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Manoj Kumar: My mission to highlight the plight of peasants remains incomplete

Veteran actor Manoj Kumar expresses his state of mind after his iconic song Mere Desh Ki Dharti was included in the National Economic Survey.

bollywood Updated: Feb 15, 2018 13:04 IST
As told to Ranjan Das Gupta
Manoj kumar,Bollywood,Indira Gandhi
Manoj Kumar is a veteran Bollywood film actor.(Hindustan Times)

Manoj Kumar’s song Mere Desh Ki Dharti, from the film Upkar (1967) was recently included in the National Economic survey. The veteran actor talks to veteran journalist Ranjan Das Gupta about how he envisioned the Indian farmer — who refuses to be sufferer, and stands up for his rights and duties — in the film.

“When I received the news of the song, Meri Desh Ki Dharti being included in National Economic Survey, I had a strange feeling. Though I was happy, somewhere in my heart I felt my mission to highlight the plight of the Indian peasant through my cinema remains incomplete. True, the cause was portrayed through a majestic performance by Balraj Sahani saab in Do Bigha Zamin (1953). It was a masterly creation of Bimalda (Director Bimal Roy).

The farmer, as conceived and portrayed by me in Upkar is a modern, educated one. He is socially conscious, aware of his rights and duties and above all abhors unethical division of land. I wanted to show that the Indian farmer is not merely a sufferer of oppression. He can also stand up and counter attempts to rob him of his social and economic potential.

Meri Desh Ki Dharti is the song (that) musically conveys the voice of farmers across the nation. The initial music of the number is Punjab’s folklore. A cut to western melodious lilt in the second antara was to show the contrast of various societies — the farmer with his plough as well as the urban upper middle class to which (actor) Asha Parekh belongs in the film.

The close-up of me with the plough on my shoulder symbolized the late Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s slogan, “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan.” In this context I want to add that I shot a short documentary on the Kissan Rally at Parliament Street (New Delhi) in 1981. Made at the request of late Indira Gandhi, the documentary has live shots of her, (son) Rajiv and (daughter-in-law) Sonia Gandhi. It was screened only once at the Films Division auditorium and was attended by Indira Gandhi,who appreciated it.”

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First Published: Feb 15, 2018 13:04 IST