Indian Acting Legend Dilip Kumar Honored With Hero of Heroes Heritage Festival

Screen legacy in danger due to poor attention to film preservation.

Dilip Kumar festival poster
Film Heritage Foundation

Dilip Kumar, widely considered at one of India’s greatest actors, will be honored with a bespoke, heritage festival that launches next month.

The Dilip Kumar Hero of Heroes festival will be held on Dec. 10 and 11 to mark the centenary of the star’s birth. Kumar (aka Yusuf Khan) died in July last year, age 98.

The festival is organized by the Film Heritage Foundation, which is behind an upcoming film restoration workshop in Mumbai, and whose director Shivendra Singh Durgapur was at the Film Bazaar this week and spoke at a panel about restoration.

The festival will play four of Kumar’s milestone films “Aan” from 1952, “Devdas” (1955), “Ram Aur Shyam” (1967) and “Shakti” (1982) at more than 30 cinema venues in cities across India. Host cities include Mumbai, Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Pune, Bareilly, Kanpur, Varanasi, Allahabad, Raipur, Indore, Surat, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.

“Dilip Kumar turning 100! What an incredible opportunity to bring back one of the greatest actors of Indian cinema on the big screen. He truly is the ‘Hero of Heroes’ as even today he is an actor that the biggest stars look up to. Even though some of these films were released nearly seventy years ago, the power of Dilip Kumar’s performances, his craft as a method actor and his charisma make him ageless,” said Durgapur.

But before the festival could assemble its selection, Durgapur and the FHF first had to overcome the issue of deteriorating or missing materials.

“I was so excited thinking of how many of [Kumar’s] films I could curate to mark the occasion. Little did I know then that I would have the opposite problem. I was shocked and heartbroken to discover that many of his great films survived only in low-resolution formats that could not be projected on the big screen,” said Durgapur.

“I cobbled together these films with great difficulty with many people asking me why some of their favorite Dilip Kumar films were not included. I hope this will be a wake-up call to filmmakers and producers to realize that time is running out and that they should look into preserving their films before it is too late.”

“Yousuf Sahab set an international bar for Indian actors to follow. Erudite, eloquent and excellent in his chosen field. Cinema can make people believe that those who have departed are still alive. In that context to me Dilip Kumar ji is one of the world’s best actors alive,” said leading Indian actor Kamal Haasan.

“I would urge every film lover and contemporary actor who have not watched Dilip Kumar larger than life not to miss the incredible opportunity of watching this giant among actors back on the big screen. It will be a master class in acting,” said Amitabh Bachchan, leading actor and ambassador for the FHF. “I am still to meet an actor who could match his faultless performance, his flawless diction and the intelligence and commitment he brought to his craft. His every spoken word was poetry and when he appeared on the screen, everything else was a blur.”