Ashok Kumar | The Accidental Hero

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His Life: An Inspiration For Many Generations Of Aspiring Actors

  • Year 1911 – Born in Bhagalpur, Bihar, India.
  • Year 1936 – Did his first movie ‘Jeevan Naiya’.
  • Year 1988 – Got Dadasaheb Phalke Award.
  • Year 1999 – Honoured with Padma Bhushan.
  • Year 2001 – Died on 10 December due to heart failure.

“Samajhdar log kabhi dil se mohabbat nahi karte, vo hamesha dimaag se mohabbbat karte hain..!” – Tamasha (1952)

Ashok Kumar was a renowned Indian film actor. He had attained iconic status in Indian cinema. He is said to be one of India’s finest actor who has played leading roles. He was a lab assistant in Bombay Talkies when Bombay Talkies were making a film “Jeevan Saathi “, the hero of the movie ran away that is when the head of the studio decided to take him as the lead.


Ashok Kumar was born to a Bengali family on 13 October, 1911 in Bhagalpur district of Bihar, and was named Kumudlal Ganguly. His father was a lawyer and his mother was a housewife. He was the eldest of the four children. His brother Kalyan later took the screen name, Anoop Kumar. His youngest brother Kishore Kumar was a legendary playback singer.

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He finished his educated at Presidency College of the University of Calcutta. He was planning to become a lawyer.

Personal Life

Ashok was married to Shobha Devi at a very young age. Ashok Kumar has a son Arup and three daughters Bharati, Rupa and Preeti. Besides acting, he was an avid painter and a practitioner of homoeopathy. He was a qualified homoeopath and had earned a reputation for conjuring up miracle cures.

He stopped celebrating his birthday as his brother Kishore Kumar died on the same date. He has been credited for mentoring several personalities who went on to make significant contributions to Indian cinema one of them is Dev Anand.

Career Journey

Ashok Kumar studied law though his heart was not there as he was dreaming of becoming a technician. His sister Sati Devi was married at a very young age to Sashadhar Mukherjee, this connection had made his interest in the film field. He failed the exams of law and came to live with his sister for a few months until the exams were held again. Ashok requested his brother-in-law to find him a job. Sashadhar Mukherjee was working in a fairly senior position in the technical department of Bombay Talkies, a pioneering Indian film studio, and he used his influence to get Kumudlal a job there. He started off as a laboratory assistant in Bombay Talkies and lived with his sister’s family in Chembur, not far from the studio. This was in the early 1930s.

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In 1936, during the shooting of “Jeevan Naiya”, the male lead Najmul Hassan eloped with his co-star Devika Rani, who also happened to be the wife of studio head Himanshu Rai. Himanshu replaced the actor with Ashok Kumar, this is how he accidentally became an actor. His next film with Devika Rani in “Achhut Kanya”, the same year was one of the early blockbusters of Hindi cinema.

The two did a bunch of films, which includes “Janmabhoomi” (1936), “Izzat” (1937), “Savitri” (1937), “Vachan” (1938) and “Nirmala” (1938). Their last on-screen presence was the 1941 movie “Anjaan” , whose failure at the box office brought an end to the legendary on-screen couple.

The Gyan Mukherjee directorial 1943 movie “Kismet” , featuring Ashok Kumar was the first anti-hero film in Indian Cinema smashed all existing box office records, becoming the first Hindi movie to gross 1 crore at the box office

He has produced several films for Bombay Talkies during the final years of the company including “Ziddi” (1948), which established the careers of Dev Anand and Pran, “Neelkamal” (1947), which marked the debut of Raj Kapoor, and the famous film “Mahal” in 1949 in which he co-starred with Madhubala.

Awards and Recognition

Ashok kumar has received numerous awards and recognitions for his work done in Indian Cinema. He received the Filmfare Best Actor Award for the movie “Rakhi” in year 1962. In 1969, he was awarded with National Film Awards for Best Actor for the movie “Aashirwaad”. For his immense contribution in film industry, Ashok was honoured with Dadasaheb Phalke Award, India’s highest award for ‘cinematic excellence’ in 1988. Govt. of india honoured him with Padma Bhushan in 1999. In Year 2007 – “Special Award” by Star Screen Awards.

Later Life

During the 60’s he switched his character from hero to roles like playing the parent, uncle or grandparent, being careful of never to be typecast. From a judge in “Kanoon” (1960), an ageing freedom fighter in “Bandini” (1963), an ageing priest in “Chitralekha” (1964), a vicious zamindar in “Jawaab” (1970) and a criminal in “Victoria 203” (1971), he played a wide variety of roles.

Ashok Kumar’s last film role was in the 1997 movie “Aankhon Mein Tum Ho”. Altogether, he starred in over 275 films. He has done more than 30 Bengali dramas in Dhakuria. He died at the age of 90, on 10 December 2001 due to heart failure at his residence in Chembur.

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