“Is there an Indian actor who is not a fan of Dilip Kumar? He was beyond a legend… yeh legend – vegend icon-vicon toh kayee ke bare mein bolte hain marne ke baad (so many are called legends icons, etc. after they die). Yusuf Saab, my favourite one and only Dilip Kumar was beyond all these ghisa-pita descriptions,” says Shatughan Sinha feelingly.

“What an awful day this is!” he bemoans hours after the tragic news. “We all knew the end was coming. But when it came we were unprepared to let him go. He was too precious. But he was suffering immensely in his last years. I’d say death has come as a relief and a release to this great man, the greatest actor of Indian screen whom everyone from Manoj Kumar to Amitabh to Shah Rukh sought inspiration from.”

Manoj Kumar reminds Shatrughan Sinha of the film that they did together. “Kranti was an immense experience. Manoj Kumar had earlier offered me Shor, the role that Premnnath did. But I couldn’t do it because Manoj Saab needed more dates than I could give. In Kranti I got to work with the greatest actor Dilip Kumar and Manoj Kumar who is the greatest Dilip Kumar fan in the world. I thought Manoj Saab would be too awed to direct the Thespian. Dilip Saab also had the reputation of directing the director. However when it came to Manoj Kumar, Dilip Saab listened to his directorial instructions very carefully and followed them minutely.”

Shatruji recalls the shooting of Kranti with great fondness. “I had many powerful scenes with him and Dilip Saab was very fond of me. He would ask me, ‘Tum itna late kyon aate ho?’ referring to my infamous punctuality. I replied. ‘Sikha kiss se hai, the greatest acting institution of India.’ I could take liberties with him which none dared. When in Kranti we were supposed to shoot that famous confrontation sequence on the ship, I reached at 5 pm for a 2pm shift. My heart sank like the ship when I saw him leaving waving goodbye to me from his car with a smile. The next day I came on time.”

Shatruji says his heart reaches out to Sairaji. “I’ve never seen a more devoted life partner than Sairaji. She gave up everything, her career, social life, other responsibilities to look after Dilip Saab. Hats off to this exemplary spouse. Today when marriages are breaking up at the drop of a hat, Sairaji stands tall and admirable.”

Concluding his thoughts on the Thespian Shatruji says, “Dilip Saab is the true Bharat Ratna of Indian cinema. I wonder why he didn’t receive it in his lifetime. I am sure he will get it now. In our country we value our most valuable people after they’re gone.”

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