With Dilip Kumar’s demise, curtains on Bollywood’s original ‘Punjabi Troika’

With the passing of the legendary actor Mohammed Yusuf Khan — who ruled hearts as Dilip Kumar — the original ‘Punjabi Troika’ of Indian film industry has faded into oblivion.

The trio — Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor — all unmatched maestros in their art — symbolized what is regarded as the ‘Golden Era’ of the Hindi film industry.

Hailing from Punjab in the undivided India, they opted for a career in the then fledgling Indian film industry in distant Bombay (now, Mumbai), and excelled, often par excellence.

This was the the strange, menacing, unforgiving, big, bad city called Bombay where another legend Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, revered now as Dadasaheb Phalke’, sowed the first seeds of film making at a building in Dadar, in 1912.

Later, Phalke scripted screen history with his first full-length black-and-white film, “Raja Harishchandra” (May 3, 1913) – heralding the birth of Indian Film Industry, which has blossomed into the biggest in the world, 77 years after his death (February 16, 1944), bagging even Oscars en route.

It was in this very ‘Mayanagri’ that many dreamy-eyed youngsters — boys and girls — descended from all over, and continue to do so till date — for their ‘tryst with filmy destiny’.

Many trooped here harbouring ambitions to become heroes, heroines, villains, vamps, directors, producers, cameramen, singers, dancers, music-directors, or one of the many departments of film-making.

Peshawar neighbourhood friends Dilip Kumar (b. 1922) and Raj Kapoor (b. 1924) also came here and even Dev Anand (b. 1923) from Gurdaspur followed suit — all three overcame huge hurdles before getting a toehold in the magical world of celluloid — splashing their own ‘Punjabi tadka’ to the Bollywood potboilers!

Raj Kapoor started as a child star and then broke into big league with “Neelkamal” (1947), Dilip Kumar launched with “Jwar Bhata” (1944), and Dev Anand in “Hum Ek Hain” (1946) — all after the great Phalke had departed from the scene.

After the initial hiccups, there was no looking back for the ‘Troika’ and generations around the country looked up to it for whipping up a feast of wholesome, memorable, musical entertainment.

Between the 1950-1970s, they lorded over the film industry with their ‘larger-than-life’ images, their distinct personalities, characters they enacted, unique styles or mannerisms, their onscreen or even off-screen chemistry with many of the dream-girls of that era who rotated with them in different films, etc.

Though they remained professional rivals, they were great pals full of camaraderie in their private lives, unknown to the masses.

Each of them became immortal with their signature performances – Raj Kapoor (“Awara” – 1951), Dilip Kumar (“Mughal-e-Azam” – 1960) and Dev Anand (“Guide” – 1965) – though the trio has left behind a treasure chest of hundreds of other great films.

Surprisingly, Dilip Kumar worked with both Raj Kapoor (“Andaz” – 1949) and Dev Anand (“Insaniyat” – 1955), though Kapoor-Anand never worked together, nor did the trio feature in any film jointly.

Subsequently, there were others who carved a niche for themselves like Ashok Kumar, Manoj Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, Raaj Kumar, Balraj Sahni, Jeetendra Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmedra Deol, Vinod Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha, and more recently the Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan and many more.

Nevertheless, the glowing legacy of Dilip Kumar (98), Dev Anand (88) and Raj Kapoor (63) will continue to inspire many future generations of actors and film-makers for centuries.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: q.najmi@ians.in)