Dilip Kumar-Saira Banu love story: One of the most revered actors of Hindi cinema, Dilip Kumar passed away at the age of 98 on July 7. He leaves behind wife Saira Banu, to whom he had been married for close to 55 years. When Kumar and Banu got married, he was already in his forties, while Banu was just 22 years old. However, an age gap of more than two decades was just one of the things that made their marriage unconventional. And yet, Kumar and Banu’s marriage seems have the most conventional “happy” endings that we have seen in the industry.
Banu has previously revealed that she fell in love with Dilip Kumar when she was just 12. Later, After making her way into Bollywood as an actor herself, when she first met Kumar, and he remarked how beautiful she was, Banu knew in her heart that one day she would marry him. But love isn’t as black and white as films had made it out to be. And Kumar and Banu’s love story was no exception. Kumar was once engaged to Madhubala, their courtship cut short by a legal battle between Naya Daur producer BR Chopra and Madhubala’s father, in which Kumar testified against the latter.
On the other hand, reportedly, Banu was once in love with Rajendra Kumar, who was married at that point of time, and a father to three children. Banu’s mother, Naseem Banu, didn’t approve of this match. In fact, she approached Dilip Kumar to talk her daughter out of this relationship. One thing led to another, and eventually Kumar and Banu got married in 1966.
Their marriage wasn’t devoid of struggles however. In 1972, the couple tragically lost their unborn child in eighth month of pregnancy. Then in 1981, Kumar married Hyderabad-based socialite Asma Rehman, an alliance which he later went on to call a “grave mistake” in his autobiography. The second marriage ended in 1983.
Every marriage comes with its share of struggles, and while longevity is never a sign of a successful or a happy marriage, it is safe to say that Kumar and Banu’s relationship withered numerous storms and managed to survive. It must have scarred both of them on an individual level and their marriage, but when you saw Banu care for Kumar in the last years of his life, all you saw was warmth between them. She was always by his side, lovingly looking over him, as he smiled for pictures, she would hold his hand up, to help him wave at press and onlookers. She would make sure he always looked his best, whenever he was snapped by press.
Perhaps theirs was the last of the great Bollywood marriages that had the very conventional Hindi film “happy ending”- a dream so many people still believe in. However, Banu and Kumar are also a reminder that even a happy ending comes with its own set of challenges and a lot goes into making a relationship work- struggles which get glossed over in magazine covers and on silver screen.
The views expressed are the author’s own.