Top 10 – Manoj Kumar’s ‘pyaar ka naghma’
The multi-faceted Manoj Kumar, celebrating his 76th birthday today, has always been an emotional man but not as ascribed by modern definition, largely attributed to romantic love. Sensitive about his neighbors, family, friends, the humanity in general; their condition reflected in the daily pain coupled with their inability to alleviate it, has defined his art
He is emotional about his country which on partition, estranged him from home, left him to fend on anonymous streets, meager in means but certain in his capacity to always stay true.
Born in 1937 in Abbottabad (lately famous for Osama’s final encounter), the current state of the nation pains him. As he laments, “There are only two differences of note after we got independence. The good one is we exchanged the Union Jack for our Tiranga. The awful truth nonetheless is that our rulers today wear dhoti and kurtas instead of suits and uniforms but their indifference is even greater than that of the British. As for the misery and aggravation of the common man, nothing has changed. So now, where do we go to complain when our own leaders tread over our souls in the hope of making us permanently impotent. The Bharat that gave us Zero is becoming a zero for its own people.”
His tirade is justified as his loud, melodious bugle raised the interest in post independence nationalism through his craft, more than any other film director. At heart a patriot, his compounding frustration revealed itself through his films, as they became progressively darker.
The propaganda, if any, perpetuated through his films is grounded in social upheavals brought on by political indifference and cultural pollination. His style is a judicious blend of the four great old world directors: the montage (where images are combined to create metaphoric or intellectual meaning) of early Shantaram films, melodrama of Mehboob Khan, music sensibility of Raj Kapoor and technical wizardry of Guru Dutt. And all shared a socialist concern for benefit of the larger good. Manoj Kumar chose to become a filmmaker but he was born a philosopher.
His music rejoiced in change of seasons; Basant in Upkar, Purva in Purab aur Paschim and Sawan in Roti, Kapda aur Makaan. His imagery is saturated with rich symbolism of dialectic duality; rich-poor, east-west, sin-morality, vice-virtue, optimism-cynicism and betrayal-loyalty.
Some modern theorists consider his work as archaic, but even when his sensibility as a film director abandoned him later in his career, his sensitivity did not. No one can deny him that. Today we celebrate ten songs from the films he has directed.
Please click on picture to view the video. (LP is Laxmikant Pyarelel, KA is Kalyanji Anandji)
1. Dulhan chali o bahen chali – Purab aur Paschim 1970 (Mahendra Kapoor, Indivar, KA)
An ode to the national anthem, it invokes the leaders who fought for ‘azaadi’ yet creates a rhetoric fueled euphoria to induce the contemporary audience into a feeling a genuine attachment towards the nation.
Shot as a stage performance, his radiant camera picks out details and amplifies them: the hennaed hands, the payal, the ghunghat are peppered with glimpses of the 26 January parade. The now forgotten Bharti is all grace as Vinod Khanna beats his drum, just happy to be in a Manoj Kumar picture. This chant reverberated throughout the nation as being called a Bharat wasi became de rigueur.
2. Kasme wade pyaar wafa – Upkar 1967 (Manna Dey, Indivar, KA)
Classic situation of an immorally influenced brother (Prem Chopra) gone wrong, demanding division of family holding with the mother (Kamini Kaushal) caught in the crossfire.
Manoj deftly creates a microcosm of his haunting fear; the country’s partition where the motherland was torn asunder by a line on the map and overnight, brothers became enemies.
The song is given to ‘Malang Chacha’, the carefree yet wise village elder (played by Pran), as he truncates the philosophy of misguided ambition and illegal accretion of wealth – “Aasman mein uden wale, mitti mein mil jayega” (Inevitably, the sky dweller shall also be buried in the earth).
3. Ek pyaar ka naghma hai – Shor 1972 (Mukesh, Lata, Santosh Anand, LP)
This song appears five times in the film, the tempo changing with varying moods.
The tune is immortal as the solo of violinist Jerry Fernandes defines everything this song attempts to achieve – the conjectural existence of life as a mourning tragic past merges with slivers of hope for restoration of balance in the future.
Manoj uses mirrors to split images symbolizing the duality of reality as the Geeta professes. “Do pal ke jiwan se – ek umr churani hai” (You and I have to steal a lifetime from two ephemeral moments).
Pull out the tissue box for this brilliant weepie.
4. Hai preet jahan ki reet sada – Purab aur Paschim 1970 (Mahendra Kapoor, Indivar, KA)
Shot in a mythical India Club, surrounded by a semi hostile environment of expats, who migrated for a better future to ‘Vilayat’ (Foreign shores) and now hold their nation in contempt. As the on screen Bharat character reminds them of a Utopian past, the director Manoj hopes his plea for rejuvenation of India reaches the corridors of power.
He deifies the rivers, exalting them as mothers, “Itni mamta nadiyon ko bhi, jahan mata keh ke bulate hain’” (The land where rivers are called mothers for they sustain and raise us). Did Manoj Kumar portend the desecration of our rivers in the garb of industrialization, greed and poor civic sense? Ironically the song is set in London where, after years of neglect, the Thames was restored to its initial glory. A finger snapping classic chorus.
5. Main na bhulunga – Roti, Kapda aur Makaan 1974 (Mukesh, Lata, Santosh Anand, LP)
Till late 1980’s many films featured happy and sad versions of the same song as this. In this monster hit, Manoj Kumar fused his style with the pertinent issues of inflation, unemployment and black marketing.
Here an educated jobless youth, Bharat, after promises of immutable love loses his girl friend to a man of means. She simply wants more as the Bharat refuses compromise on his ideals. She drowns in gulit and seeks redemption.
Since nobility does not put food on the table and as Bharat too finally succumbs to the lure of easy lucre, he warns the nation’s youth to stay upright.
6. Mere Desh ki dharti – Upkar 1967 (Mahendra Kapoor, Gulshan Bawra, KA)
This officially started it all. He wrote this script at the behest of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri who wanted to popularize the slogan ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ after the 1965 war with Pakistan and in turn, immortalized a country of plenty.
Highlighting tiny facets of farm life, his roving camera summarizes a crop season in glorious color. At his most optimistic here for a young nation poised at the threshold of glory, little did Manoj Kumar know the that in forty years, the golden fields of wheat would be painted red with farmer’s suicide.
This has almost attained the status of a second national anthem.
7. Zindagi ki naa tute ladi – Kranti 1981 (Nitin Mukesh, Lata, Santosh Anand, LP)
A fiery, veiled anti emergency diatribe, below all the overreaching melodrama was a clarion call for revolution. 30 years later, probably the time for it is here.
Adjusted for inflation, Kranti was the biggest hit of the eighties selling more tickets than ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’. In this love song, he trussed up dreamgirl Hema Malini, drenched her in rain, made her crawl on a ship deck and she let him. E
ven in the last hit of his career, he was still egging on the a budding generation: “Woh jawaani, jawaani nahin; jiski koi kahaani na ho” (Every youth should aim for a story worthy of glory). Co wrote the screenplay with Salim Javed. His swan song really.
8. Koi jab tumhara hridaya tod de – Purab aur Paschim 1970 (Mukesh, Indivar, KA)
Can social conditioning of Indians, born and bred abroad, instigate racism against their native countrymen?
Bharat lives with a dysfunctional Indian family while studying in London. The daughter Preeti (Saira Bano), proud and enraptured by her own beauty lies castled in her cave of bigotry as our tolerant hero, through this Hindi infused poetry tries hard to make her contemplate the beauty within.
This pacifist love song was shot in Oxford University. Pregnant with visually allegorical juxtapositions, the camera shows her gradually being surrounded with darkness, almost overwhelmed by her prejudice as the shadows of jagged walls close in on her.
The mini skirt has never been shorter or carried as well on Indian screen since.
9. Jeevan chalne ka naam – Shor 1972 (Mahendra Kapoor, Manna Dey, Shyama, Santosh Anand, LP)
The metaphorical circle of life is given a pictorial representation. According to Hindu mythology the circle signifies continuation and parallels life.
A single father desperate for funds for his son’s operation undertakes the challenge to cycle for seven days without a break risking his own life in turn. This is not a critical surgery; the father just wants to hear his son’s voice once again.
Since he can’t accomplish it alone, his community in the ‘chawl’, that mini cosmos of thriving life converge to make it a reality. Invocation of divine help also aids in the pursuit. In an age where people stare at accident victims dying on the road, this is a reminder of a nobler past we lost. The scintillating use of the round trolley is a film school lesson.
10. Shaheed – 1965 (The Soundtrack.)
“Mera rang de basanti chola”, “Pugree sambhal jatta”, “Sarfaroshi ke tammana ab hamare dil mein hai”, “Watan pe marne wale” and “Jogi hum toh lut gaye.”
Sorry, can’t choose one. Take your pick. Although the credits name S Ram Sharma, it is the worst hidden secret in the film industry that it was directed by Manoj Kumar. Prem Dhawan’s inspired score was the best of his short career and the narrative is suffused with freedom fighter Ram Prasad Bismil’s poetry.
Just as a representation of the embarrassment of riches available to choose, I picked;
Aye watan, aye watan humko teri kasam.
In this Silver Jubilee post of filmkailm.com, we bow and pay respect to the genius of Mr. Manoj Kumar. Happy birthday to this ‘desh bhakt,’ from an unabashed fan.
And thank you to our readers for encouraging this blog. Could not have happened without you. Onwards to the Golden Jubilee.