Kumudlal Ganguly (Ashok Kumar), who later became Dadamoni of Indian cinema, was born on 13th October 1911 to Kunjilal Ganguly and Gauri Devi at Bhagalpur, Bihar. Ashok Kumar, with his charismatic screen appearance and personality, ruled the silver screen and won millions of hearts. He was the man who added charm and glamour to Hindi film industry. An actor who with his talent and great acting skills did justice to every kind of role, be it in lead or a negative character. Ashok Kumar not only gave us some evergreen films but also promoted talents from all corners of the country.
But, the truth is that becoming an actor wasn’t always his own choice. It was because of an accident that Ashok Kumar got his first film.
Before becoming an actor, Ashok Kumar used to work as a lab assistant at the Bombay Talkies. He also practised homoeopathy. He was known for curing several illnesses that doctors couldn’t resolve. Ashok Kumar also had an interest in painting and his art was well appreciated by others.
In 1936, he got his first film ‘Jeevan Naiya’ for which he never gave any audition. It was all pure accident and his luck.
The film was signed with Najmul Hassan. But later, the hero eloped with heroine Devika Rani, who happened to be the wife of the studio head, Himanshu Rai. After this incident, Hassan was dismissed by Rai and Ashok Kumar who was the lab assistant was signed for the lead role of the film.
This incident gave a kick start to Ashok Kumar’s career and then there was no looking back. In the same year 1936, Ashok Kumar gave his first hit ‘Achhut Kanya’ where was he again paired with Devika Rani. The film was about a Brahmin boy falling in love with a girl from the ‘untouchable’ class. The film propagated Gandhian ideology of no class or caste division.
Ashok Kumar became the first anti-hero of Indian cinema. He was the one to set up the ‘crore club’.
In 1943, his film ‘Kismet’ became the first film in Indian cinema that grossed at one crore rupees. He soon became a producer and gave chance to many budding talents. It was Ashok Kumar who gave actors like Pran, Dev Anand to India cinema. With his film, ‘Mahal’ he launched another talent that went on to take Bollywood by storm in the 1950s and she was Madhubala. Ashok Kumar also did anchoring for India’s first soap opera ‘Hum Log’. In 1987, he stopped celebrating his birthday after the death of his younger brother, Kishor Kumar.
In 1988, the legend was also honoured by the Indian government when they awarded him with the prestigious ‘Dadasaheb Phalke Award’.
So we should be thankful to Hassan for eloping with the actress and Himanshu Rai for giving that chance to Ashok Kumar. That one incident changed Ashok Kumar’s life and gave us a legend of Indian cinema, who will be remembered for his brilliant acting skills generations after generations.