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Ashok Kumar: the grand patriarch of Indian cinema

Enkayaar, Bollywood Trade News Network
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The day his birthday was celebrated, was also the day he lost his youngest brother, Kishore Kumar around 20 years ago, Dada Muni aka Ashok Kumar stopped celebrating his birthday altogether as for him Kishore Kumar was his son who was nurtured and groomed under his watchful eyes. He was the real first super star of the Hindi cinema, a reluctant performer but who enlivened the screen whenever he dawned the grease paint.

He was the last among his generation who was also a singing actor, and his song from the film ACHUUT KANYA, Main Ban Ki Chiriya Ban ke ban ban doli re... would be one of the first songs in the Hindi films which probably started the trend of running around the trees. He was also one of the first stars of the time who performed an on screen kiss with Devika Rani. The first anti-hero of the Black & White era, he was the super star whose film KISMET broke all previous box-office stars and emerged as biggest block busters of all the times. The grey shades that a hero of the Hindi films has these days, has its genesis in KISMET and the mannerisms of the hero of a cigarette dangling from the lips and a muffler thrown casually over the neck is his contribution to the Hindi film industry. The same vagabondness was repeated with a distinct flair in HOWRAH BRIDGE where he was serenading Madhubala in AAEEYE MEHERBAAN… The genre of crime films that he acted in, are still considered one of the best crime films ever made and include NIGHT CLUB, INSPECTOR, SANGRAM etc.

Though he had given few playbacks to the songs picturised on him, he was also the man who sang the first rap in Hindi RAIL GAADI RAIL GAADI... An actor who never bothered about his physical appearances, he was also the first actors who went into the skin of his characters, be it in BANDINI or in MAHAL and it was his ability to live the character as per the demand of the screenplay that he could hold his forte against the triumvirate of Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor with a rare panache. He returned with one more consummate performance as a villain in JEWEL THIEF and again demonstrated that an actor is an actor first and a star later.

It was his second innings as a character artist or the patriarch in which he portrayed one of the most memorable roles of the Hindi films and includes KHOOBSOORAT, MILLI, THODA HAI THODE KI ZAROORAT HAI, RAJ AUR RANA, SHANKAR DADA etc. In fact where it not for him, the Hindi cinema would not have been able to discover an actress with a rare flair of comedy, aka Rekha as one did discover in KHUBSOORAT. Dada Muni did not get the chance to work in A-category films in the same proportions, but whatever films he acted in, he made them A-class with his consummate performance. Dada Muni was one of the first sutradhars of Indian television, and it is to his credit, that even to this day new anchors try to copy his mannerism to create an identity for themselves. Dad Muni's charm was like a homeopathy medicine, which takes time to start having its effect, but once one gets accustomed to it; there is no getaway from it. The twinkle of light in the eyes, whenever it comes on the screen, still lightens up the whole environment.



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