He has this startling habit of ‘phoning, in the still of the night, absolutely out of the blue. And when Manojji Kumarji talks you listen, even if he’s sounding more sleep-deprived than you. He can be zzzzestful.
For some unfathomable reason, he’s a mega-fan of the Sushmita Sen song-and-dance Mast mahaul mein jeene de. ‘Phonically, he has discussed the ‘item zumber’ (as he refers to it) to the last of Ms Sen’s swirl and twirl. Then he yells, “Why you did not ask me to do lyrics? I write best lyrics. Kabhi kabhi lagta hai.... AAKHIR kyon?.. you don’tz likez meeez.”
Manoj Kumar, the inevitably eclipsed actor-producer-actor-director-writer-actor-lyricist-actor, is always acting. And so he was all there, on the national tele-screens, dramatically doling out I’m-very-bugged bytes. His dialogue delivery is still the pace of a bullock-cart, but has the Upkaarish drum storm. Mji Kji still has what it takes.
Truly, no one has been able to quite snatch away the knighthood of Sir Bharat Kumar. He’s feted, he’s revered but he doesn’t have a sense of humour. He has taken umbrage to the side-splittingly affectionate take-off on him in Om Shanti Om. He’s calling the film’s makers terrorists, rascals, criminals and is talking of ‘balatkaar (pause)…ho gaya.’ Bytes get unprintable as the voice pauses, slurs, pauses.. slurs.
<b1>Is this the state of Mr Bharat today? Just when the nation is rocking, he’s grumbling. But dear sir, whenever a cartoonist (think R K Laxman) or a filmmaker (Farah Khan to XYZ), uses your brand identity and distinct mannerisms, that means you’re important, very important, recognised by the readers as well as the viewers. Meaning, who would do a take-off on the Darshans, Kanwars or Kashyaps?
Indeed, Manoj Kumar, for the curious journo in me has been a mystery. Hour-long interviews, down the years, have yielded fewer words and more chiselled-in-stone memories. Like the time I landed in the Kumar bungalow at Juhu, to be ushered into a bedroom where he was watching TV. He was also worrying about the health of Breach Candy (read Amitabh Bachchan after Coolie accident).
Suddenly, Kumar saab jumped out of bed, drew the curtains, announced, “Shashi (his wife) is sleeping”, shut the door tight and yelled, “Disturb not.”
I was about to let off a scream when MK placed a big black box before me. It had several tarot-like cards (but not tarots). Then he took out a pendant, asked me to close my eyes and not open them till he said so (this was really scary).
Outside sparrows twittered. After the lengthiest two minutes of my life, I opened my eyes. The pendant had stopped atop a card, which signified that the health of Breach Candy would be fine, there was nothing to worry about. He instructed, “Tell Jaya not to worry.”
I huffed, “Jayaji you mean.”
Cut to.. there were heavy knocks on the door. Was it the slumbering Shashi back on her feet? Nope, it was the household domestic, who grandly announced, “Shashikalaji is here.” Yesteryear’s great vamp. Manojji said to tell her we were not at home. WE?
Manojji hissed that she was always dropping by to collect some installments of remuneration he didn’t owe to her. “What a kalyug aa gayaz haiz.”
To be honest, I have a storehouse of Manoj Kumar gems. But I’m not telling because I do not want to be called a rascalz, etcz etcz.