He was more than a star, more than just an actor even. Dilip Kumar, or Yousuf Khan as he was born, was the legend who epitomised the composite culture of India, both in his films that explored stories of rebellion, hope and love and in his seven decades in public life.
Kumar, who died on Wednesday morning at the age of 98, was the thinking, impassioned hero framed in black and white who moved on to a spectrum of roles in technicolour, his life and career a testimony to India as it grew and evolved over the decades.
One of the handful of greats etched in the annals of Indian cinema, tragedy came to be affixed to his name with his turn as the brooding lover in classics such as "Devdas", "Andaz" and the epic romance "Mughal-e-Azam". But the 'Tragedy King', who did his first film "'Jwar Bhata" in 1944, three years before Independence, and his last "Lal Quila" in 1998, was more than that.
Many years later, he met Saira Banu, his wife of over five decades, at a party. She was 22 and he 44. There was a blip when Kumar married Hyderabad's Asma Sahiba in 1981. The marriage lasted two years.
Although Kumar and Banu have no children, according to his biography, "Dilip Kumar: The Substance and the Shadow", he revealed that Saira Banu conceived in 1972, but developed high blood pressure in her eighth month of pregnancy and the doctors couldn't save the baby, which had been strangulated by the umbilical cord.
After that, they did not try to have children believing that it was God's will.
In an interview with Hindustan Times, when Saira Banu was asked if she regrets not having children, the actress said, “Our marriage is the most important thing in my life. I don’t miss having a child because Saab is like a child at heart."
On the other hand, Dilip had told the daily, "It would have been great if we had our own kids."
However, he asserted that they have no regrets.
He added, "Neither Saira nor I can complain of a lack of contentment. It is enough for us that we have our families to share our happiness and our small dismays with."
Other than that, Saira Banu has been a constant by Kumar's side, supporting him through the years and speaking for him when he was no longer in a position to.
That story has now ended. But the legend that is Dilip Kumar will live on. And not just in film archives.