Happy birthday Manoj Kumar! By Monica Kar

Here’s wishing veteran actor and filmmaker Manoj Kumar a happy birthday–his 80th!–through a song from his film Purab aur Paschim (1971). The voices belong to Lata Mangeshkar, Manhar Udhas, and Mahendra Kapoor, backed by a chorus. The lyrics are by Santosh Anand, set to music by Kalyanji-Anandji.

To me, Manoj Kumar is Bhagat Singh. And Bhagat Singh was my hero. As simple as that. I still think of Manoj Kumar’s ‘other’ roles–ALL other roles–as belonging to a different person.

So, since this is not a song from Bhagat Singh, this is a tribute from me to that OTHER Manoj Kumar 🙂 Sorry about this craziness.

This other Manoj Kumar created some movies that are a staple of my childhood, and a lot of other film buffs may feel the same way. We grew up on his idea of Bharat–a culture to be proud of. “Uss dharti pe maine janam liya, ye soch…ye soch ke main itaraata hun…”

My tribute to Manoj Kumar, ‘Bharat’, actor, filmmaker is a song I love, Purva suhaani aayi re.

There are so many things in this song to love. The start–almost a Bhangra start here. Before the tabla and ghungroos take over. The chorus that starts it off.

The scene of a ‘Bharat’ long lost–the rural, rustic, ‘mela’ scene. So much of my childhood right there!
Santosh Anand’s lyrics. The camera angles. All tied up with the nuances that Manoj Kumar’s filming of songs came to be associated with.

In the movie, this song becomes centre stage for a ‘change of guard’ among the ladies–a silent acceptance and handing over. Bharti, who is in love with Manoj Kumar, coming to terms and surrendering her love to Saira Banu. There is a slight anger there, a lot of hurt, but acceptance too of this western ‘doll’ in Manoj Kumar’s life. ‘Kar le, kar bhi le pyaar ki pooja…pyaar ke rang pe chadhe na rang dooja…’ she advises Saira Banu.

And, even beyond any rivalry there may be, or jealousy, there is a joy of the moment…a new friendship in the making…so many different shades of human emotion in this one song! Very endearing.

To Manoj Kumar, sir – from the Bhagat Singh that you were… to the ‘Bharat’ you became… for all that you taught me to value about my culture – a deep thank you.

Happy 80th birthday.


Monica Kar received her BA in English Honours from the University of Delhi. She now lives in St. Charles, Missouri, where she wears several hats, including doing voluntary work as an educator and homemaker.

(Written on 24 July 2017)

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