Ashok Kumar


Personal Info

  • Birth Name: Kumudlal Kunjilal Ganguly


Ashok Kumar was one of India’s most famous actors from before to after its independence from the UK. As a young assistant to Bengali film-maker Himanshu Rai, he got his start in acting by accident when he volunteered to substitute for the lead actor, Jeevan Naya (1936), who fell ill before production on the film Achhut Kanya (1936) was to start. Kumar was terrified of acting in the first place, especially opposite lead actress Devika Rani, known as ‘the dragon lady’ for her smoking, drinking, cursing and legendary hot temper. After finishing shooting, Kumar continued with overseeing the process of the film with editing, mixing and processing. His unexpected acclaim to his role had him in demand for more acting roles, which he pursued in a few more ‘Bombay Talkies’ with Devika Rani. His breakthrough performance was in Kismet (1943) which ran for three years in Bombay and Calcutta and was one of the first Hindi language mega-hits of India and gained him national fame through his charismatic performances and his talented singing. From then onwards, Kumar became a sought-after actor who appeared in over 200 Hindi and a few other Indian language films, playing romantic leads or threatening villains and making Rs.300-400 a month during the 1940s and 1950s. Although his roles gradually decreased to supporting and minor parts as he got older and suffered more ill health, his popularity in India never diminished and he was often in demand for cameos and live convention appearances. From the 1990s to his death, he lived in a comfortable retirement in Bombay with a slew of Indian films to show for his work.