Only a select few directors from the South have had the privilege of directing Dilip Kumar, and B. Gopal is one of the lucky ones. When the director heard the news of the actor’s demise on Wednesday, his mind was filled with recollections.
The filmmaker directed Dileep Kumar in the 1988 film Kanoon Apna Apna, a remake of superhit Telugu film Collector Gari Abbai (which was also directed by him).
“After hearing the unfortunate news, my heart became heavy; I remained silent for the next few hours,” Gopal shares. “I first met Dilip Saab when we went to discuss the project. I was completely star-struck,” recollects B. Gopal. “I touched his feet and we began discussing the project,” he says, adding that calling out ‘action...camera...rolling’ on the first day of the shoot was still fresh in his memory.
The director says that despite being such a big star, Dilip Kumar had no airs and always worked hard and did his homework. The actor understood the script very well and would also give inputs. “He was such a sport. He was OK even if his suggestions were not considered, because he believed the director should take the final call,” Gopal says.
The director also recalls that the thespian had his own style of shooting very slowly. Midway through the filming, Gopal said he asked Dilip Kumar whether the shooting could be speeded up, eliminating too many pauses, because in the South, the tendency was to shoot quickly. “Dilip Saab laughed and said OK,” remembers Gopal.
After the shooting was wrapped up, Dileep Kumar watched the film at the editing table. He complimented the director saying, “I am very satisfied with the film; you have done a good job.” Remembering that occasion, a beaming Gopal says, “Coming from someone like him, it was unbelievable.”
Gopal also recalls that Dilip Kumar’s wife, actress Saira Banu, would come to the sets every day, at around lunch time. “The couple made quite a sight,” he says. “After having lunch with Dilip Saab, she would go back home, but come again in the evening. They would return home together after pack up.” Describing the actress as very humble in her approach, Gopal says “Saira Ma’am was a great heroine too, but she’s a woman of few words.”
Apparently, B. Gopal first saw Dileep Kumar in real life when the superstar attended the function to celebrate 100 days of Telugu film Adavi Ramudu, starring NTR. Gopal was the Assistant Director of the film.
“It was in August 1977. Dilip Saab came to Vijayawada. Generally, he is very reserved, so it was a great thing that he came all the way from Mumbai to grace the event. He was mobbed by fans,” says the director, and reveals that on that occasion, he saw the Bollywood actor only from a distance.
One of the schedules of Kanoon Apna Apna was also shot in Hyderabad in a private studio owned by Akkineni Nageswara Rao. Apparently, ANR dropped in on the sets of the film. Being a huge fan of ANR too, B. Gopal was thrilled to see both his favourite heroes, and chatted with them.
“It was one of the best moments in my film career. Both of them shared their experiences and I felt as if I were in a film school,” remembers B Gopal.
Five years later, B Gopal met Dileep Kumar again in Chennai at a studio where both were filming.