Yousuf Khan was born on 11 December,1922 to Pashtun parents who were settled in Peshawar with their 12 children. The family later relocated to Bombay in the 1930's and in the 1940's Yusuf Khan started his own business of dry fruits and a canteen. During this time he got introduced to Devika Rani, a popular actress of her era and the wife of the owner of Bombay Talkies, Himanshu Rai. Devika Rani took a liking for Yousuf Khan and introduced him to the world of Hindi films under the new name - Dilip Kumar. The year was 1944 and the newly born star gave the audience his first film - Jwar Bhata which in spite of not becoming the talk of the town gave him his next great break - Jugnu(1947) followed by Andaz(1949). These two films were the morning that showed the day.
Dilip Kumar went on to act in a plethora of films - Jwar Bhata (1944),Pratima (1945),Milan (1947),Nauka Dubi (1947),Jugnu (1947),Shaheed (1948) ,Nadiya Ke Paar (1948) ,Mela (1948) ,Ghar Ki Izzat (1948) ,Anokha Pyar (1948) ,Shabnam (1949),Andaz (1949) ,Jogan (1950) ,Babul (1950),Arzoo (1950),Tarana (1951) ,Hulchul (1951) ,Deedar (1951) ,Sangdil (1952),Daag (1952),Aan (1952), Shikast (1953) ,Footpath (1953) ,Amar (1954),Udan Khatola (1955),Insaniyat (1955),Devdas (1955),Azaad (1955),Naya Daur (1957),Musafir (1957),Yahudi (1958),Madhumati (1958),Paigham (1959),Kohinoor (1960), Mughal-E-Azam (1960),Gunga Jumna (1961),Leader (1964) ,Dil Diya Dard Liya (1966),Ram Aur Shyam (1967),Sunghursh (1968),Sadhu Aur Shaitan (1968) ,Aadmi (1968),Sagina Mahato (1970) ,Gopi (1970),Daastan (1972),Anokha Milan (1972) ,Sagina (1974) ,Phir Kab Milogi (1974) ,Bairaag (1976),Kranti (1981), Vidhaata (1982),Shakti (1982),Mazdoor (1983),Duniya (1984) ,Mashaal (1984),Dharam Adhikari (1986),Karma (1986),Kanoon Apna Apna (1989),Izzatdaar (1990),Aag Ka Dariya (1990), Saudagar (1991),Qila (1998).
Though the actor became a household name as a tragic hero, he has done comic and historical roles too. His Mughal-E-Azam is the second highest grossing Hindi film till date. His first production was Ganga Jamuna in which he acts with his brother Nasir Khan. He was approached by Davis Lean to act in Lawrence of Arabia but Khan declined the offer.
Dilip Kumar ruled the industry for almost 3 decades after which he gallantly made room for the next generation of budding talents. He was the first actor to win the Filmfare Award for the best actor category and is still known as the most successful actor in Hindi cinema. He was awarded the Nishan-e-Imtiaz, the highest civilian award of Pakistan in 1998. He has also been conferred the Dadasaheb Phalke award. During the Kargil War, Bal Thakeray had urged Kumar to forfiet the Nishan-e-Imtiaz, but the latter wisely replied : "We need to look at this a little rationally. This award is not more important to me than our national interest. If it affects national interest, why would I want to hang on to it? But what does the award’s citation say? Does it say that this has been given to Dilip Kumar for his achievements in films? No, films are just a vocation for me. I do the best I can. This award was given to me for the humane activities to which I have dedicated myself. I have worked for the poor, I have worked for many years to bridge the cultural and communal gaps between India and Pakistan. Politics and religion have created these boundaries. I have striven to bring the two people together in whatever way I could. Tell me, what does any of this have to do with the Kargil conflict?"
After his retirement from films he spends his time in charity work. He is a member of the Rajya Sabha. He has been married for 42 years to Saira Banu who is 22 years his junior. When the marriage first took place rumours were rife that it would spell disaster. Apart from a brief hiccup when Kumar married Asman in 1980 though this alliance was quickly dissolved, the marriage between Saira Banu and Dilip Kumar is one of the longest surviving marriages of Bollywood.