When Dilip Kumar revealed why he changed his name before his film debut in 1944

It's the end of an era for the Indian film industry with the demise of legendary actor Dilip Kumar. The actor born Mohammad Yousuf Khan was admitted twice to the hospital in the last month. He was 98 when he breathed his last on the morning of July 7. In his autobiography, Dilip Kumar had spoken about how the change in his name came about right before he started working on his debut film.

When Dilip Kumar revealed why he changed his name before his film debut in 1944

Dilip Kumar ho made his debut in the year 1944 revealed that it was actor Devika Rani who suggested he change his name. He was convinced when he got to know that Ashok Kumar was also a screen name and not the actor's real name.

In his autobiography titled Dilip Kumar: The Substance and the Shadow, the actor described his meeting with Devika Rani before his debut. “She began with the usual courtesies of asking me whether I would care for some tea made especially 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,” he wrote.

“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,” he added.

He went to his producer with the suggestion made by Devika Rani, who also agreed to it. “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.

ALSO READ: State funeral for Dilip Kumar, Saira Banu in a daze

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