Ashok Kumar’s birth centenary to be celebrated with multiple events

Ashok Kumar's birth centenary to be celebrated with multiple events

Chicago, Sep 1, A series of exhibitions, screenings, a play, a documentary and a biography release have been planned in India and abroad to commemorate the birth centenary of Ashok Kumar, considered by many to be one of Hindi cinema’s greatest actors.

The events will kick off in October this year and culminate on Oct 13, 2011, his 100th birth anniversary.

“My father’s work needs to be documented for future generations,” Bharati Jaffrey, the actor’s daughter who established the Ashok Kumar Foundation in his memory, told IANS. She added that a play and a film was a good idea because Ashok Kumar led a very dramatic life. “Of course, the script is very important,” she said, “because my father was against excessive dialogues. He felt ‘sub-text’ was very important.”

Jaffrey said that although many of the younger generation of movie goers were unaware of Ashok Kumar’s artistry, she found it gratifying that several of the most enthusiastic volunteers helping her in the project were in their twenties. Among them is model and actor Arfi Lamba who said that one of the actor’s quotes resonated in his life -“It is very difficult to make acting look simple.”

As part of the celebrations, a new biography of the actor by Chicago-based journalist Ashok Easwaran has been scheduled for release in October, 2011. The book will be based on recollections of the actor by members of his extended family and former colleagues, while tracing his evolution from an unwilling and awkward actor in Jeevan Naiyya (1936) to an artist par excellence whose acting took on an authority unusual in Indian films.

The book will also deal with the many facets of the late actor – a passionate painter, a voracious reader proficient in several languages, an accomplished chess player, a homeopath and a kindly elder brother ‘dadamoni’ to many in the film industry.

Born Kumudlal Kunjilal Ganguly, Ashok Kumar has, by some accounts, acted in well over 300 films. Kismet (1943) where he played the cigarette smoking anti-hero ran for over three years in Calcutta’s Roxy theatre, a record surpassed only years later by Sholay.

For such an accomplished actor, Ashok Kumar started off by being a lab technician and only did the role in “Jeevan Naiyya” opposite Devika Rani, after the actor due to play the hero went missing.

“My father never really liked playing romantic roles,” recalled Jaffrey, adding that for her, proximity distorted perspective. “When he was alive, he was a father more than anything else. I realized fully his enormous contribution to Indian cinema only after he passed away.”

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