Bollywood Legends - Ashok Kumar
Kumudlal Ganguly, son of a successful advocate, Kunjalal Ganguly, was born at Bhagalpur, in Bihar, on 13th October 1911. Kunjalal Ganguly practiced at Khandwa, and this is where Kumudlal had his early education at school. He graduated from Allahabad University where Sasadhar Mukerji was his classmate, Mukerji subsequently marrying Ashok Kumar`s only sister Sati.
Kumudlal worked as a laboratory assistant with New Theatres for a time in 1934, meanwhile, Sasadhar Mukerji had joined the newly floated company, Bombay Talkies and he persuaded his brother-in-law to come to Bombay.
Dadamoni, as he is lovingly referred to by every one in the film industry, has been around for more than six decades. He became a star accidentally. He entered Mumbai with the idea of becoming a director. But destiny thought otherwise and he was cajoled to act by veteran director Himanshu Rai. Meanwhile, Kumudlal had changed his name to Ashok Kumar Ganguly His first film, Jeevan Naiya, had a leading man who suddenly fell ill. So Dadamoni had to fill his place. The film clicked and Dadamoni was stuck for life! In fact, Dadamoni`s first shoot was a disaster of sorts. He was supposed to jump on the villain`s back on the count of ten. But he accidentally jumped earlier and the villain broke a leg! He was hospitalised and the shooting of the film was stalled for nearly four months.
His second movie, Achhut Kanya where he co-starred with Devika Rani, was a social drama and a great hit, thereby establishing him as a successful actor. The film marked the emergence of socially committed films. He played the role of a Brahmin boy who falls in love with an untouchable girl. And then came his biggest hit, Kismat, whose record was shattered only by Sholay. He was in a way the first superstar with audiences thronging the halls only for him. His winning streak continued with Mahal in 1949, which he also produced under the banner of Bombay Talkies. He also went on to produce films like Majboor, Mashaal, Ziddi etc. He had a small tiff with Bimal Roy during the production of Parineeta, when the director, Bimal Roy, supposedly conned him and made Do Bigha Zameen with his money. The misunderstanding ended with their teaming together in Bandini.
Dadamoni made the transformation from a superstar star to a character artist effortlessly. Who doesn`t remember his comical role in Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi. His characterisation of the revolutionary Bikash Ghosh in Bandini won him unanimous applause. After a string of character roles, he shocked the audiences with his role in Jewel Thief. After that started his phase of character roles in films like Aradhana and Aashirwad. He even sang a rap number `Rail Gaddi`, remember? Khatta-meetha saw him team up with Pearl Padamsee to give a brilliant comedy. His last film was Return of The Jewel Thief.
The winner of two Filmfare awards, the National Award and the Dada Saheb Phalke Award is a man who has enchanted audiences across all age groups and who only comes once in a while. Ashok Kumar (90) died of old age in his house at Chembur, North-east Mumbai on. He is survived by his daughter Priti Ganguly who runs an acting institute.