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December 10, 2001

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Dadamoni is no more

Ashok Kumar aka Dadamoni died of heart failure Monday December 10.

Ashok Kumar Bedridden for over three years, he met his end at 1430 hrs at his chembur residence.

Ashok Kumar was born Kumudlal Kunjilal Ganguly in Bhagalpur, in 1911, and grew up in Khandwa. After studying law in Calcutta, he joined his future brother-in-law Shashadhar Mukherjee at Bombay Talkies as laboratory assistant before being made its leading man.

Ashok Kumar made his debut opposite Devika Rani in Jeevan Naiya (1936) but became a well known face with Acchut Kanya (1936). The pair went on to act in a string of films -- Izzat (1937), Savitri (1937), Nirmala (1938) among others.

It was with his trio of hits opposite Leela Chitnis -- Kangan (1939), Bandhan (1940) and Jhoola (1941) that Ashok Kumar came into his own. As was the trend, he sang his own songs. Some of them like Main ban ki chidiya, Chal chal re naujawaan and Na jaane kidhar aaj meri nao chali re were extremely popular.

His success continued with strong performances in Aarti (1962), Gumrah (1963) and an absolutely flawless one in Bandini (1963), matching Nutan's brilliant performance scene for scene.

In the late 1960s, after Mamta (1966) and Hatey Bazarey (1967), he effortlessly settled down to playing character roles. As a character artiste, Ashok Kumar took on all sorts of roles -- the villain in Jewel Thief (1967), the sympathetic father in Mili (1975), the lovable old man in Aashirwad (1968) (in which his songs preceded the rap phenomenon by decades!) and Choti Si Baat (1975), the conman in Victoria No 203 (1972), the rapist in Jawaab (1970), and the henpecked head of the family in Khoobsurat (1980).

Ashok Kumar was by now lovingly called Dadamoni by one and all. In the 1980s, he cut down on his work and apart from films, was seen occassionally on television anchoring the vastly popular soap Hum Log or playing the title role in Bahadur Shah Zafar.

He won the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1988. By the mid 1990s due to his advancing age and ill-health, he cut down on his work.

Today, his daughter Priti Ganguly runs an acting school named after him.

Family members grandson-in-law Kanwaljeet and nephew Amit Kumar declined to comment on Ashok Kumar, as they were on their way to Dadamoni's Chembur residence.

A tribute to the actor: 5 sites

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