When Dilip Kumar wrote about why he changed his name from Yusuf Khan before movie debut

  • Dilip Kumar was born Mohammad Yusuf Khan and he changed his name before entering the world of cinema. In his autobiography, the actor had revealed why he did so.
Dilip Kumar had to change his name before he entered Bollywood.
Dilip Kumar had to change his name before he entered Bollywood.
Published on Jul 07, 2021 03:23 PM IST
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Dilip Kumar, veteran Bollywood actor who died Wednesday morning, was born as Mohammad Yusuf Khan. In his autobiography that released in 2014, he talked in detail about how the change in his name came about right before he started working on his debut film.

The veteran actor revealed that actor Devika Rani had suggested his name change. Dilip Kumar also revealed that the fact that Ashok Kumar was also a screen name, and not the actor's real name, made him go for the change. He made his debut with Jwar Bhata in 1944.

In his book Dilip Kumar: The Substance and the Shadow, the actor said he was not nervous or anxious when Devika Rani asked him to meet her in her office. "She began with the usual courtesies of asking me whether I would care for some tea made specially for her from leaves she had purchased from the English store in the city. I was wondering what she had in mind when she came to the point, speaking in English, the language she was most fluent in. She said, quite matter-of-factly: ‘Yousuf, I was thinking about your launch soon as an actor and I felt it would not be a bad idea if you adopted a screen name. You know, a name you would be known by and which will be very appropriate for your audience to relate to and one that will be in tune with the romantic image you are bound to acquire through your screen presence. I thought Dilip Kumar was a nice name. It just popped up in my mind when I was thinking about a suitable name for you. How does it sound to you?’ I was speechless for a moment, being totally unprepared for the new identity she was proposing to me."

Dilip Kumar said he was not sure about changing his name at first. He further wrote in the book, "I said it sounded nice but asked her whether it was really necessary. She gave her sweet smile and told me that it would be prudent to do so. She added that it was after considerable thought that she came to the conclusion of giving me a screen name. With her customary authority, she went on to tell me that she foresaw a long and successful career for me in films and it made good sense to have a screen identity that would stand up by itself and have a secular appeal. I was quick to appreciate her concern but I told her I needed to think about it a bit. She responded: ‘Fine … come back to me with your thoughts.’ ‘We are now ready to begin preparations for your debut. So we must hurry up,’ she said breezily as I rose from my seat to leave. I spent the rest of the day as per my routine but with the name Dilip Kumar ringing in my mind’s inner recesses."

Also read: When Saira recalled love at first sight encounter with Dilip: 'I was just 12'

"I told S. Mukherjee Sahab (producer) about the suggestion that had come from Devika Rani. He reflected for a second and, looking me straight in the eye, said: ‘I think she has a point. It will be in your interest to take the name she has suggested for the screen. It is a very nice name, though I will always know you by the name Yousuf like all your brothers and sisters and your parents.’ (I later came to know that Ashok Kumar was the screen name of Kumudlal Kunjilal Ganguly.) I was touched and it was a validation that cleared my thoughts then and there," Dilip Kumar wrote in his book.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2022