Manoj Kumar the quintessential filmi patriot who ruled Indian hearts

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In Upkar movie

Manoj Kumar turned 77 years on July 24. Reminiscing about his movie ”˜Shaheed’ the veteran star said, “People say that I revived Bhagat Singh. Actually I did not because Bhagat Singh was always alive.” With ”˜Shaheed’ started the phenomenon of Manoj Kumar whose movies carried patriotic fervour to such an extent that he was named ”˜Bharat’ in some of his movies.

Manoj Kumar rechristened himself from his original name of Harkishan Goswamiafter his idol Dilip Kumar’s character in the movie ”˜Shabnam’ but he is more known as ”˜Mr Bharat’ or ”˜Mr Bhagat Singh’ having left a strong imprint of a character who is not only patriotic but is proud of India and enthused a sense of pride in us all who were his fans.

Manoj Kumar’s movies were never missed by the movie-goers during the 60s and 70s as he carved a strong niche and an identity for himself having moved from a romantic lover of ”˜Kaanch Ki Gudiya’ ”“ his first film followed by, ”˜Piya Milan Ki Aas’ and ”˜Reshmi Rumal’, ”˜Honeymoon’, a hauntingly beautiful film with actress Sadhana in ”˜Woh Kaun Thi’ and ”˜Hariyala Aur Raasta’ with Mala Sinha.

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In Hariyali Aur Raasta

It had taken him more than five years struggling to be noticed from wee bit roles in movies such as ”˜Panchayat’. This handsome chocoletty hero of the sixties had girls swooning over him with love songs such as ”˜Ibteda ishq mein saari raat jaage’ and ”˜saath ho tum aur raat jawan’ as he gave many of them a sleepless nights.

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But the luck had other plans for Manoj Kumar. Soon his identity took a turn as he became synonymous as Mr Bharat, the patriot.    The success of  Shaheed  (1965), a biopic on the martyr Bhagat Singh, became a beacon for the direction his career was to take. In one of Raheja’s column the film writer says about the actor, “Manoj’s cinema encompassed popular ingredients — melodious songs, a surfeit of glamour and jingoistic dialogue — that infused the audience with nationalistic pride. His flair for imaginative camera angles (he once held up the shooting of  Upkar  for days till he got the right light for a shot), is reflected in the work of many a young director, but Manoj also emphasised content.”

Manoj’s movies ”˜Upkaar’, ”˜Purab Aur Pashchim’, ”˜Shor’, ”˜Roti Kapda  Aur Makaan’ became hit as his star persona carried an attraction for the heroine who falls in love with this upright, proud, handsome guy who fights for the down trodden of his country India and his portrayal of such character made millions of Indian women fall for him in the same way as the heroine did in the movie. Such was his drawcard and pull that his movies were mostly box office hits.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Manoj dabbled with roles of a doomed lover (Aadmi, Do Badan), a befuddled spectator in thrillers (Anita, Gumnaam, Saajan), and even a flirtatious romantic hero (Patthar Ke Sanam).

But it was as the patriot that prevailed at the box-office, courtesy  Purab Aur Paschim  (1970), a film proselytising the virtues of the East;  Roti Kapda Aur Makaan  (1974), a tale of an unemployed youth temporarily succumbing to the lure of the lucre before cleansing himself and the system; and  Kranti  (1981), a film set in the previous century that glorified the struggle for an independent India.

Towards the end Manoj Kumar got stuck in his image of a ”˜patriot’ and was type cast in characters which he miserably failed in movies such as  ”˜Jai Hind’ and ”˜Clerk’ bringing his  career to a total halt. While many of his other compatriots others survived the long haul, including his idol Dilip Kumar, Manoj Kumar lost his attraction as he receded in age  so did his  fans dwindeld.

Manoj may be living in a self-created obscurity still his old fans see his movies with great nostalgia and relive those  times watching his old movies when he was one of the best in the Indian film industry.

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