Manoj Kumar Patriotic Movies Bollywood: When Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s mother saw Manoj Kumar and said – looks like my son – Bollywood actor Manoj Kumar talks about his films and patriotism
I want to say this in the context of movies. I think the wave of patriotism is a very good thing, but it should not be imposed. If you make a patriotic film, make it and if you want to present your own idea or point of view in it, then definitely keep it, but it should affect everyone from Mumbai to Mexico. It’s not that the media person gave four stars in a dark theater. The name Bharat does not make you an advocate of freedom, it should be in your veins. Look, I’m not underestimating anyone. This is my own feeling.
What are your memories of Independence Day, which you also remember in the spring of 84 years?
When August 15th comes, my mind is filled with an unknown joy, but at the same time the black snakes of the tragedy of division in my heart and mind begin to bite me. I must have been ten years old when I saw the river of blood in Lahore. We were homeless. About 60 members of our family were killed. Everything we had was destroyed. The sting of the partition is such that it has bitten on both sides. We had come to Delhi trembling, pressed under the corpse. For the whole four years we lived in a refugee camp in Delhi. I did my studies in Delhi. I graduated from a Hindu college there. Today the climate has changed a lot. Today, those who serve in the army have to prove that they are Indians. It really sucks. How can we doubt the soldiers? I think the country needs strong opposition today. If the opposition does a good job, the government will have to do a good job. On this occasion, I would like to quote those lines from my film ‘Shaheed’, ‘Jab Shaheed Ki Arthi Dhoom Se, Deshvasiyo, don’t shed tears, but celebrate the day of independent India without forgetting it. How ironic that instead of commemorating Ashfaqullah, Khudiram Bose, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Mangal Pandey, Subhash Chandra Bose on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of independence, we fight in Parliament.
Was it the tragedy of partition that inspired you later in your career to make films based on patriotism and the problems of the country?
I have valued freedom. I have lived in freedom. I remember when we were in school before partition, we used to take part in children’s processions and shout slogans, ‘Voice from Red Fort, Sehgal Dhillon, Shahnawaz’. This historic test of the famous Azad Hind Fauj had gathered millions of young people who were fighting for the independence of the country at that time. During the trial, when lawyer Bhulabhai Desai argued at the Red Fort, thousands of young people were making announcements on the streets. When the wave of patriotism swept across the country, I also saw the desire to get freedom as a child. After partition, even in the refugee camps in Delhi, my father continued to work for the country and the problems. He was my role model. Everything was looted from my father, but he never gave up his national character. I can proudly say that patriotism is in my veins and that is why I was able to make this kind of movie.
When you came to Mumbai in 1956, what was this Maya city like?
My half-brother Lekhraj Bhakri was the director. He looked at me and said, you are a hero. Those were my days of struggle. I used to do writing work in Ranjit Studio. At that time I used to get Rs 11 for a scene. In a week I would get to write 5-6 scenes and it would have cost 60-70 rupees. In those days, Dharmendra and director Sohanlal Kanwar used to make fun of me, cigarettes and citrus juice. To go from Dadar to Shivaji Park, one had to pay Rs. One day I found out that director Ramesh Sehgal was walking around. She got dates for actor Ashok Kumar, but she didn’t like the scene. When I offered to write, he smiled at first, but then forced me to write. Ashok Kumar liked the scene written by me so much that he gave me 11 rupees as an omen. I touched his feet and I became very famous then. My cousin Lekhraj Bhakri, who told me he was a hero material, gave me the role of an eighty-year-old beggar in the 1957 film ‘Fashion’. (Laughs) In 60, I got a chance as a hero in ‘Kanch Ki Gudiya’ and got a salary of two and a half thousand rupees. Then I got 7 thousand for ‘Piya Milan Ki Aas’, 11 thousand for ‘Silk Handkerchief’ and the same fee for ‘Hariyali Aur Rasta’. Now I have heard that actors take crores of rupees for a film.
From ‘Shaheed’ to ‘Kranti’ you made many films related to patriotism, some special memories?
When I was making ‘Shaheed’, I went to visit Bhagat Singh’s family. I came to know that his mother Vidyavati is hospitalized. Bhagat Singh’s brother Kultar Singh told me that she was not taking medicine. I met her, I touched her leg, when the doctor said I look like her son Bhagat Singh, looking at me she said, ‘Yes, I think so,’ she took the medicine from my hand. I was very emotional at the time. Shaheed had received 3 national awards and I took Vidyavati Jin with me for the award ceremony. There, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi touched his feet respectfully. Everyone stood up and greeted the martyr and Vidyavati ji. I think this should be a moment of pride for the mother of the martyr. After the Indo-Pakistani war of 1965, I also met Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and was inspired by his slogan ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’.
What films appeal to you based on questions of country and patriotism?
‘A Wednesday’ impressed me the most. People think of Lagaan as a patriotic film, but I think it was about cricket. Rakesh Mehra made many points in ‘Rang De Basanti’, but it was also inspired by ‘Meri Meri’ Shaheed. The issue of cartridges was also raised in ‘Mangal Pandey’.
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