Ramalingaiah (1922-2004)
Allu Ramalingaiah began his film career in 1953 with Puttillu and his last film Jai was in the year before his death. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1990 by the Government of India, and received the Raghupathi Venkaiah Award in 2001. Allu played memorable roles in classics such as Mayabazar (as one of the Sarma-Sastry duo), Missamma, Muthyala Muggu, Sankarabharanam, Saptapadi, Yamagola, and numerous movies of the 80s, where he played a soft and unhated villain with the likes of Raogopal Rao and Nagabhushanam. His comedic timing and his nasal voice distinguished his many comic performances.
Allu Ramalingiah was also a homoeopathic doctor and a freedom fighter. He was arrested by the British colonial police during Quit India Movement. He was featured in dramas with Praja Natya Mandali before joining films and was awarded the title “Hasya Kala Prapoorna” by Nritya Kala Mandali. His son Allu Aravind is a leading producer in Telugu cinema and his grandson Allu Arjun is a top star.
K R Seetharama Sastry (1922-1977)
Popularly known as Ku Ra Seetharama Sastry or simply Ku Ra Si was an actor, writer, lyricist and director in Kannada film industry. After a career in theatre, Sastry’s career in films was those of an actor, director, producer, screenwriter, lyricist and an occasional composer. He is considered one of the most influential personalities in the history of Kannada cinema.
Sastry began his film career as an actor in the mythological film, Rajasuya Yaaga (1937). After a brief stint as an actor, he turned into director, lyricist, writer and music composer for the film Mahakavi Kalidasa (1955) which emerged as a biggest commercial and critical success of the year. The film won the President’s silver medal for Best feature film for the year. Apart from Kannada language, Sastry directed 2 movies in Malay language: Kuraana Kaav and Iman (1954) – both of which were selected for the international film festival of Japan – thereby making him the first director from Karnataka whose movies were exhibited in an international platform. He also won international award for his direction.
T K Ramamoorthy (1922-2013) (Music composer Ramamoorthy of Viswanathan-Ramamoorthy fame)
Tiruchirapalli Krishnaswamy Ramamoorthy was a Tamil music composer and violinist. Ramamoorthy was known as Mellisai Mannar along with M S Viswanathan. His major works are in Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu films. He and M S Viswanathan, as the duo Viswanathan–Ramamoorthy, composed musical scores for over 100 films in the South Indian film industry during the 1950s and 1960s. The duo parted amicably in 1965, but eventually rejoined in 1995 after 30 years for Engirundho Vandhan.
Ramamoorthy was born in Tiruchirapalli into a family that was musically inclined. Both his father, Krishnaswamy Pillai, and grandfather, Malaikkottai Govindaswamy Pillai, were well-known violinists in Tiruchirapalli. Ramamoorthy gave several stage performances along with his father in his childhood. When he was fourteen, C R Subburaman noted the young boy’s talent and hired him as a violinist for HMV.