Dailybhaskar.com | Last Modified - Jun 13, 2012, 11:23 AM IST
It’s official. Veteran actor Manoj Kumar, affectionately known in Bollywood as Mr. Bharat for his slew of patriotic films, is returning to the industry as a director with the film ‘DNA Report’. This is his first directorial venture since the badly-received ‘Clerk’ in 1989. Naturally, he is excited. A recurring back problem did Manoj in and kept him off the sets for years. But now like one of his flag-waving heroes, he has risen among the ashes and has a script ready. “The film is about a man who becomes a victim of a DNA test, when he has never had any physical relationship with a woman. The DNA report says he’s the father of the woman’s child. This is a subject I’ve never been into,” Manoj reveals.
The actor, who not so long ago was in the news for taking exception to a comical portrayal of himself by Farah Khan in her 2007 hit ‘Om Shanti Om’, says somewhat pompously, “I don’t have the comfort of working with Manoj Kumar the actor anymore. He is capable of telling home truths in the most understated manner. So I’ve to select from the stars of today. ‘DNA Report’ is an expensive film. And I have zeroed in on an actor. But until everything is finalized I can’t talk about it.”
Bollywood buzz is that the chosen star could be Akshay Kumar – a big Manoj Kumar fan. “Akshay has great respect for me. In his film ‘Namaste London’, he tells Katrina Kaif, ‘If you want to know what India is all about get a DVD of ‘Purab Aur Pachchim’ and you’ll know. ‘Purab Aur Pachchim’, which I produced, directed and acted in with Saira Banu in 1970, is the mother of many subsequent films. ‘Namaste London’ was inspired by it.”
For his ‘DNA Report’, Manoj may go in for a completely new leading lady. He admits that he has an eye for spotting talent. He claims that for his 1972 film ‘Shor’, he offered Smita Patil a role that Sharmila Tagore declined and which subsequently went to the actress Nanda. “She politely told me she was not interested in acting at that point of time,” says Manoj. The math is a little confusing because at that time Smita, who made her debut in 1975 with Shyam Benegal’s ‘Charandas Chor’, would have only been 17; but Manoj insists he knows what he is talking.
He regrets his long absence from direction. “But I never intended to be a director in the first place,” admits Manoj, “I became one by default in 1965 when I had to direct ‘Shaheed’ unofficially. Then Lal Bahadur Shastri raised the slogan of ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kissan’ and that’s how I made ‘Upkar’ in 1967.” But he’s never been pushy about work. Even while contemporaries like Dharmendra and Shashi Kapoor acted in nearly 300 films each, Manoj did hardly 35 films. “One of my last directorial ventures, ‘Kalyug Aur Ramayan’, was my best script. But because it went through a lot of changes it lost its sheen. My characters were called Ram and Sita. There was a song in the film ‘Kalyug ki sita milne judge ko chali/Sau chuhe khake billi Haj ko chali…’ The moral police took offence. Some people in our society specialize in stopping creative people from doing what they do. The Censor Board threatened to ban the film. I changed the title from ‘Kalyug Ki Ramayan’ to ‘Kalyug Aur Ramayan’. The film was not the same.”
He considers ‘Shor’ his finest effort. “It was the only film I directed in which I was not named Bharat. One sequence from ‘Shor’ was made into an Iranian film in 1987 called ‘The Cyclist’ which won numerous awards. ‘Shor’ was also the first film that I edited myself. Hrishikesh Mukherjee, who was the chairperson of the editors’ jury for the Filmfare Awards, gave me the Best Editor’s trophy.”
But for all that he feels hurt and isolated that Bollywood does not remember him any more. “I am not brooding about it. But when I read the interviews of actors whom I gave major breaks to and they don’t even mention me, dukh hota hai,” he says sadly.
May be it’s the right time to stage a come back. Jai Bharat!