25 November, 2020

Never Mind The Sadhvi

Bollywood was, and is a secular place, the Khans an enduring part

Never Mind The Sadhvi

When a young and callow Yousuf Khan met his mentor Devika Rani, the formidable chief of Bombay Talkies, she told him she had selected a new screen name for his debut—Dilip Kumar. “She went on to tell me that she foresaw a long and successful career for me in films and it made good sense to have a screen identity that would stand up by itself and have a secular appeal,” the thespian writes in his autobiography The Substance and the Shadow. That was in 1942. The country was in the throes of political upheaval and social turmoil. In the film industry, the heroes were all Hindu, the heroines almost all Muslim. Yousuf Khan would have been a standout name. For decades after that, barring Feroz Khan and Amjad Khan, the names of the male stars remained Hindu.

Cut to today. The big screen is dominated by the Khans. If moviegoers cared at all in the ’40s, they certainly don’t bother about this now. For nearly three decades, audiences in India have thronged to see the Khans without a thought to their name or religion. Sadhvi Prachi, who has...



To read this piece, and more such stories in India's most exciting and exacting magazine, plus get access to our 25-year archives goldmine, please subscribe.

More from Sidharth Bhatia

Latest Magazine

November 30, 2020

other articles from the issue

articles from the previous issue

Other magazine section