KASARGOD: When TV channels broke the news of actor Dilip Kumar’s death on Wednesday morning, Kasaragod’s social media users took a foggy trip down the memory lane. Several of them shared black & white photographs of the actor when he came to Kasaragod to inaugurate Milan theatre 48 years ago. Milan – undivided Kannur’s biggest cinema with 944 seats – was inaugurated on September 6, 1973.
The theatre was a product of India’s black economy of the 1960s and 1970s. The decision to bring Dilip Kumar to inaugurate it was taken by the late K S Abdulla, a wealthy and influential businessman, said senior journalist K S Gopalakrishnan. Dilip Kumar was then 51 years of age, 29 of which he had spent acting in 47 movies.
“He was bigger than today’s Amitabh Bachchan,” said K S Jamal (57), son of the late K S Hassankutty, one of the six owners of Milan. Jamal was a nine-year-old boy then. Once Dilip Kumar agreed to come to Kasaragod, Hassankutty sent his 24-year-old nephew K S Bashir to Madras to buy a Chevrolet Impala to drive around the superstar. “I drove back with a used Impala. Later, I came to know it belonged to Prem Nazir,” said Bashir, 72, who is leading a retired life in Mangaluru.
When Dilip Kumar landed at Mangaluru airport in an HAL-748 aircraft, Bashir was on the runway with the Impala. “Those days, they allowed cars on the runway,” he said. Dilip Kumar came with his sister and niece. On the way to Kasaragod, they pulled over at Uppala for ‘nariyal ka pani’. They stayed in Abdulla’s palatial house at Thalangara in Kasaragod. At the inauguration, Dilip Kumar gave a speech in English. “I don’t remember what he said, but he later checked out the projector,” said Jamal.
The first movie to be screened in Milan was M G Ramachandran and M G R Latha’s ‘Ulagam Sutrum Valiban’ (1973).“After the inauguration, Abdulla requested the actor’s nod to host him and the latter agreed,” said Bashir. Abdulla’s grandson K S Aslam shared photographs of Dilip Kumar dining at his house.
“There are many more photographs of the actor in our house in Thalangara,” he said from Mangaluru, where he lives now. During his visit, Dilip Kumar stayed in Kasaragod for three days, visiting several places, including the Malik Dinar Mosque.