On India's 65th Independence Day, actor-filmmaker Manoj Kumar takes us behind the scenes of his memorable patriotic numbers. From Mera Rang De Basanti Chola to Mere Desh Ki Dharti- he talks about them all.
Mera Rang De Basanti Chola (Shaheed, 1965)
At a time when films were sold on the names of composers, I gave lyricist Prem Dhawan a break over the more saleable Shankar-Jaikishen and Kalyanji-Anandji. We filmed Shaheed at Ludhiana jail. For two months we shot in the cell, the barracks and even the gallows. I spontaneously started singing Bhagat Singh’s Mera rang de basanti chola. Prem, who was also acting in the film, heard me and taped it. We picturised it in the jail itself. Shaheed also had other patriotic songs like Watan pe, Ai vatan and Sarfaroshi ki tamanna.
Mere Desh Ki Dharti (Upkar, 1967)
I heard my lyricist Gulshan Bawra singing the song and took it to composer Kalyanji who wove it in Upkaar. He replaced the line Jawanon bhar bhar lo jholiyan, khushi se bolo boliyan with Mere desh ki dharti sona ugle, ugle heere-moti. Upkaar turned me into Mr Bharat. It also had three different songs – Gulabi raat gulabi featuring a cabaret, Kali raat filmed on starving children and Kaisi raat on soldiers.
Hare Rama, Hare Krishna (Purab Aur Paschim, 1970)
Many were aghast with my decision to use an aarti (prayer) in a commercial, romantic film. But I believe Om jai jagdish binds India, never mind that my panditji (priest) almost threw singer Mahendra Kapoor out of the recording studio and took over the mic himself. In London, I heard a bunch of Iskcon devotees singing Raghupati raghav. I picturised the bhajan with them, bringing Iskcon on screen two years before it came to India. Chana zor garam (Kranti, 1981) I’d written the song to lighten the grim mood of the film. I ended up giving the ‘chana’ (gram) a patriotic touch with the lines, ‘Mera chana hai apni marzi ka, yeh dushman khudgarzi ka.’ Another song, Zindagi ki na toote ladi was shot aboard a ship. The schedule extended over two months. One day, Hemaji (Malini) was unwell but refused to leave until I’d canned one shot on her. That is dedication!
He also says, ‘I’ll be back but not as Mr Bharat this time. I’ve locked on a script, but Judgement (the film) requires Manoj Kumar as the writer-producer-director, not as a lead actor. So, after August 15, I’ll decide whose doors to knock on with my film, which is a love story with a patriotic angle. Some stars may not even know me, so I’ll have to introduce myself with a bio-data.'