It is the 8th death anniversary of thespian Ashok Kumar (Kumudlal Kunjilal Ganguly), who stood apart as a cinema icon of the 20th century breaking away from the theatrical role then prevalent in Indian cinema and starting a natural style of acting.
Born in 1911, an artist of enormous talent, Ashok Kumar was popularly known as 'Dada Moni'. He made his debut opposite Devika Rani in Jeevan Naiya (1936) but became a well-known face with Achut Kanya the same year, where he played the role of a Brahmin boy who fell in love with a girl from a lower caste. His role in Kismet in 1943 is perhaps the first cigarette smoking anti-hero of the Indian screen.
The character with the heart of gold remains etched in the minds of the people and the film ran for over three years in a theatre in Calcutta. His trademark cigarette with his suave, westernised style came to be seen in many more films in the ‘50’s with the likes of Sangram, Inspector, Howrah Bridge and Night Club to name a few.
After moving away from Bombay Talkies, he along with few other artistes set up ‘Filmistan.’ Parineeta established him as one of the most accomplished actors in the industry amidst contemporaries like Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand, each a legend in his own right.
He moved on to play character roles in the 60’s varying from the villain in Jewel Thief, a sadhu who has renounced the world in Chitralekha, the loving father in Mili, the old conman in Victoria no. 203 to the henpecked head of the family in Khubsoorat.
He is known to have sung some of his own songs like Main Ban Ki Chidiya, Chal Chal Re Naujawaan and Na Jaane Kidhar Aaj Meri Nao Chali Re that added to his laurels.
He gave up acting in films in the early 1980s, save for an occasional television appearance as the Sutradahar of the first Indian soap opera Hum Log.
He received the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1988 from the Indian Government for his lifetime contribution to the Indian film industry. He also won two Filmfare awards as well as a National Award. His two brothers Kishore Kumar and Anup Kumar also acted in films. The three brothers worked together in the comedy Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi. He died at the age of 90 in Mumbai on December 10, 2001.
With inputs from News Tomorrow