Very few people in Gojra, Toba Tek Singh district, know Nisar Ahmad by his real name. To them, he is Nisar Dalip or, simply, “Dalip sahib,” thanks to his immense fondness for the legendary Bollywood actor Dilip Kumar.
His modest, four-marla place in Gojra city is home to thousands of assorted pictures and posters of films of the great Indian thespian. “Almost 25,000,” he tells TNS, in an exclusive meeting.
Sixty-one-year-old Ahmad says he was always a huge film buff. In a city which has produced countless international-level players in hockey — from Manzoorul Hasan and Rashidul Hasan to Tahir Zaman, Shahbaz Junior, and Tariq Imran — Ahmad was only into movies. In fact, he wanted to be an actor. But since he had fewer resources at hand, he quit pursuing this dream and became an apprentice to a signboard painter.
But the passion for films wouldn’t leave him. A young lad at the time, Ahmad wouldn’t miss a movie that was out in theatres, even if it meant coming all the way to Lahore. One such movie, titled Uran Khatola, and starring Dilip Kumar, he watched in Lahore. This was sometime in 1975. Ahmad says he was bewitched for life.
In the following years, he saw each and every film of Kumar except Jawar Bhata which, he says, wasn’t available anywhere.
Soon he started collecting pictures of his favourite actor. He would visit footpaths of Faisalabad and Lahore, looking for film magazines and newspapers that carried any photos of Dilip Kumar. He would cut the pictures out and paste them in a big, hardbound album, especially created for the purpose. Over the years, he had a mammoth collection. He also made portrait-sketches of Dilip Kumar. A glance through the album and you’ll find Dilip Kumar staring out in a variety of moods — sad, sanguine, romantic… from his various screen roles.
More than four decades later, his adulation for Dilip Kumar hasn’t waned. He still paints signboards and banners, at his shop in Samundri, which is half an hour’s drive from his home in Gojra, and feeds a small family. But Dilip Kumar remains the centre of his little universe. “I just love everything about Dilip Kumar sahib,” he says, gushingly, “his acting, his charismatic personality, his dialogue delivery etc. For me, no one can ever rival him.”
Ahmad admits that he needs a separate room where he can keep his collection and mount the portraits on the walls, so that “my treasure” is safe from the ravages of weather. “I lost a big chunk of it due to rainwater that collected in our house,” he says, ruefully.
There was another reason why he couldn’t display it properly. He had to pack the portraits of Dilip Kumar adorning the walls of his drawing room in a trunk because of the constant resistance of his family and folks. Ahmad says he would sometimes be taunted by people in the neighbourhood for “loving a Hindu, and for adding a Hindu surname.” The clerics shun him, a lot of other people don’t like to visit his shop for work or anything. Ahmad laughs at their ignorance, “Ah, they don’t know Dilip Kumar sahib was a Muslim!”
The one moment in his life that was immortalised was when he got the chance to meet his idol, in Lahore at the then Hilton Hotel in 1988. He cherishes the memory as the greatest to this day.
Nisar Ahmad met Dilip Kumar again, in Sindh House, Islamabad, in 1998. Talking about the two meetings, he is choked with emotion. “I remember when I saw him, I could not utter a word. I was in tears. I felt as if it was a dream.
“When I introduced myself, Dilip sahib and Saira Banoji were most affectionate towards me. I showed them my collection and they were amazed.”
Ahmad says that Dilip Kumar also invited him to India, “I managed to get the visa too but I had to cancel my visit as a young cousin of mine had just passed away. I want to visit him now but don’t think it’s possible, given the strained relations between India and Pakistan.”
For now, he is content celebrating Dilip Kumar’s birthday every year with his friends. He buys a special, 10-pound cake in the name of his guru.