Actor Saira Banu celebrates her 76th birthday on Sunday and she continues to be with her ‘Kohinoor’ Dilip Kumar – a man she has loved since the age of 12. After 54 years of the marriage, she continues to support his family in difficult times – Dilip’s brother (Aslam) died last week and his other brother (Ehsan) is currently battling Covid-19 in the hospital. On her birthday, here’s a look at their filmy love story.
About her infatuation and attraction towards Dilip at a young age, Saira had once said in an interview, “I was not just another girl smitten by Dilip Kumar. For me, it was no castle in the air because I had given my dream the strong foundation of faith- faith in myself and faith in God.” She has often said in interviews that ever since she watched Dilip Kumar’s Aan (1952), she wanted to be “Mrs Dilip Kumar”.
An industry child herself, Saira had gone for the Mughal-E-Azam premiere just to catch a glimpse of Dilip Kumar but he could not make it to Maratha Mandir that evening in 1960. Talking about a later in-person meeting with him, Saira had said in an interview: “When he smiled at me and remarked that I was a pretty girl, I could feel my whole being taking wing and flying rapturously. I knew somewhere deep within me that I was going to be his wife.” It was just six years later that the two got married in a close, family function.
Dilip has also recounted the moment he fell in love with her. “When I alighted from my car and entered the beautiful garden that leads to the house, I can still recall my eyes falling on Saira standing in the foyer of her new house looking breathtakingly beautiful in a brocade sari. I was taken aback, because she was no longer the young girl I consciously avoided working with because I thought she would look too young to be my heroine.She had indeed grown to full womanhood and was in reality more beautiful than I thought she was. I simply stepped forward and shook her hand and for us time stood still,” he wrote in his memoir Dilip Kumar: The Substance and The Shadow.
After her acting debut with Shammi Kapoor in Junglee (1961), Saira was rumoured to be dating Rajendra Kumar and it was her mother Naseem Banu urged Dilip to talk Saira out of the relationship. Naseem Banu is also believed to have played cupid between Dilip and Saira.
In his memoir Dilip Kumar wrote about the bond he shares with Saira. Remembering a time when she was unwell, Dilip wrote, “(While on a Europe trip) I suddenly awoke to the feeling that Saira was not by my side. I hurriedly got up, looked everywhere possible and then darted to the bathroom. What I saw was a nightmare. She was lying unconscious, her body curled and quite still in a white nightgown, her long braid of hair cascading on the floor. By sheer providence, her head had not been injured. She had missed falling on the basin. As I quickly bent and carried her in my arms to the room, all I could utter was ‘Ya Allah! Nothing must happen to you, nothing must happen now that I have found you.’ Hurriedly, doctors were called and they pointed out that we had made the terrible mistake of shutting off fresh air by closing all windows and since there was a sigdi with burning coal in some part of the cabin, obviously, some of the coal was left unburnt and hence the dangerous presence of carbon monoxide everywhere inside the cabin. It could have been lethal.”
In 2014, Saira had said about Dilip, “I am still head over heels in love with my Kohinoor, Yousuf Sahab, the way I was when I first felt attracted to him as a 12 year-old. Ours has been as good and enduring a marriage as so many marriages that have survived the ups and downs for four decades. No marriage is perfect. How can it be, when as human beings we are not perfect? It is mutual love, respect and adoration that keep a marriage ticking.”
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