‘Pitayi Ke Darr Se’: Why Dilip Kumar changed his name from Yusuf Khan

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Dilip Kumar

Renowned Bollywood actor Mohammed Yusuf Khan, world-famous as Dilip Kumar, passed away in Mumbai on Wednesday morning after prolonged bouts of illnesses, his family and aides informed. “With a heavy heart and profound grief, I announce the passing away of our beloved Dilip Saab a few minutes ago. We are from God and to Him we return,” said the thespian’s longtime aide Faisal Farooqui in a tweet at daybreak.

One of 12 children, Kumar was born as Mohammed Yusuf Khan in Peshawar (now in Pakistan) on December 11, 1922, to a fruit merchant- Lala Ghulam Sarwar. Yusuf’s schooling happened at Barnes School in Deolali and the erudite Pathan from Peshawar, who started as a fruit trader, was fluent in Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Marathi, Bengali and English.

Dilip Saab, who began his acting career in 1944 with Jwar Bhata and the rest is history as they say. The thespian’s 58-year-old long and illustrious career has many gems that acquired iconic stature over the years.

While it is known to many that Dilip Saab used ‘Dilip Kumar’ only as his stage name, not many know why he changed it from Yusuf Khan. Well, the reason is as down to earth as the legend himself.

In an interview that dates back to the 1970s, Kumar, in a freewheeling chat revealed this change of name happened only because he was terrified that his father would beat him up. 

When asked about the change, Kumar very candidly said, “Haqeeqat bataun? Pitayi ke darr se maine yeh naam rakha (Should I tell you honestly? It was because I was scared of beatings that I used this name).”

Dilip Saab says in Hindi and Urdu that his father was strictly against movies and show business. His father’s good friend was Dewan Basheshwarnath, whose son Prithviraj Kapoor was also an actor in the industry and he often used to complain to Basheshwarnath about his son’s career choice.

When he stepped into the industry he was aware that his father might not approve of his choice. When his team asked him what he should be called in the industry he was sure he doesn’t want to use Yusuf Khan for obvious reasons. Later, when he read about the film in the newspapers, ‘Dilip Kumar’ was used as his stage name. However, later his father accepted his son’s choice of his career eventually.


You can listen to it from Dilip Kumar himself here:

Dilip Kumar made his acting debut in 1944 with Jwar Bhata and in the long career span, he gave some iconic hits such as the romantic Andaz (1949),  the social drama Daag (1952), the swashbuckling Aan (1952), the dramatic Devdas (1955), the comical Azaad (1955), the epic historical Mughal-e-Azam (1960), the social dacoit crime drama Gunga Jamuna (1961), and the comedy Ram Aur Shyam (1967).

In 1976, he took a five-year break from films and returned with a character role in the film Kranti (1981). There on, he continued his career playing leading roles in films such as Shakti (1982), Mashaal (1984), Karma (1986) and Saudagar (1991). His last film was Qila (1998).

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‘An institution has gone’: Bollywood mourns Dilip Kumar’s demise 

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Sagar Biswas

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