Dilip Kumar turned 90 this week. The separation in era, my lack of knowledge on the subject and a subject as daunting as Dilip Kumar make me thoroughly ill-equipped to write a tribute. I will not even try. This, however, does not stop one from watching Mughal-e-Azam from time to time when in a mood mellow enough as to not want to be disturbed by the noise of breaking news. Mughal-e-Azam has delightful constants, apparent on every viewing. Prithviraj is always regal, Madhu Bala always hauntingly beautiful, Dilip Kumar always exquisite. Some of you would agree that watching Madhu Bala dance in Jab pyar kiya tu darna kiya with a glass in hand makes one forget, at least for the moment, the tedium of discussing whether the Registrar of the Supreme Court should appear before the Public Accounts Committee or not.
Mughal-e-Azam is a sad love story, everyone knows that. Although the movie has a bit more optimistic ending than other versions of the story, allowing Anarkali to live, albeit in obscurity. However, if one reflects on it, it is only sad for Anarkali, Akbar-e-Azam still remains the Emperor, the young crown prince Salim, affectionately called Sheikho, remains alive and well on his course to become the Emperor Jahangir. There is something very homely, perhaps oriental about a mighty father and the first born son made to lock horns, and then reconciliation, well sort of.
Profound apologies in advance for taking liberties with a classic like Mughal-e-Azam and a legend like Dilip Kumar Sahib. However, what would one give to watch a sequel, the father and son finally reunited life after Anarkali. Reunited, not without some sense of loss on both sides, yet reconciled, misgivings removed. What is an Anarkali or two between the Emperor and the heir-apparent? Sheikho was perhaps a little reckless, perhaps, yet still a son, in due course all is forgiven, even Anarkali was forgotten in due course. Blood after all is thicker than water. Sheikho was after all the son of Akbar-e-Azam himself, the ruler with no sharers, the paragon of justice, sometimes it seemed justice himself. Sheikho was once thrown out of the palace or maybe chose to leave of his own will. In any event, he can return now.
And return not as prodigal, but as vindicated. Almost makes one sentimental, thinking about the imaginary scenes of reunion between the father and the son, the son who has redeemed himself, untainted, can now look his father in the eye and claim to be a worthy prince. And what about the malicious intriguers, the naysayers, the opportunists who took the licence of making wild allegations against Sheikho, while there was a rift? Those who cried in croaky tones that Sheikho be treated as a common subject, disregarding and also disrespecting his royal blood. Surely, if a sequel is ever made, they will be portrayed in a light that they deserve, treated with contempt. Akbar-e-Azam and his viziers would take a dim view of those conspiracy mongers.
The realm of fantasy aside, Mughal-e-Azam also brings to light the complexity of the father-son relationship in powerful households and leads one to muse about some in our part of the world. We have a solid tradition of strong inspirational father-son duos. Skip a few centuries, and here in Pakistan, we have glorious stories of father and son making their name in separate fields, side by side, yet independent, standing shoulder to shoulder in triumph. Allow me to repeat an unconfirmed story that I am sure I have told before of the gallant Field Marshal Ayub Khan and his son Mr Gohar Ayub. So reportedly, after the conclusion of a meeting being chaired by the Field Marshal, he was told of the extraordinary growth of the business of his son. Ayub while remaining a seminal example is by no means alone in the ranks of our illustrious entrepreneurs who have made it big on their own, independently. Ijazul Haq, Humauyn A. Khan and other names are stories of inspiration.
Theirs are stories of unparalleled entrepreneurship, making fortunes on their own. Lessons for our young ones, if you work hard and have faith you can be incredibly, phenomenally successful, despite having your father in a position of power. It is a pity and our loss that we have not cherished them as much as we should and learn from their brilliance and expertise in assisting us out of our permanent economic crisis. They represent the victory of family values and hard work. It is about time that we pay homage to them. These are not only sons of great men; these are also by natural causation sons of the soil. Yet, all is not lost, there is some evidence of a new cadre of young, hungry (for success that is) entrepreneurs undeterred by the positions of authority that their fathers hold. Mughal-e-Azam, Akbar and Sheikho belong to the ages. We have an Akbar and a Sheikho in their own way in each time. Cheers for Dilip Kumar's long and healthy life. He would be happy to know Sheikho is alive, well and thriving in Pakistan.