Every year, his birthday is not just a celebration for the family, but also his fans spread across the globe. Back home - happy and in good health now - after a three-month-long stay in the hospital, the veteran actor is set to celebrate his 91st birthday today…but in a low-key affair. As usual, there will be stars from the film industry streaming in to wish him. On this special day, his lovely wife Saira Banu talks about what they have planned and what Dilip Kumar means to her.
'Tumhe aur kya doon main dil ke sewaye, tum ko humari ummar lag jaye'
This year must have been a bit unsettled for the family due to your husband's illness. What have you planned for his birthday?
This year is extra memorable because it has been full of worry and tension - with sahab in the ICU. God has been kind and we are all up and about, so we decided to celebrate his recovery and return to good health. The concern and words of solace that poured in from people who live miles away gave me the strength to tide over the anxious moments in the hospital. So we are celebrating his birthday this year quietly and with a prayer of gratitude. It'll be a small get-together with family, close friends and the doctors who rallied around us when he was ill.
Which birthday of his is the most memorable one for you?
For me, every day and every moment with him is special. My husband is a simple man who enjoys life's simple pleasures. I am content just being with him, taking care of him, sharing his thoughts, going out with him and witnessing the genuine respect and admiration that people from all walks of life have for him. He has always said to me, and also in some of his public speeches, that the warmth he gets to feel when a poor man on the road walks up to him and clasps his hand, with moist eyes, and tells him how much he has admired and loved his work in a certain movie is more valuable to him than any award, recognition or honour.
'My wish is that he should continue to be the emperor he is in the motion picture industry '
Is there any special birthday wish you have for him?
My wish is for the love and adulation to last forever. My wish is to see him the way he always has been - handsome, charming and radiant. My wish is that he should continue to be the emperor he is in the motion picture industry and have followers among every new generation of actors and film-makers. My wish is that he continues to influence those who look up to him not only with his ever fresh and contemporary style of acting, but also with his personal qualities and virtues - his humility, integrity, generosity, compassion for the poor and needy, his unselfishness as a colleague at work and as a protective, loving brother to five brothers and six sisters at home.
Is there a special song that you would like to dedicate to him today?
'Tumhe aur kya doon main dil ke sewaye, tum ko humari ummar lag jaye,' (from Ayee Milan Ki Bela; 1964).
He has millions of fans across the globe. How do you keep him connected to them? How do you reach out?
The letters start coming three months before the day (birthday) and I make sure that they all are answered and signed by him. On the day itself, we leave the gate open from morning as a practice. The stream of visitors, including some of his well-wishers who have travelled from other states and countries, never stops till late in the night. Two years ago, we had a party, and it was wonderful to witness the love and sincere admiration his contemporaries and younger colleagues demonstrated that evening.