100 Years of Ashok Kumar : First Super – Star of Hindi Films

Ashok Kumar

Ashok Kumar

MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA           DECEMBER 10 , 2011           03.00 P.M.

It is centenary year of Ashok Kumar , the first real Super – Star of Hindi cinema . He made his debut in 1936 , just after 5 years of the release of ‘ Alam Ara ” [ 1931 ] , the first talkie of Hindi cinema .

Kumudlal Kunjilal Ganguli alias Ashok Kumar

October 13 , 1911       –      December 10 , 2001

Born as Kumudlal Kunjilal Ganguli in Bhagalpur city of the then Bengal Presidency [ Now Bihar ] , Ashok Kumar spent his early life in Khandwa , Madhya Pradesh , where his father was a practicing advocate . He was educated at The Presidency College of Calcutta [ Now Kolkata ] . His two younger brothers ; Anoop Kumar and Kishore Kumar were also singer actors .

The Ganguly brothers - Anoop Kumar, Ashok Kuma...

Three Ganguli Brothers with Their Mother

After graduation , he came to Mumbai [ Then Bombay ] and started working as lab assistant in Bombay Talkies , where his brother – in – law Sashadhar Mukherjee was working with the owner Mr. Himanshu Rai . He , accidentally , started his acting career in 1936 with the Bombay Talkies film ; ” Jeevan Naiya ” . As the story goes , the original hero Najam Ul Hassan eloped with Devika Rani , the heroine of the film and wife of Himanshu Rai . indignant Himanshu Rai was furious and dismissed Najam Ul Hassan from Bombay Talkies . One day he saw Ashok Kumar and decided to make him the new hero of ” Jeevan Naiya ” [ 1936 ] . Another film , ” Achhut Kanya ” , which also came in the same year , was super hit and with this success Ashok Kumar was catapulted to super – stardom .

English: Scene from the 1936 film Achhut Kanya

Ashok Kumar & Devika Rani in Achhut Kanya

English: A still from the 1936 Hindi film Achh...

Another Photo of Achhut Kanya - Song Main Ban Ki Chidiya ....

After ” Achhut Kanya ” [ 1936 ] , Ashok Kumar and Devika Rani were paired again in hit films like ” Izzat ” [ 1937 ] , ” Savitri ” [ 1937 ] and ” Nirmala ” [ 1938 ] .

Later on he was paired with Leela Chitnis in super hits like ; ” Kangan ” [ 1939 ] , ” Bandhan ” [ 1940 ] and ” Jhoola ” [ 1941 ] .

He played Hindi cinema ‘s first anti – hero role in ” Kismat ” [ 1943 ] , which ran for 3 continuous years in the Roxy cinema of Calcutta . [ Now Kolkata ] . This record was broken by ” Sholay ” [ 1975 ] , which ran in Minerva of Mumbai for 5 years .

Before ” Kismat ” [ 1943 ] , he sang all his songs in films , as was the norm and churned out some outstanding numbers . I have a cassette of the songs sung by him in his earlier films . Years later , he again sang in ” Aashirvad ” [ 1968 ] . His song ” Railgaadi …..chhuk , chhuk , chhuk ……… railgaadi “ was a rage and is considered  the first Rap song of Hindi cinema .

After ” Mahal ” [ 1949 ] , he left Bombay Talkies and started his career as freelance artiste .

He started playing character roles from late 60s . Even as a character artiste , he churned out many marvellous films with some stellar performances .

” Aankhon Me Tum Ho ” [ 1997 ] was his last film . Thus , from ” Jeevan Naiya ” [ 1936 ] to ” Aankhon Me Tum Ho ” [ 1997 ] , he had a career span of 61 years as an actor . This is unparalleled in the motion picture history . It was a record , which got eclipsed recently . Dev Anand , who died on December 04 , 2011 , had career span of 65 years as an actor . In his 61 year-long acting career , Ashok Kumar acted in 301 films .

With the advent of television , he whole – heartedly accepted the new medium and in fact was the first major cine – artiste , who appeared in serials . First he anchored ” Hum Log “ and then did title roles in TV serials like ; ” Bahadur Shah Zafar ” and ” Bheem Bhawani ”  His last TV serial was Hrishikesh Mukherjee directed ” Ujale Ki Ore “ . I also did a very insignificant role in it and can say that I have shared screen space with Evergreen , iconic and gigantic super star , Padma Bhushan Ashok Kumar , who was affectionately called , by one and all , Dadamoni , meaning elder brother .

He , apart from acting in 301 films , produced 4 films . They are ; ” Mahal ” [ 1949 ] , ” The Fiancee ” [ 1953 ] , ” Kalpana ” [ 1960 ] and ” Lal Chunariyaa ” [ 1983 ] .

He even directed ” Eight Days ” [ 1946 ] but due to some reasons refused to take credit . He is not billed as a director in the credits .

He also contributed in music department of 4 films . They are ; ” Aashirwad ” [ 1968 ] , ” Kangan ” [ 1971 ] , ” Khubsoorat ” [ 1980 ] and ” Shaukeen ” [ 1982 ] .

In ” Krorepati ” [ 1961 ] and ” Guddi ” [ 1971 ] , he is billed as guest artiste and played himself . It means , he did not play any character but played super – star Ashok Kumar .

Apart from acting , his other passions were painting and Homoeopathy . He was a practicing homeopath . In 1950s , he also became owner of iconic Bombay Talkies , when Devika Rani sold her share and left the studio . He was a linguist and apart from English , Hindi and his mother tongue Bengali , was fluent in Marathi and French . In his film ” Gumrah ” [  1963 ] , he even used French in dialogues .

Devika Rani

Devika Rani

A career span of 61 years , 301 films in Hindi , Bengali and Marathi , various ads and corporate films and half a dozen TV serials , apart from numerous film songs to his credit , this gigantic , iconic Super – star of Hindi films died on December 10 , 2001 in his Chembur residence . He was 90 years old at the time of his death .
Logo of Bombay Talkies

Logo of Bombay Talkies

First film of Ashok Kumar , which I watched was ” Bahu Beti ” . I was in school and went to watch this Joy Mukherjee and Mala Sinha starrer . Ashok Kumar , who was not the hero of the film , was there prominently on the poster and his name came  first in the billing . I got curious . How come an actor , who is playing father in the film , got the top billing ? My cousins , my maternal uncle and some more knowledgeable friends told me about Ashok Kumar and I started watching his films and started following his career .

Initially I was a fan of Dilip Kumar .  I am still a fan but slowly I started veering towards Ashok Kumar and Dev Anand . When I came to Mumbai to pursue career in films I watched Ashok Kumar and Dev Anand from close quarters . I found them humane , warm and without any trappings of a star . I wanted to be close to my icons and these two stars ; Ashok Kumar and Dev Anand permit you to be there in their world . So I became a huge fan of Ashok Kumar and will remain till my death .

This is centenary year of Ashok Kumar . It is sad and appalling that nothing was done to commemorate the occasion . There was just one article in Times of India . Congress government at centre is more interested to preserve the legacy of Nehru – Gandhi family . They have no time for Ashok Kumar . But alas ! Hindi film industry too forgot its first Super Star . MAMI Film Festival also forgot to give him honour in his centenary year .

His contribution is enormous .He ushered in natural style of acting and freed Hindi cinema from the clutches of theatrical style of dialogue delivery . He experimented a lot and did variety of roles . But life is such …………

I am a small man and I have no reach . Still I wanted to write a blog about Ashok Kumar . Through my blog , which is not widely read , I wish to remember Dadamoni Ashok Kumar and paying my unflinching respect to the first real super star of not only Hindi cinema but of Indian films .

Adieu Dadamoni ! You shall always be remembered by a fan like me and your incredible body of work will always be there to enthrall the connoisseurs of world cinema .









Vidur’s Telly Tales – 6

I posted my previous version Telly Tales – 5 on 5th June 2010. Today its July 4, 2010. Barely a month is gone and I am sitting in my office on this wet and rainy Sunday and writing part 6 of my Telly Tales. I am not blowing the trumpet to show the world that I have attained something. I just want to celebrate the success of my students , who came to this city of dreams to make it big and to become something. I am proud of their success and happy to announce that they could make it big in spite of the fact that they are rank new-comers and they have no filmy background and still they are able to creat a niche for themselves in tinsel town.

ABHISHEK TEWARI in ” CHAND CHHUPA BADAL MEIN ”  : This is a new show on Star Plus and is being made on the large canvas. Eminent lyricist Javed Akhtar is playing the narrator in this show. Years ago legendary Ashok Kumar also played a narrator in ” Hum Log “. Abhishek is playing main lead in this serial. He was in Batch No. 42 of Kreating Charakters. Initially, like everyone , he was unsure of himself. But at the same time there was a burning desire to make it big. He had been given very less time by his family, so bit of desperation was there but I must make this clear that he was very grounded and level-headed. He worked hard and was very disciplined in the class. He knew that his family has given him a short period, so he didn’t waste his time and started his struggle from the day one. God rewarded him for his efforts and now he is the lead player of this Star Plus show.    

DHRUV BHANDARI in ” RAKTA SAMBANDH ” : He is son of Mr. Mohan Bhandari, a famous film and television actor. Dhruv was in Batch No. 09 of Kreating Charakters. Urvashi Sharma, who made her debut in ” NAQAAB “ and Girish Taurani, whose father produced ” NAQAAB ” , were his batch-mates. After completing his course, he struggled for a while and worked in some films. But he couldn’t make his mark , as the films he worked in , bombed miserably. Now he got this fabulous offer and is working in this NDTV IMAGINE serial along with his father.

MIA EVONNE UYEDA – M TV VJ : She is a French-speaking girl from canada and approached me for diction classes years ago. At that time she was M TV VJ and was presenting a show on Saturdays. She was very successful VJ and was very popular among youngsters. She had got couple of film offers and that’s why she wanted to learn Hindi. She is hard worker and very methodical in her approach. She again contacted me years after when she got a film offer. Now she is happily married and her husband Mr. EMILIANO COLLAZO runs ZENJI , a bar lounge in Bandra.

ANUSHA DANDEKAR – M TV VJ : Again a famous M TV VJ, she contacted me after she did ” VIRUDDHA ” with Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. This was a Mahesh Manjarekar directed film, produced by A B CORP. She was getting lots of offers and wanted to give her best. She worked with me for many months but I think and doubt that her first priority was not films and she was very satisfied being  a VJ. So films took back seat and she was busy and happy doing what she liked. She is still there and we are still in touch.

SUSHEEL JANGIRA – ZOOM TV Anchor : Almost eons ago, she was my student. She hails from Haryana and was there in the batch with Manav Gohil, a TV star. She was new, naive and ambitious. She had no contacts in the industry and was curious to know how to become succesful. She always wondered  and thought about success. During our separate journeys, we lost touch. One day I saw her presenting her show on ZOOM TV with aplomb and finesse of a veteran and I got a shock of my life. A shy, introvert and naive girl from Haryana has metamorphosed into a diva and was there on the channel presenting her show. Her eternal question, how to become successful, is now answered by herself and that too permanently.

RAJENDRA KRISHNA VYAS – SAB TV Anchor : This young boy from Indore, Madhya Pradesh was in the Batch No.26 of Kreating Charakters. His show ” PAK PAK PAKAO “ on SAB TV is a show, which only he can pull off. His command over Hindi is exemplary and in this show, he roams around the roads of Mumbai and catches hold of a person and talks to him till that person is bored to death. His energy is infectious and he has an earthy charm, which adds to his success as an anchor. He has no background and has no filmi connection, yet he got work and is now a recognized face on television and is doing fabulously for himself . This is a very satisfying fact for me.

In my previous blog – VIDUR’S TELLY TALES – 5, I had mentioned that there are 14 students currently working in lead roles in different serial on various channels. Now 6 more are adding to the list. At present, there are 20 students working on different channels. Out of these 20, 16 are lead actors in serials, 02 are M TV VJs and 02 are anchors.

I think again that for a very long time, I wont be writing my TELLY TALES again . But who knows ? May be I would again be writing something next month. Who knows ?





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