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“My success ratio is as good as that of Don Bradman”; Manoj Kumar tells Jyothi Venkatesh

Jyothi Venkatesh reproduces this rare interview culled from the now distinct women’s weekly Eve’s Weekly 41 years ago to celebrate Manoj Kumar’s 84th birthday today



Manoj Kumar

“Times have changed. Filmmaking has undergone rapid changes. I waited for nearly two years after Roti Kapada Aur Makan was released before I launched Kranti. But today I cannot afford to idle away my time after Kranti is released, because I have got to feed my staff. I just cannot think of lazing around scouting for ideas after Kranti is made .In fact right now I am toying with a couple of ideas which may take concrete shape when I am free enough to devote my time to the new project”, said Manoj Kumar walking across his lawns clad in a colorful lungi and kurta, with a file in his hands scribbling notes about Kranti being readied for an early release. Yes. I am reproducing this rare interview culled from the now distinct women’s weekly Eve’s Weekly 41 years ago to celebrate Manoj Kumar’s 84th birthday today.

“I need a change very desperately now after involving myself behind the camera for three years as a producer, writer, director and actor in Kranti. I have decided to allot my dates as an actor after Kranti is released to producer Balbir’s Santosh’s film  in which I have been cast along with both Hema and Raakhee and Sohanlal Kanwar’s Papi Pet Ka Sawaal in which I will be leading the cast. A new film of mine will be launched by Mushir and Riyaz. I do not want to grab each and every assignment that I am offered. I want to do a few select outside films before I ready myself for my next directorial assignment, which I promise you will really be BIG.

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“I am planning to launch not one but two films after Kranti. I will not be directing both because I am keen on launching the careers of my assistants Ashok Bhushan and Veeru Devgun. Both of them deserve a big break as independent directors. I do not know whether they will be multi starrers or new star- cast films. The directors will have to decide on that because as a producer I don’t think I have any right to impose my personal preferences on my directors just because I am giving them a break.

“Though it is several years since I had started acting by making my debut at the age of just 19, with the film Sahara, I have acted till date in only 38 films. It has not been a very easy climb for me as far as stardom is concerned. I had to struggle a lot in the initial stage of my career. In the film Fashion, though I was just 19, I played the role of a 40 year old beggar. In films like Picnic, Naqli Nawab and Reshmi Roomal, I was nothing but a glorious junior artiste. It was not until I started acting in films like Anita, Do Badan and Grahasti that I was noticed. Though till then success eluded me and I had to my credit a lot of flops, I can without any hesitation state that my success ratio is as good as that of Don Bradman.

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“I never condemned the West in my film Upkar though I had set out to show the contrast between India and the West in it. How can we forget that it was the British who had given us railways? We say everything is there in our Vedas but why are vedas not taught in schools today? Till date, though it is true that I have acted in roles which have had gray shades in some of my films, not even a single producer has offered me a negative role, thanks to my clean and pure image as Mr Bharat.

“I was not keen on taking up direction and was quite content with my job of acting in films as a leading man. It was only when Sitaram Sharma, who was directing Shaheed with me in the lead, started asking me what he should do next as a director, I decided to direct the film unofficially because the producer Kewal Kashyap was my friend and I did not want him to suffer. The day I started dabbling in direction, I gave away my wristwatch to my wife because wristwatch and filmmaking do not gel at all.

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“When I was acting in Grahasti with S.S. Vasan, he was so impressed with my approach to filmmaking even as an actor that he predicted that one day I would become a great director. Vasan also asked me to direct a film if at all I decided to direct a film officially in my career. Eventually I did become a director but I did not offer S.S. Vasan my services as a director and once when I was seated with Indira Gandhi and him at a function in Delhi, Vasan told Indiraji that I was a rascal since I did not direct a film for his banner Gemini, though he had predicted that I would become a great director.

Manoj signs off. “It is not important that I shoot. What is important is what I am setting out to shoot. It is our duty as a filmmaker to entertain the audiences. Both Guru Dutt and Raj Kapoor were brilliant filmmakers but never wrote scripts for their own films, though I have written and directed all my films. I was just 10 when I saw Dilip Kumar’s film Jugnu. After I became a director, I got the good fortune of directing Diilp Saab in my film Kranti. What more could I have asked for, as a boon from God?