Interview : Saira Banu


‘Aamir Khan is following Dilip Kumar’s footsteps’

Suhana safar aur yeh mausam haseen….

This song from thespian Dilip Kumar’s super hit movie MADHUMATI, adeptly encapsulates the legendary star’s journey. Akin to the song Dilip Kumar’s safar has been suhana and interestingly it is an inspirational tale about a modest fruit merchant’s son who rose from an ordinary boy to an international icon!


In a soon-to-be-released autobiography titled ‘Substance And The Shadow’, (Documented by eminent journalist Udaya Tara Nayar) the autobiography brings home many untold anecdotes from the actor’s life and elucidates umpteen distorted stories circulating since many years. In an exclusive interview to Glamsham.Com, Saira Banu, wife of Dilip Kumar, enlightens readers how she cajoled Dilip Sahab to pen the autobiography and why it took so long to be released. Read On…

MUGHAL-E-AZAM and PAKEEZAH are regarded as two milestones of Indian cinema but the two movies took several years into making, likewise Dilip Sahab’s autobiography has taken many years to be released. Do the readers expect a similar milestone?
I hope people will like the autobiography as much as MUGHAL-E-AZAM and PAKEEZAH were applauded because we have spent a lot of time in preparation and cajoling Dilip Sahab to write an autobiography.
Initially, Dilip Sahab, being a low-key person was reluctant but after my marriage I found people writing blatantly about us. Later in 2003 and 2004, I read some biographies written by people who knew Dilip Sahab very well but again I found these biographies to be superficial. They lacked the intricacies and the sensitivities of Dilip Sahab‘s beautiful life journey. Hence, I urged Yusuf Sahab to write the autobiography at least for the sake of his admirers because his story is an inspiring tale of an ordinary man, who strives to flights of popularity and success due to his dedication and perseverance. It is a stimulating lesson for everyone to emulate. I am obliged to him that he agreed to write the autobiography.

‘Dilip Kumar’s story is a stimulating lesson for everyone to emulate.’

Do you feel that the autobiography is coming out little late. It should have been released earlier, considering the stature of Dilip Sahab?

No, I don’t think because I believe everything is destined. Without the wish of Almighty! even a single leaf does not move. So whatever happens, it happens for the best and for a better time.

How long has the book taken to conceive?

Initially, it took me around one to one-and-a-half years to just persuade Sahab to write the book. Once he agreed, it took over 8 to 9 years to complete. During these years Dilip Sahab affectionately shared his reminisces with me some time sitting under trees, some time on a long drive and sometimes strolling in the lawn. Later Taraji and I have compiled it into an autobiography after cautiously listening to the tapes that we had recorded of his golden memories.

Does the autobiography have any chapter that you were not aware of earlier?
There are many things that I did not know, for instance, I was not aware of his childhood. His chapter on childhood is very observing and is the highpoint of the autobiography. Besides, I was not aware about his days in Peshawar and Deolali.

How did Dilip Sahab have his first encounter with legendary Devika Rani, who gave him break in JWAR BHATA?

There is a misconception that Devika Rani first saw Dilip Kumar in Deolali. The truth is Dr. Basali, a friend of Dilip Sahab, once was going to meet Devika Rani and he insisted Dilip Sahab to accompany him. When Devika Rani saw Dilip Sahab she was bowled over by his regal personality and persuaded him to join cinema.

What does the title of the autobiography ‘Substance And The Shadow’ signify?

Substance means Asal (Genuine). Hence, ‘Substance’ signifies Yusuf Khan and ‘Shadow’ denotes Dilip Kumar because, according to laws of nature, our shadow sometimes elongates more than our personality. Likewise, in case of Yusuf Khan his shadow (i.e. Dilip Kumar) grew to such gigantic heights that today it has become a legend.

Whose brainchild is this innovative title?

The title has neither been conceived by Taraji nor me. The entire credit goes to Dilip Sahab. Actually the title is derived from one of his interviews. Dilip Sahab had attended a Mushaiyra in Dubai. There, in his interview, he made this incredible difference between Yusuf Khan and Dilip Kumar. I was overwhelmed by the philosophical explanation of the words ‘Substance and Shadow’ and asked Dilip Sahab, if we should opt for this title, he agreed.

Has the film industry contributed to the autobiography in anyway?
Yes, the autobiography has devoted a reminisce section where Dilip Sahab’s admirers, colleagues, close friends (both from film industry and outside) have expressed their sweet views and memories with Yusuf Sahab.

CHECK OUT: Saira Banu Video Interview

While Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan and Lata didi will be unveiling the autobiography, are Shah Rukh and Salman Khan also expected?
I have spoken to Gauri and I hope Shah Rukh will come. Regarding Salman, I have spoken to Salim Khan Sahab and I am expecting them to grace the event. Aamir takes great care of Yusuf Sahab. In addition, he has been very supportive in our entire endeavour. He has been visiting us regularly since past one-and-a-half year taking great interest in the project. He has given his valuable suggestions in the making of audio-visuals too. He is a very nice boy. Aamir is very much like Dilip Sahab. Just like him, Aamir is absolutely poised.

If a biopic is made on Dilip Kumar, is Aamir Khan apt to play that role?

That is up to the destiny to decide but Aamir is following Dilip Kumar’s footsteps and has the patience and perseverance like him. Besides, he selects his subjects intelligently as Dilip Sahab. Just like Dilip Sahab avoided being repetitive, Aamir too tries to play a variety of roles.

Even Dilip Sahab used to shun away from doing similar roles. In fact, he had declined Guru Dutt’s classic PYASSA? Isn’t it?

True. Once he told me that ‘Saira, I had declined PYAASA because it had similar shades of DEVDAS’. In addition from the comments shared by Dilip Sahab‘s friend, I came to know that even Satyajit Ray had offered him a film. Even the musical hit BAIJU BAWRA was offered to him.

‘I love Dilip Sahab with obsession and devotion’

Hollywood filmmakers were after him. David Lean had offered him LAWRENCE OF ARABIA? Why did he reject the offer?
Dilip Sahab declined the role because it was not a central character and he has always played pivotal characters throughout his career. Even when he made a comeback in the 80’s, he did key roles.

Dilip Sahab will be idolized for generations for his acting. Likewise you shall be idolized as an ‘Ideal wife’ and being a ‘corner stone’ in his life. How did you manage, despite being a star, when the marriage was declared a mismatch at the outset?
It is true that in the beginning there were many speculations about the marriage. People felt we were poles apart and the marriage will crumble. However, I firmly believe that if one loves the other person with obsession and devotion, like I love Dilip Sahab, then this marriage was bound to last forever!

Recently in an award ceremony Dilip Sahab hugged you and had tears of joy for having a wife like you. Comment.
Allah ka lakh lakh shukar hai ke aur Allah ki mehrbani hai ke mujhe Yusuf Khan Mile. (I am grateful to Allah that He has given me Yusuf Khan)