Dilip Kumar & Raj Kapoor : A Friendship from Peshawar to Mumbai
Not many among the younger generation are aware of the fact that two of the greatest Indian Cinema Artists of the last century, Dilip Kumar (Yusuf Khan) and Raj Kapoor, were from Peshawar and raised in Pashto speaking families. Interestingly, both were family friends and the friendship was carried on by them also.
In Peshawar, Basheshwarnath Kapoor (grandfather of Raj Kapoor) was a civil servant and had a friendship with Aghaji, father of Dilip Kumar who was into trade. Prithviraj Kapoor, son of Bashehwarnath, was especially liked in the family of Dilip for his charming personality.
In the 1930s Aghaji moved to Mumbai in search of better business opportunities and set up a successful fruit trade in the city. Meanwhile, Prithviraj Kapoor, father of Raj Kapoor, also moved to the city as a film actor. Two families again started meeting often rekindling their Pashto affinity.
While elders of the families socialised at homes, Dilip Kumar and Raj Kappor befriended each other at Khalsa College. Dilip was popular for being a good soccer player and an avid reader of literature. But, he was an introverted boy who could never talk to a girl. On the other hand, Raj Kapoor was a lady charmer who had his ways of socialising with women. Raj was a cricket player at college and would play better when girls would cheer him up. An extrovert and a charmer, Raj befriended many girls.
Raj wanted Dilip to come out of his cocoon of shyness. For this purpose, he used several tactics. On one occasion, Raj, pointing towards a girl, told Dilip that the girl wanted to talk to him and hence Dilip should go to her and strike a conversation. A shy Dilip could not gather the courage. So, Raj signalled the girl to come along and took Dilip to the canteen. Now, Dilip was sitting with the girl on the same table. Still, he could not speak. A visibly frustrated girl left the table realising that Dilip would not take a step forward to befriend her.
On another occasion, Raj took Dilip for a tonga ride. At the Gateway of India, Raj saw two beautiful Parsi girls standing. In a chivalrous and polite manner Raj asked them if they wanted to be dropped somewhere. Girls said that they would be going to the Radio Club. One of the girls sat beside Raj while the other sat in a seat in front with Dilip. Raj, in his usual self, sat close to the girl and started chatting while Dilip squirmed with shyness. He could not utter a word and sat coyly in his seat till the two girls alighted the tonga at the Radio Club. Needless to say, Raj Kapoor could not bring Dilip out of introvert self. Later on, film critics would compare these two friends as film actors.
(Writer is a scientist with keen interest in history, culture and poetry)