Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Remembring Ashok Kumar on his 9th Death Anniversary

Ashok Kumar

Kumudlal Kunjilal Ganguly October 13, 1911(1911-10-13) Bhagalpur, Bengal Presidency, British India


December 10, 2001 (aged 90)(2001-12-10) Mumbai, Maharastra, India

Other names

Sanjay Ashok Kumar


Actor, Painter

Years active

1936 - 1997

Ashok Kumar was an Indian film actor. Born Kumudlal Kunjilal Ganguly in Bhagalpur, Bengal Presidency he attained iconic status in Indian cinema. He broke from the theatrical style then common in Indian film towards a more naturalistic method. Given his versatility and proven brilliance over five decades, he is considered by many to be the finest ever Indian actor.


His father Kunjalal Ganguly was a lawyer and his mother Gouri Devi came from a wealthy Bengali family and the family was based in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh. His brothers Kishore Kumar and Anoop Kumar also acted in films. Three brothers worked together in the comedies Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, Badhti Ka Naam Dadhi and Chalti Ka Naam Zindagi. Ashok, though the eldest of the three by quite a margin, survived them both. In fact, he stopped celebrating his birthday after the youngest brother, Kishore, died on that day in 1987. His sister, Sati Devi, was married to Sashadhar Mukherjee of the Mukherjee-Samarth family.


Early career

Reverently called Dadamoni (affectionate term for elder brother), he was born in Bhagalpur and educated at Presidency College of the University of Calcutta (now Presidency University, Kolkata). He started his career in Bombay (Mumbai), albeit accidentally, with the Bombay Talkies production Jeevan Naiya in 1936.

Devika Rani and Ashok Kumar in Achhut Kanya, 1936
The male lead, Najam-ul-Hussain, suddenly fell ill, and the company had to find a new hero. The director and studio head, Himanshu Rai, called upon his laboratory assistant Ashok Kumar to take the part and thus began a six-decade-long acting career. However, it was his subsequent venture with Devika Rani in Achhut Kanya in the same year that set him up for the big league. The movie itself stands out as one of the heralding social dramas of pre-independence Indian film. It was the story of a Brahmin boy falling in love with a girl from the so called untouchables in Indian society. It was a big hit and started the trend of socially committed films. Devika Rani and Ashok Kumar did a string of films after this including Izzat 1937, Savitri 1937 and Nirmala 1938. But she was the bigger star and Ashok Kumar was definitely in her shadow. He came into his own with three films opposite Leela Chitnis: KanGan in 1939, Bandhan in 1940, Jhoola in 1941, singing his own songs as was the custom then. He acquitted himself creditably and came away with several hits including most famously Main Ban ka Panchhi. traditional theatrical acting style and developed his own more natural style. He was also not afraid to take risks and was one of the first anti-heroes of Indian Cinema with his role in Kismet in 1943. This movie went on to create a record for the highest grossing film in India at the time of its release. He produced several films for Bombay Talkies during the final years of the company including the famous Mahal in 1949 in which he co-starred with Madhubala. In the 1950s, he played the suave cigarette-smoking criminal or police officer in several films of what was the Indian film-noir movement. In the late 1960s he switched to character roles playing the parent, grandparent, dirty old man and suave criminal, being careful never to be typecast. He paired up 20 times with the queen of tragedy, and one of the best actresses ever seen in Bollywood, Meena Kumari, in films such as Parineeta, Bahu Begum, Pakeezah, Ek Hi Raasta, Bandish, Aarti and many more. 

Later Career

He acted in fewer films in the 1980s and 1990s and occasionally appeared on television, most famously anchoring the first Indian soap opera Hum Log and appearing as the title character in the unforgettable Bahadur Shah Zafar. His last film role was in Aankhon Mein Tum Ho in 1997. Besides acting, he was an avid painter and a practitioner of homeopathy. He died at the age of 90 in Mumbai. Altogether, he starred in over 275 films.


Awards and recognition

  • 1959 - Sangeet Natak Akademi Award

  • 1962 - Filmfare Best Actor Award, Rakhi

  • 1963 - Bengal Film Journalists' Association - Best Actor Award (Hindi), 'Gumrah'

  • 1966 - Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award, Afsana

  • 1969 - Filmfare Best Actor Award, Aashirwaad

  • 1969 - National Film Awards for Best Actor, Aashirwaad

  • 1969 - Bengal Film Journalists' Association - Best Actor Award (Hindi), Aashirwaad

  • 1988 - Dadasaheb Phalke Award, India's highest award for cinematic excellence

  • 1994 - Star Screen Lifetime Achievement Award

  • 1995 - Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award

  • 1998 - Padma Bhushan

  • 2001 - Awadh Samman by the Government of Uttar Pradesh

  • 2007 - "Special Award" by Star Screen Awards



Some of his most remembered films include:

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