Dilip Kumar’s take on Heathcliff

Trinetra Bajpai & Anshula Bajpai | Updated on July 07, 2021

Musical feast: ‘Arzoo’ came with 10 bewitching melodies aesthetically sculpted by Anil Biswas   -  IMAGE: WIKIPEDIA

‘Arzoo’ consolidated the legendary actor’s image as the tormented lover

The Colossus of Hindi Cinema — legendary actor Dilip Kumar — passed away on July 7 at the age of 98. Born Mohammad Yusuf Khan, the actor who essayed complex roles with breathtaking simplicity, attained phenomenal fame, captivating admirers across generations. ‘Dilip Kumar: Peerless Icon Inspiring Generations’, is a comprehensive account of the life and times of the actor christened the ‘Tragedy King’ of Hindi cinema. Authored by Trinetra and Anshula Bajpai, it captures Dilip Kumar’s early years, evolution as an actor, his relationship with his contemporaries and colleagues, his romances and eventual marriage to Saira Banu, as well as carries an exhaustive filmography.

This excerpt gives insights into the making and reception of Dilip Kumar’s ‘Aarzoo’; though the film did not achieve the expected box office success, it had the actor playing a version of one of his favourite literary characters — Heathcliff.


Ismat Chugtai and her husband producer-director Shahid Lateef (fresh from the success of Bombay Talkies’ Ziddi which was the first hit film of megastar Dev Anand) signed the highly popular pair of Dilip Kumar and Kamini Kaushal for Arzoo. Ismat Chugtai was very fond of Dilip Kumar and the great actor addressed her as ‘Aapa’. 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 Bronte’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. Arzoo had all the ingredients of a fine film but did not attain the expected box office success. The film nevertheless won plaudits from cinegoers for the performance of its leading man and its soulful music.

The story hovered around the trials and tribulations of a young man who is treated badly because he is not able to earn enough to marry the girl he loves. He thinks of leaving the scene but his love for her makes him stay and suffer the indignities inflicted by her family. Finally, he does go away and returns a rich man only to find the woman he loves is already married to another man. He then begins to woo another woman just to make his beloved jealous. Arzoo is still remembered since it further consolidated Dilip’s image as the tormented lover who loses his sweetheart to the onslaughts of social propriety.

The Times of India review dated 11 February 1950 by Clare Mendonca read as follows:

‘Dilip proves an excellent foil rather than a teammate for (Kamini Kaushal) for with all his naturalness, his greatest asset, which he brings to the role, his studied, typed mannerisms rob his performance of all freshness and spontaneity, even in the earlier village sequence. He is getting to dramatise himself too much and he does it too consciously. He is more himself than the hero of this film.’

Baburao Patel was very critical about the theme of the film and wrote in the Film India review:

‘Distortion of Hindu married life! Hindu marriage is primarily a spiritual bond with gods as witnesses. Its sanctity is not only felt by the parties to the marriage but also by every Hindu in the whole of India! Defiance of the spiritual sanctity of the Hindu marriage is scoffed at in the narrative and it is this disgusting aspect of Arzoo that has made the picture unpopular and caused it to fail at the box office. The direction of Shahid Lateef is amateurish. From the players, Kamini Kaushal, who plays the heroine, does the bubbling sequences very well. Her reflective work, however, fails to be impressive. Dilip Kumar plays Badal very indifferently. He seems miles away from his situations even though Kamini sits so near to him. The embracing situations between the two are, however, quite effective.’

Most of the people, however, enjoyed the film and were of the opinion that Dilip performed the emotional scenes with rare sophistication. This was the fourth and last film of Dilip Kumar and Kamini Kaushal together due to some serious personal developments — but more about that later.

Arzoo came with ten bewitching melodies aesthetically sculpted by Anil Biswas. Singer Talat Mahmood, in those days, had been singing non-film songs in Bengali in Kolkata and a few Hindi non-film numbers under the pseudonym of Tapan Kumar. The credit of bringing Talat to Mumbai and giving his velvety voice its first big break in Hindi films with the Raag Darbari-based song Aye dil mujhe aisi jagah le chal goes to Anil Biswas. The Talat number apart, the score of Arzoo was an out-and-out Lata session with golden melodies like Kahan take hum uthayein gham (Raag Asavari), Mera naram karejwa dol gaya with enticing flute interludes, Aayi bahar jiya dole, Jaana na dil se door aankhon se door jaake with its exquisite musical structure and the haunting Unhein hum jo dil se bhulane chale. The other songs like the nautanki-style comedy number Humein maar chala yeh khayal yeh gham (Anil Biswas), Mil gaye nain gaya such chain (Sudha Malhotra) and Jao sidharo hey Radha ke Shyam (Shamshad–Mukesh–S.D. Batish) were also notable. It was yet another musical landmark in Anil Biswas’ illustrious career. Majrooh Sultanpuri penned the lyrics for the first time for an Anil Biswas film, with the other song writers being Prem Dhawan and Jan Nissar Akhtar (also credited as Jan Nisar Akhtar).

Under their banner of Film India Corporation, the Ismat Chugtai and Shahid Lateef duo made several more films including Lala Rukh, Do Raha and Sone Ki Chidiya, etc. But, Arzoo remains their most remembered celluloid venture to this date.

Dilip Kumar: Peerless Icon Inspiring Generations / Trinetra Bajpai & Anshula Bajpai / Bloomsbury / Non-fiction / ₹1,299


Excerpted with permission from ‘Dilip Kumar: Peerless Icon Inspiring Generations’ by Trinetra Bajpai & Anshula Bajpai, published by Bloomsbury in 2019

Published on July 07, 2021

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor