Indian film industry’s “Mr Bharat”, Manoj Kumar, began his cinema career more than 50 years ago, making his acting debut in Fashion in 1957. He went on to direct and star in a number of hit films, such as Hariyali aur Rasta (1962), Upkar (1967), Roti, Kapda aur Makaan (1974), Dus Nambari (1976) and Kranti (1981).
A retrospective of his films is being held at the India Habitat Centre (IHC) in New Delhi, where Upkar, Roti, Kapda aur Makaan, Kranti and Purab aur Paschim (1970) will be screened over four consecutive evenings, followed by an interaction with the veteran actor and director on 18August.
Kumar, who started off as a junior artiste, calls Hariyali aur Rasta, in which he starred opposite Mala Sinha, his breakthrough film. He recalls how then prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri was present at the Plaza cinema in Delhi for the opening night of Shaheed (1965) in which he played the role of the martyr Bhagat Singh. “He had planned on being there only for 10 minutes, but stayed for the whole film,” says Kumar with pride. “That morning, at around 2.30am, we got a call from the PM’s office saying that he would like to meet us.” Shastri asked Kumar to make a film based on his famous cry “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan”, and Kumar wrote the complete storyline for Upkar, which was to be his directorial debut, in the 24-hour train ride back to Mumbai. He finished the script over the next 15 days.
To listen to edited extracts from the audio recording of Manoj Kumar’s interview with Lounge click below
Kumar says his identification with patriotism and nationalism in films was not something he actively worked towards, but adds that he did want to make films “that gave something back to the people”. He recalls with affection and even gratitude the many female co-stars he acted with and directed over the years—beginning with Sayeeda Khan, Waheeda Rahman and Vayjantimala Bali to Mala Sinha and Asha Parekh, to Jaya Bhaduri, Moushmi Chatterjee and Zeenat Aman.
Kumar is looking once again to sit in the director’s chair for his next production titled, With Love from India.
Manoj Kumar Retrospective
Venue: Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi
Screening and interaction session only for IHC film club members. Download the film club membership form at www.indiahabitat.org/download/membership.pdf
11 August Upkar
12 August Roti, Kapda aur Makaan
13 August Kranti
14 August Purab aur Paschim
18 August An interaction with Manoj Kumar