Kumar in the 1943 film Kismet
|Born||Kumudlal Kunjilal Ganguly
13 October 1911
Bhagalpur, Bihar, British India
|Died||10 December 2001
Mumbai, Maharastra, India
|Cause of death||Heart Failure|
|Residence||Chembur, Mumbai, India|
Ashok Kumar, Dadamoni, Kumudlal Ganguly
|Relatives||Anoop Kumar, Kishore Kumar(Brothers), Sati Devi (Sister)|
Ashok Kumar (Bengali: অশোক কুমার গাঙ্গুলী) (13 October 1911–10 December 2001), also fondly called Dadamoni (Bengali: দাদামণি) in Bengali, was an Indian film actor. Born Kumudlal Ganguly (Bengali: কুমুদলাল গাঙ্গুলী) in Bhagalpur, Bengal Presidency, he attained iconic status in Indian cinema. The Government of India honoured him with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1988 and the Padma Bhushan in 1998 for his contributions to Indian cinema.
His father Kunjalal Ganguly was a lawyer and his mother Gouri Devi came from a wealthy Bengali Kulin Brahmin family. The "Ganguly family" was based in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh. His brothers Anoop Kumar and Kishore Kumar also acted in films. The three brothers worked together in the comedies Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi and Badhti Ka Naam Dadhi. Ashok, though the eldest of the three by quite a margin, survived them both. In fact, he stopped celebrating his birthday after the youngest brother, Kishore, died on that day in 1987. His sister, Sati Devi, was married to Sashadhar Mukherjee of the Mukherjee-Samarth family.
Ashok Kumar married Shobha. They had a troubled marriage due to his wife being an alcoholic. His daughter, Preeti Ganguly, acted in numerous Hindi films during the 1970s; later she started the 'Ashok Kumar's Academy of Dramatic Arts', Mumbai in 1993. His other daughter Rupa Ganguly and son Arun Ganguly never joined films. Rupa is married to actor Deven Verma.
Reverently called Dadamoni (affectionate term for elder brother), he was born in Bhagalpur and educated at Presidency College of the University of Calcutta, Kolkata. He started his career in Bombay (Mumbai), albeit accidentally, with the Bombay Talkies production Jeevan Naiya in 1936. The male lead, Najam-ul-Hussain, went absconding with the heroine Devika Rani, the director's wife who returned later on. The director and studio head, Himanshu Rai, in retaliation dismissed the hero and called upon his laboratory assistant Ashok Kumar to take the part and thus began a six-decade-long acting career. However, it was his subsequent venture with Devika Rani in Achhut Kanya in the same year that set him up for the big league. The movie itself stands out as one of the heralding social dramas of pre-independence Indian film. It was the story of a Brahmin boy falling in love with a girl from the so-called untouchables in Indian society. It was a big hit and started the trend of socially committed films.
Devika Rani and Ashok Kumar did a string of films after this including Izzat (1937), Savitri (1937) and 'Nirmala' (1938). But she was the bigger star and Ashok Kumar was definitely in her shadow. He came into his own with three films opposite Leela Chitnis: Kangan (1939), Bandhan (1940), Jhoola (1941), singing his own songs as was the custom then. He came away with several hits including most famously Main Ban ka Panchhi.
He produced several films for Bombay Talkies during the final years of the company including the famous Mahal in 1949 in which he co-starred with Madhubala. In the 1950s, he played the suave cigarette-smoking criminal or police officer in several films of what was the Indian film-noir movement. In the late 1960s he switched to character roles playing the parent, grandparent, dirty old man and suave criminal, being careful never to be typecast. He paired up 20 times with the 'queen of tragedy' Meena Kumari, in films such as Parineeta, Bahu Begum, Pakeezah, Ek Hi Raasta, Bandish and Aarti and Chitralekha (1964).
In the 1960s, Kumar played many older roles from fathers to lawyers and elder husbands in films such as Kanoon (1960), Dharamputra (1961), Rakhi (1962), Gumraah (1963), Bandini (1963), Chitralekha (1964), Aashirwad (1968), Intaquam (1969). He received the Filmfare Award for Best Actor in 1962 and 1968 for Rakhi and Aashirwad. In Aashirwad, he played a father who journeys through life to find his daughter and reunite with her.
Later career and death
He acted in fewer films in the 1980s and 1990s and occasionally appeared on television, most famously anchoring the first Indian soap opera Hum Log and appearing as the title character in the unforgettable Bahadur Shah Zafar. His last film role was in Aankhon Mein Tum Ho in 1997. Besides acting, he was an avid painter and a practitioner of homeopathy. Altogether, he starred in over 275 films. He has done more than 30 Bengali dramas in Dhakuria.
Ashok Kumar died at the age of 90 in Mumbai on 10 December 2001 of heart failure at his residence in Chembur. The then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee described him as "an inspiration... for many generations of aspiring actors."
Awards and recognition
- 1959 - Sangeet Natak Akademi Award
- 1962 - Filmfare Best Actor Award, Rakhi
- 1963 - Bengal Film Journalists' Association - Best Actor Award (Hindi), Gumrah
- 1966 - Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award, Afsana
- 1969 - Filmfare Best Actor Award, Aashirwaad
- 1969 - National Film Awards for Best Actor, Aashirwaad
- 1969 - Bengal Film Journalists' Association - Best Actor Award (Hindi), Aashirwaad
- 1988 - Dadasaheb Phalke Award, India's highest award for cinematic excellence
- 1994 - Star Screen Lifetime Achievement Award
- 1995 - Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award
- 1998 - Padma Bhushan
- 2001 - Awadh Samman by the Government of Uttar Pradesh
- 2007 - "Special Award" by Star Screen Awards
- 2013 - A commemorative stamp, bearing his face, was released by India Post to honour him on 3 May 2013. 
Some of his most remembered films include:
- Achhut Kanya (1936)
- Bandhan (1940)
- Kismet (1943)
- Mahal (1949)
- Parineeta (1953)
- Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958)
- Howrah Bridge (1958)
- Dharmputra (1961)
- Gumraah (1963)
- Chitralekha (1964)
- Hatey Bazarey (1967)
- Jewel Thief (1967)
- Aashirwad (1968)
- Intaquam (1969)
- Victoria No. 203 (1972)
- Choti Si Baat (1975)
- Mili (1975)
- Khoobsurat (1980)
- Khatta Meetha (1981)
- Shaukeen (1982)
- Mr. India (1987)
- Sangram (1993)
- Bhago Bhut Aya (1985)
- "Home alone: Ashok Kumar". Home alone: Ashok Kumar.
- "Veteran actor Ashok Kumar passes away". Economic Times. 10 December 2001.
- `To be an actor, discover your own self' , (Interview) at Indian Express, 13 January 2000.
- "A legacy lives on". The Hindu. 28 July 2000.
- "Deven Verma at a musical do". The Times of India. 26 May 2011.
- BBC news
- "India Post honours 50 iconic film personalities". May 4, 2013. Fundoofun.com. Retrieved December 7, 2013.
- Ashok Kumar at the Internet Movie Database
- A Good article by Anuradha Choudhary
- Complete list of Ashok Kumar Movies (over 250)