Manoj Kumar
Monday, April 19, 2004 18:02 IST
By Santa Banta News Network

Manoj Kumar is the patriotic face of Indian cinema. With his epic role in Shaheed in (1965), a film based on the story of legendary freedom fighter Bhagat Singh, Hrikishen Goswami a.k.a Manoj Kumar established his identity as ‘Mr. Bharat' forever. Later on, all the films he produced, directed or acted in always carried his trademark stamp of nationalism and patriotic fervour.

Just about the time of Shaheed, the late Lal Bahadur Shastri asked him to make a film on contemporary times, when the issue of Indo-Pak war was hot and the slogan 'Jai Jawan Jai Kisan' was making waves throughout the country. Manoj Kumar captured the idea and produced the unforgettable flick "Upkaar". In a way, Manoj Kumar institutionalised himself as the ideal, romantic-patriotic hero, through out the sixties, seventies and eighties.

But the arduous journey from obscurity to the zenith of celebrity hood was not a cakewalk for Manoj Kumar. He had to fight his way out of some of the most bitter and adverse circumstances, in his quest for success. Born at Abottabad now in Pakistan, like million others, he had to face the brunt of partition. Perhaps having endured such harsh times at a tender age, helped him to emote in his roles, the anguish and pain often underwent by those, who place the country above their own interests.

In his adolescence, he grew so fond of thespian Dilip Kumar that he renamed himself as Manoj Kumar- the name of his role model in Shabnam. The magic worked. In fame, importance and skill, Manoj Kumar is but a trifle behind his idol.

Initially, he could garner only small-time roles in films like Panchayat and Fashion. But his first big performance came in Honeymoon (1960) opposite Sayeda Khan. Some of the all time unforgettables like Haryali Aur Rasta (1962), Who Kaun Thi (1965), and Himalaya Ki God Mein (1965) followed. In Purab Aur Paschim(1970), Manoj Kumar successfully pitted the occident and the orient in a trans-cultural drama.

An offbeat Shor (1972), not done on his favourite patriotic theme failed to create a flutter. But he successfully played a lovelorn hero in Pathar Ke Sanam (1974). The film proved to be a great box office hit. Roti Kapda Aur Makaan (1974) was a terse commentary on the modern dilemma of morality and making both the ends meet. He immortalised himself once again in the sensuous number ‘Hum kyon Jain Mandir Mein' with glam-girl Hema Malini in Sanaysi (1974). Dus Numbri (1976) ensconced him as a hero par excellence.

Kranti (1981) was the high –point of his career when he not only co-acted with his lifetime idol, but also had the opportunity to direct him. After Kranti, the career of Manoj Kumar started its downward spiral in accordance with the eternal law of life- anything that goes up, has to come down. His attempt to resurrect his image in his son-actor, Kunal Goswami too did not succeed, as the star son failed to shine beyond mediocrity. Clerk (1989) failed at the box office, so did Jai Hind in (1999).

However, unlike the real time patriots, the works of Manoj Kumar, the patriot of tinsel world were rewarded and awarded suitably. He won the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award 1998, Filmfare best Actor 1972 (Be-Imaan), Filmfare Best Director awards for "Upkar" (1967) and "Roti Kapada Aur Makaan" (1974). This is besides other honours and awards, conferred on him by the Government and the citizens.

Lately, not to be left behind in the frenzy witnessed amongst the film stars to join political parties, before General Elections (2004), Manoj Kumar too has joined the BJP. Whether it is the BJP that can capitalise on Manoj Kumar's patriotic appeal or he will successfully use the party whose star is on the ascendant, to hit power remains for the time to answer?

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