One of the icons of 20th century cinema, Muhammad Yousuf Khan — the man whose screen-name Dilip Kumar became synonymous with the Indian movie industry — arrived in Saudi Arabia on a weeklong visit to perform Umrah, or the lesser pilgrimage.
The 90-year-old living legend is accompanied by his actress wife Saira Bano. They arrived at the Prince Mohammad Airport in Medina from Mumbai on Wednesday night. The actor, who commands phenomenal popularity and following in the subcontinent, was a picture of grace on arrival. Those who received him at the airport said he appeared frail and was wheeled out in a chair. His wife said the visit is a private one and that the couple would not be attending social events during their stay in the Kingdom. She politely refused all invitations and has appealed to the large Indian expatriate community to respect their wishes.
"Allah has been kind that he has given me the strength to go on Umrah," wrote Dilip Kumar on his Twitter account @TheDilipKumar.
As the news of Dilip Kumar's arrival spread on the social media, there was immense excitement among the expatriate community. They gushed at the possibility of seeing them in the two holy cities.
"Yousuf Sahib is a legend and he is among those chosen and lucky ones who make it to the most peaceful city in the world (Madinah) and the most holy city of Allah (Makkah)," said Idrees Siddiqui, an Indian expatriate and the actor's diehard supporter and fan.
Dilip Kumar has been an inspiration behind many generations of actors. His dialogue delivery, flawless Urdu and acting abilities have all endeared him to his fellow actors and fans. In his days, he was the king of Indian film industry and his dialogues in the film Mughal-e-Azam — a true love epic — was on the lips of every moviegoer and literature lover.
"I would love to meet him and shake hands with this unparalleled genius, but if the couple want their privacy to be respected we will honour them by not bothering them," said Shahnawaz Khan, a Mecca-based Pakistani national. "Let me reiterate that I am thrilled to know that he is here among us in the Kingdom. He is the real Khan. May Allah keep him well," he said.
"I grew up listening to my father's generation mentioning Khan's dialogues. I couldn't understand or appreciate all of that when I was a kid. But as you get older, you begin to appreciate world-class actors," said Nadeem Farooqui, a British national of Indian origin.
Dilip Kumar and Saira Bano will arrive in Mecca from Median on Saturday to complete their religious obligations and will leave for Mumbai from King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah in a week's time.