Manoj Kumar was born on July 24, 1937, at Abbottabad. He is an Indian actor and
director in the Bollywood film industry. He is known for acting in and
directing films with patriotic themes; for this reason he has been given the
nickname of Mr. Bharat.
Manoj's image as the patriotic hero started with the 1965 film Shaheed,
which was based on the life of Bhagat Singh. With memories of the India-Pakistan War still fresh, Prime
Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri asked him to create a film based on the popular
slogan "Jai Jawan Jai Kissan" .
The result was Manoj Kumar's magnum opus and his directorial debut, Upkar
(1967). In it, he managed to convincingly play both a jawan and a kissan.
The film was also noted for the famous song Mere Desh Ki Dharti, composed by
Kalyanji-Anandji and sung by Mahendra Kapoor. Upkar won Manoj Kumar his
first Filmfare Best Director Award. The film was a huge hit and made Manoj
the authority on Bollywood patriotism.
After dabbling in various roles in the late 1960s, Manoj returned to
patriotic themes in Purab Aur Paschim, in which life in the East and
West are juxtaposed. In 1972, he starred in Be-Imaan (for which he won the
Filmfare Best Actor Award) and directed and starred in Shor. The latter,
opposite Jaya Bhaduri, was not a huge box office success, but it did feature
the memorable song Ek Pyar Ka Nagma Hai, a duet by Lata Mangeshkar and
Mukesh which was composed by Laxmikant Pyarelal.
Manoj Kumar had phoned me to say 'Holi ki badhai' last month and at that
time, was very keen for me to see his latest film 'Jai Hind'. I promised to
see it. perhaps because he could sense that I was half- hearted, or more
likely, he was unsure of his film, Pandit didn't force me to view it. I have
not seen this film - I don't have the heart to see the death of one who
was once a great film maker. This death is not sudden. Manoj has been dying
for several years. It has been a slow and painful death.
In fact, I would have admired him if he had decided to retire after 'Kranti'.
But it doesn't happen that way. Politicians and film stars never retire. 'Kranti'
was his crowning glory. He fulfilled his desire to direct Dilip Kumar, who
he had admired, imitated and even disliked. He proved to the world that he
was the only director who didn't let Dilip Kumar interfere in his film. 'Kranti'
was totally a Manoj Kumar film, it didn't have the slightest stamp of Dilip
Kumar, usually present in the latter's films. Manoj's diktat to all his
stars was 'Aap aao apni marzi se, lekin jao meri marzi se'. He was the King
and in those days, he was offered a crore of rupees for acting and directing
an outside film. He rejected these offers. He worked at pace leisurely.
Not for him the hurried shots and rush jobs.
Like Dilip Kumar, Manoj Kumar has always interfered in some of the films he
acted in and it showed. I am not sure about his famous suspense film with
Sadhana, 'Woh Kaun Thi'. Manoj Kumar has privately claimed credit for the
direction of this and some other films - but the Manoj Kumar stamp is
visible even in 'Beimaan', 'Dus Numbri' and 'Yaadgar'. Songs like 'Iktaara
bole...do tarah ke leader hote hain...' are relevant to the Sonias, Laloos
and Rabris of today too. Songs and lyrics made social comments and yet, the
films were commercially successful. Successful socially relevant film were
an impossibility till Manoj Kumar came along. Somehow the 'greatness of
India and Indian culture' had never excited the viewers earlier.
Manoj Kumar officially began film directing with 'Upkaar'. Mediocre photographers use cliched
images to depict contrast; like juxtaposing Bombay's slums with its
skyscrapers etc. 'Purab aur Pachhim' did the same, but with a finesse which
is still remembered, and
copied. Subhash Ghai did it in 'Pardes', and Rishi Kapoor imitated in 'Aa Ab
Laut Chalen'. Rishi, in fact, borrowed a video cassette of this film from
Manoj Kumar, and the inspiration is there for all to see in Akshaye Khanna
and Suman Rangnathan.
I can never forget the applause Bharat received when he answered the
disllusioned NRI Pran's taunt: 'India's contribution is zero...zero...zero'.
'Jab zero diya mere Bharat ne, duniya ko tab ginti aayee...' was a fitting
reply which showed his pride in what India was. It was with the same genuine
pride that he had installed Nehru, Shastri and Indira on a pedestal along
with Bhagat Singh and Lal Bahadur Shastri in his films. I am sure it was not
sycophancy, as his sincerity showed, and except for a 'tax exemption' Manoj
did not get any benefit from the Congress. Not any that I know of. He even
refused to contest in the elections when he was offered a ticket!
Manoj Kumar repeated his success in 'Roti Kapda aur Makaan'. 'Shor' was another good
film. He picked up a two para news-story and made a film out of it. The
story was about one of those ironies of life: a father cycled non-stop for
14 days, to break a record and win a cash prize to pay for a surgery for his
mute son. When the son regains his voice, the father meets with an accident
and loses his hearing! Few among the Indian film makers could make a film
with this theme, but Manoj did. By now, he had become close to Indira Gandhi
who he used to refer to as 'Madam'. It is during this period that politics
started corrupting him. In the mid-seventies, when the country was seething
at the tyranny let loose by Mrs Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi, like it happens to
all who are too close to power, Manoj lost touch with his audience.
Manoj Kumar announced his next film, 'Naya Bharat'. To Manoj it may have
been intended as another 'Upkaar', but I see it as no less than a propoganda
film. To me the context was the compulsory projection of the 20-point
programme on the State-controlled DD and All India Radio. This was the
height of sycophancy. Salim-Javed were to write the script. Fortunately for
him, the film was not made. The Emergency was lifted and the great Indian
public rejected Indira and Sanjay, the way I believe they will reject Sonia
Gandhi. If this compromise of Manoj reduced his stature in my view, I
suspect he fell in his own esteem, in 1984. The massacre of the Sikhs in New
Delhi after the assassination of Indira Gandhi would have made any
self-respecting Indian, (specially if he happened to be a Punjabi , for whom
Bhagat Singh was a hero,) boil. I am sure Manoj Kumar must have realized the
futility of all his 'Upkaars' and Bharats.
I am sure he must have felt like a sucker. What had Manoj Kumar to show for
all these years...films with messages he didn't believe in. Okay, they
brought in a lot of moolah but that wasn't what made him feel great. It was
Bharat that made him proud. It was the shots he had devised, which, when the
Dheeraj Kumars of this world copied, elated him. It was a Manoj Kumar sans
convictions who laid an egg called 'Clerk'. He went into his shell. Quietly,
without any fanfare, he switched to Hindutva. But now, the convictions were
missing. It was a further disillusioned Manoj Kumar that has made 'Jai Hind'. Manoj Kumar has no beliefs left.
ABOUT HIM SELF :
Birth name: Harikishen Goswami
Date of Birth: 24 July 1937
Height: 5'10" or 1.78 m
City: Lahore, Punjab
Country: British India (now Pakistan)
Children: Son Kunal Goswami
Marital status: Married/Single/Divorced
His hero: Dilip Kumar
Occupation: Bollywood Actor / Director
Debut Film: Fashion
Kalyug Aur Ramayan (1987)
Jatt Punjabi (1979)
Shirdi Ke Sai Baba (1977)
Dus Numbri (1976)
Roti Kapada Aur Makaan (1974)
Mera Naam Joker (1970)
Purab Aur Pachhim (1970)
Neel Kamal (1968)
Patthar Ke Sanam (1967)
Do Badan (1966)
Sawan Ki Ghata (1966)
Himalay Ki Godh Mein (1965)
Poonam Ki Raat (1965)
Phoolon Ki Sej (1964)
Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)
Ghar Basake Dekho (1963)
Banarasi Thug (1962)
Dr. Vidya (1962)
Hariyali Aur Raasta (1962)
Maa Beta (1962)
Naqli Nawab (1962)
Kanch Ki Gudiya (1961)
Reshmi Roomal (1961)