Dilip Kumar is considered to be one of the greatest actors of Indian cinema. Starting his career in 1944, he has starred in some of the biggest commercially successful films from the late 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1980s. His performances have been regarded as the epitome of emoting in Indian Cinema. He was the first actor to receive a Filmfare Best Actor Award and holds the record for most number of Filmfare Awards won for that category. Though he has done all kinds of films - he balanced a wide variety of roles such as the intense Andaz (1949) with the swashbuckling Aan (1952), the dramatic Devdas (1955) with the comical Azaad (1955) and the historical romance Mughal E Azam (1960) with the social Ganga Jamuna (1961). In the 1970s roles dried up for Kumar and after 1976 he left films for a five year break. In 1981 he returned with a character role in the blockbuster film Kranti and continued his career playing central character roles in hits such as Shakti (1982), Karma (1986) and Saudagar (1991). He has retired from the Indian Film Industry in 1998.
He was born Muhammad Yusuf Khan in Qissa Khawani Bazaar in Peshawar Pakistan in a Pashtun family of twelve children. His father Ghulam Sarwar was a fruit merchant and owned large orchards in Peshawar and Devlali in Maharashtra near Mumbai. The family relocated to Mumbai in 1930s and in the early 1940s Yusuf Khan moved to Pune and started off with his canteen business and supplying dry fruits.
There he was spotted by a leading actress of those years Devika Rani who was also the wife of the founder of Bombay Talkies Himanshu Rai and helped his entry into the Bollywood film industry. She also gave him the screen name of Dilip Kumar.
His first film Jwar Bhata, was released in 1944 which went unnoticed. In 1947 he shot to prominence with the film Jugnu which was his first major hit. In 1949, he co-starred with Raj Kapoor in the romantic melodrama film Andaz, which went to become a huge success and made him a star. Throughout the 1950s he was one of the biggest stars of Bollywood along with Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand. He became known for playing tragic roles in popular films such as Deedar (1951), Amar (1954), Devdas (1955) and Madhumati (1958) which earned him the title of "Tragedy King".
He was also successful in playing lighthearted roles such as playing a swashbuckling peasant in Aan (1952) and a comic role in Azaad (1955). In 1960 he starred in the historical film Mughal-e-Azam which is as of 2008, the second highest grossing film in Hindi film history inflation adjusted in which he played the role of the Mughal crown-prince Jehangir the son of Akbar.
In 1961 he produced and starred in the hit Ganga Jamuna in which he and his Real Life brother Nasir Khan played the title roles. Despite the film success he did not produce any film after this. Dilip had a narrow brush with international fame in 1962 when British director David Lean offered him the role of Sherif Ali in his 1962 blockbuster, Lawrence of Arabia. However Kumar declined the part. The role eventually went to Omar Sharif the Egyptian actor. After a brief period of box office flops in the mid 1960s, he bounced back when he played a dual role of twins separated at birth in the film Ram Aur Shyam (1967) which was one of the biggest box office hits of the year. The success of Ram Aur Shyam spawned a number of remakes and imitators.
In the 1970s Kumar acted in fewer films as newer actors such as Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan had began to take the spotlight. Many of Kumar's films failed at the box office during this period and after the release of his 1976 film Bairaag in which he played triple roles, he took a five year break from acting.
He made a comeback in 1981 with the multi-starrer Kranti which was the biggest hit of the year. He went onto play character roles as an elderly family patriarch or a police officer in a string of box office hits including Shakti (1982) in which he starred alongside the reigining superstar of the time Amitabh Bachchan , Vidhaata (1982), Mashaal (1984) and Karma (1986). In his last major successful film, Saudagar (1991) he appeared alongside another legendary actor Raaj Kumar after three decades since they last appeared together in Paigham (1959). In 1992 he won the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 1996 he was attached to make his directorial debut with a film titled Kalinga but the film was shelved. In 1998 he made his last film appearance to date in the box office flop Qila where in a rare form he played a villainous role. He has since retired from the film industry although he has continued to receive film offers in recent years but the films have either been shelved due to his indifferent health or because he refused them.