MUMBAI, the tinsel town, has been entertaining the people of the country and increasingly the viewers from other countries also with films, some of which will remain etched in the memories of the successive generations. Some of the movie makers have been pure entertainers and some of the others have, very successfully, delivered various social messages while doing the job of entertaining the masses. When it comes to the subject of making movies with the core theme of patriotism, and that too, with remarkable consistency, only one name emerges in the minds of the people and that name is of Shri Manoj Kumar.
I interviewed him to know about some of the incidents of his life, hitherto not known to the people and to take his message for the youth of the country. It was indeed heartening to know that even at the age of 75, his enthusiasm to do something for the country and to contribute his mite in the cultural field hasn’t diminished a bit.
Born in Abbotabad – a city now in Pakistan and where Osama-bin-Laden was killed – in the year 1937, Manoj Kumar did his schooling in Lahore. While describing his childhood days spent in both the cities, he became nostalgic and said that even now not even a day is passed when the memories of the lanes in which he used to play are not refreshed in his mind. He was merely 10 years old when the cruelty of the Partition of the country brought his family to Kingsway Camp in Delhi. He reminisces very vividly that he set his foot on the land of the city of Mumbai on October 9, 1956 while he was not even nineteen years old. The dream of making it big in the film industry brought him to Mumbai and from that very moment his days of struggle started.
He was offered a small role in the movie Fashion, which he readily accepted and at the age of merely 19, he was asked to play a role of an old man. He happily did that keeping in mind that the road to success was full of obstacles and he will achieve his goal with grit, determination and perseverance. He said, his first break as a hero was in a movie known as Kanch ki Gudiya, but actually he established himself as a successful hero in the film industry with the release of the film Hariyali aur Raasta for which he was paid – according to the prevalent standards – a handsome sum of Rs Eleven Thousand.
Manoj Kumar told that when he wanted to join the film industry his dream was to earn total Rs 3 lakh; one each, for his parents, his siblings and himself. He said, once he crossed that threshold, he completely stopped thinking about money and dedicatedly engrossed himself in his roles in various movies. He recounted that while his contemporaries in the film industry had done more than three hundred movies, he has done only about forty movies.
One can very well decipher that his not being greedy and his quality of giving hundred per cent to the roles he played, must have been the only reason behind doing such a few number of movies in a long career span. However, most of the movies he acted in were super hit and the roles he played in them left lasting impact on the viewers’ minds.
The phase in his career, which will be remembered by many generations to come, was of his own production and the direction of the movies. The boundless sentiments of patriotism in him found manifestation when he started researching on the life of great martyr Shaheed Bhagat Singh. After a painstaking research of five years, which included meeting Bhagat Singh’s mother for inputs, a phenomenon of a movie Shaheed was made in the mid-sixties for which Manoj Kumar received an award for story writing. Manoj Kumar himself played the role of Bhagat Singh in the said movie and those who have seen it, aver that it seemed the soul of the martyr has entered the body of Manoj Kumar and they were watching Bhagat Singh himself on the screen.
The nation cannot forget the movies like Upkar, Purab aur Pashchim, Roti Kapda aur Makan and Kranti, which were made on the theme of patriotism and which made the character “Bharat” played by Manoj Kumar in the said movies, immortal.
Apart from above mentioned films, he had produced and directed many more movies which left indelible impact on the viewers’ minds. Shor was made on the subject of a father’s pious love for his son and the movie also fared very well on the box office. Manoj Kumar made movie on the life of Shree Sai Baba of Shirdi, through which he was successful in spreading the spiritual message of the holy man. The Shirdi Sansthan has recognised the noble work of Manoj Kumar and has named a road adjacent to the Mandir, as Manoj Kumar Goswami Road.
Manoj Kumar was awarded Padamshri by the Government of India and has been honoured by many social organisations for inculcating the spirit of nationalism among the masses through his movies. At present, he is busy with his upcoming project titled Judgement; it can very well be assumed that the movie when released, will carry forward Manoj Kumar’s tradition of making meaningful and patriotic films. His eyes glittered when I requested him to give a message for the people of this country and he recited the following lines,
Jeewan Jiyein tau aisa jiyein ki jis mein kuchh aas tau ho,
Krishna ki thodi leela ho, ram ka kuchh banwaas tau ho