Thursday, July 08, 2021

Thursday, July 08, 2021 12:30 am by M. in , , ,    No comments

Several news outlets  publish the obituary of the Indian actor and producer Dilip Kumar (1922-2021), a legend of Bollywood cinema:

Bollywood actor Dilip Kumar, one of the most beloved figures in Indian cinema, died on Wednesday at the age of 98, his doctor confirmed.
Kumar was known to several generations of movie fans for starring in Bollywood cult classics, including the films "Devdas," "Naya Daur," "Ganga Jamuna," and more. He often took on tragic roles, earning himself the nickname "Tragedy King."  (Manveena Suri & Jessie Yeung in CNN)
Some of the obituaries highlight its many Brontë-related films:
Sangdil. The film is an adaptation of the 1847 Charlotte Brontë classic novel Jane Eyre and stars Madhubala, Dilip Kumar and Leela Chitnis. The movie was a commercial success and the leads received praise for their performances. (Fengyen Chiu in Republic World)
With Andaz becoming a milestone in the history of Indian Cinema and Dilip Kumar’s sterling performance in the film being praised all around, it was now a challenge for the actor to live up to his fabulous reputation. The Ismat Chugtai–Shahid Lateef home production with Hiten Chowdhury was based on Emily Brontë’s classic novel Wuthering Heights. Interestingly, Heathcliff was reportedly Dilip Saheb’s favourite character and he attempted to portray it in quite a few films — Mela, Aarzoo, Hulchul and Dil Diya Dard Liya. Dilip Saheb fancied this character and was able to effectively bring out the anguish of Heathcliff time and again albeit in toned down romanticised versions, minimising the negative traits in the beastly character. (Trinetra Bajpai & Anshula Bajpai in The Hindu)

 Among his not to be missed films was Dil Diya Dard Liya in 1966 (opposite Waheeda Rehman), based upon Emily Brontë's 1847 novel Wuthering Heights. (Sujoy Dhar in India Blooms)

Many of his early films had him chasing unattainable women. The 1950 melodrama “Jogan” (“Nun”), ends with him weeping at his lover’s grave. That same year, he played a Heathcliff-like character in “Arzoo” (“Desire”), one of three variations of “Wuthering Heights” that he acted in. (Baradwaj Rangan in New York Times)

I now realise that, perhaps, similar forces that had led Emily Brontë to create a Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights — restrictive Indian society of the 1950s, where love was a four-letter word — had willed Hindi films to throw up a brooding, intense and tragic hero like Dilip Kumar. (Mrinal Pande in The Indian Express)

But what a rich repertoire – be it the sheer diversity of parts (from a blind beggar to a handsome prince, a rapist to a judge, a vigilante, a mafia don, bandit, buffoon, horse-cart driver, farmer, aristocrat, activist, mill worker, trade union leader, politician…); number of literary adaptations, East or West (Devdas to Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre). (Piyush Roy in Cinema Express)

 I do not know if Emily Bronte’s 1847 novel Wuthering Heights was his favourite, but he did reprise the character of Mr Heathcliffe /(sic) in at least three direct remakes (Aarzooin 1950, Hulchul in 1951 and Dil Diya Dard Liya in 1966) and has used shades of that character in what is his most accomplished performance, Aadmi (1968). Heathcliffe is a man on the edge: spiteful, mad, insecure and thirsting for revenge and, in film after film, Dilip Kumar played it to perfection. In fact, he always preferred to play the hero with a touch of negativism—the anti-hero, if you wish. (Anju Maskeri in Mid Day)
 And Daily Times (Pakistan), Daily Excelsior, The Times of India.

As you can see, not all the reporters agree in how many of his films can be considered Wuthering Heights adaptations of sorts:

Mela (1948) by S.U.Sunny  (?)
Arzoo (1950) by Shaheed Latif
Hulchul (1951) by S.K.Ohja
Dir Diya Dard Liya (1966) by Abdul Rashid Kardar (and according to some sources, Dilip Kumar himself directed some scenes)

And the Jane Eyre retelling:
Sangdil (1952) by R.C. Talwar

EDIT (July 11, 2021):
The Hindustan TImes has an article who explores precisely this Heathcliff connection:
As a long-time fan, I was always intrigued by Kumar’s interest in one of English literature’s best-loved classics, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights (1847). He acted in two adaptations of the book: Arzoo (1950) and Dil Diya Dard Liya (DDDL, 1966). A third film, Hulchul (1951) also had shades of Bronte’s stormy novel.
Was this because he was mesmerised by the dark, vengeful character of Heathcliff?
One of the actor’s biographers, Urmila Lanba (in The Thespian: Life and Films of Dilip Kumar), says it was his older brother Ayub Sarwar, homeschooled by private tutors because of his frail health, who introduced Kumar to English literature, to Emily and Charlotte Brontë, Jane Austen, Bernard Shaw, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare.
In the actor’s autobiography, Dilip Kumar: The Substance and the Shadow, screenwriter Salim Khan is quoted as saying that the actor was “disturbingly impressed” by Heathcliff. (...)  
In the end, in both versions, the desi Heathcliff is more anguished lover than merciless revenge-seeker. You can sense Badal and Shankar’s deep hurt beneath their harsh exterior. Heathcliff’s brutality was clearly unacceptable as a plotline for Hindi cinema (in the book he gets back at Catherine by eloping with her sister-in-law, driving Catherine’s husband to penury and her into an early grave). (Poonam Saxena)

EDIT (July 18, 2021): 

It is interesting to note that during his career, Dilip Kumar portrayed renditions of not just one, but two of the most well-known tragic heroes from classic literature: Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights (1847) and Mr Rochester from Jane Eyre (1847). The film Sangdil (1952) was an adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre —with some deviations from the text— in which Kumar played the role of a brooding and mysterious man who falls in love, but cannot marry his lover as he is already married to a mentally deranged woman and stuck in a loveless union. The film Arzoo was an adaptation of Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, wherein the actor embodied the role of the lover who yearns for his love in vain and, eventually, witnesses her death and grieves it for the remainder of his years. (Sana Tahir in The News on Sunday (Pakistan))

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