'The Substance and the Shadow: An Autobiography' is the autobiography of Dilip Kumar (born Muhammad Yusuf Khan on 11 December 1922). This famous thespian, known for some of India's best movies and the current holder of the Guinness' World Record for Indian actor with the most film awards, has finally decided to tell the world his life's story. The book is co-authored by Uday Tara Nayar, a close family friend of the Bollywood hero. It tells us all about the life of Dilip Kumar right from his childhood to his Bollywood debut and rise to stardom. Having spent more than half a century in Bollywood alone, receiving one award after another, his is a life stuffed with accomplishments that you can read about.
But that's not all that the ageing star talks about. He talks about all the people he has met on his journey most candidly; and so we learn about his interactions and relationships with a wide variety of people. His family and the film fraternity are obvious, but we also hear about people from other walks of life, including politicians. Dilip Kumar uses his book as an opportunity to get the facts straight, since there has always been a lot of conjecture and rumours about his life, as is the case with all famous people. This is his opportunity to fix the misrepresentations, so that the world gets the real story, and not a cooked up version by tabloids. For example, he narrates, in extreme detail, his marriage to Saira Banu, which reads like a perfect fairytale!
Dilip Kumar relates, with his unadorned, simple straightforwardness, how he met Devika Rani, the boss of Bombay Talkies. This event would change the course of his life, because she was the first to offer him an acting job. The veteran thespian recounts how for his first film, Jwar Bhata in 1944, he had to learn acting, and everything from scratch. He speaks about having had to develop his own distinct style, the one which would set him apart from his contemporaries, and be the reason to be remembered for years to come. After that initial push, Dilip Kumar became a roaring success, and a household name with movies such as Jugnu, Shaheed, Mela, Andaz, Deedar, Daag and Devdas. In these movies he played the tragic hero with such intensity, and put so much of himself into the role that his psyche was adversely affected. It also earned him the title 'Tragedy King' because of his heart-rending emotive performances. However a British psychiatrist he consulted suggested that he switch over to comedy roles, for the sake of his own sanity. This resulted in his hilarious performances in the happy, funny movies like Azaad and Kohinoor, except for his scintillating portrayal as a gritty Tonga driver in Naya Daur. He was on hiatus for five years, and then returned to the Bollywood scene to produce more hits, such as Vidhaata, Shakti, Mashaal, Karma, Saudagar and his last released film, Qila. He was honoured with the Padma Bhushan in 1991 and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1994.