Manmohan

Manmohan – Memories

My father was quite lucky when it came to films. He did not have to struggle, the industry was very kind to him. He also came from a well to do family, who had their own business. He was born and brought up in Jamshedpur. Totally different from his other three brothers, he was very keen on becoming an actor from childhood. He came to Bombay in 1950 and got very friendly with people like Shankar-Jaikishen, Bhappie Soni and G.P. Sippy. In fact, he was very close to Jaikishen who introduced my dad to Keval Kayshap who cast him in his first film Shaheed. He was also in all of Bhappie Soni’s films. Through Bhappie Soni, he met Shakti Samanta, Pramod Chakravarty and Manoj Kumar, My father, I think, also financed Shaheed. Then he got N.N. Sippy’s film Gurnnaam.

Basically, he was a very friendly person. He was not the type of man who would stick to one particular camp. He was very close to Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Rajesh Khanna and Sujit Kumar. There was a time when he was the most sought after villain. There was this particular year, when he almost had 14 releases in one month. In the ’70s, he was at his peak. It was like this, if Manoj Kumar started a film, father’s role already written in. They never had to ask him if he was available or not. He never even asked them what his role was like in the film. The same thing would happen even with Shakti Samanta and Pramod Chakravarty. One could say that he was a producer’s delight. He never refused their films.

He was always busy and did not have to worry if his films were hits or not. His hands were always full.

Always a family man, whenever dad came home at night, he wouldn’t wake up anybody but me. Practically every night, there was someone from the industry who accompanied him home for a drink. I think almost all the stars of his time have been to our house at some point of time. They knew that Man’s house would always welcome anybody at any given time of the day. The bar was also open 24 hours a day and we had some great parties. I remember one birthday party of dad’s, where almost 90 per cent of the stars come home. It was at this party, that Rajesh Khanna decided to marry Dimple. In fact, I think they got married the same night! At the same party there was also trouble, when the cops raided the party and one of the guests hit the cops. A lot happened that night. Many a time I’ve driven his friends home late at night because they were in no condition to even stand after drinking!

In most of the films he did, he played a villain. I think he did character roles in one or two Manoj Kumar’s film and in Anhonee. He was famous for his rape scenes. People used to tease us about this at school and at times, we did feel bad. Normally, as a child, you would like to be associated with a hero rather than a villain. Actually, we were not that exposed to films or the industry. We didn’t even know which films dad was doing till they came on screen. Other than the parties we had at home, we never went to film parties.

Dad was a fun loving and homely guy. He never ate outside food and even if it was two in the morning, he would come home and eat. He was also very large-hearted. Whenever he went abroad and returned, all his star friends would drop at home. Because, before opening the bags for his family, he would open them for his friends. Like when he brought a brand new two-in-one recorder from abroad one of his friends liked it and asked for it and dad gave it to him immediately. He was the sort of person who, if he was wearing a good shirt and someone asked for it, he would give it to the person and come home without one.

He contributed much more than anyone could think of, to this industry. He also introduced many people, one of them being Vinod Khanna. Dad would introduce him to producers during Vinod’s struggling days. In fact, Vinod Khanna also got his first film because of dad. He was supposed to do Man Ka Meet but he was very busy. So he convinced Dutt saab to take Vinod Khanna. Even today, Vinod acknowledges that fact.

One thing was, that dad didn’t try to come up in the industry, he would have been a top villain of his times. He was not the kind of person to ask for work and took his work very sincerely. There is an incident I remember, that almost killed my dad. He was shooting with Manoj Kumar in some forest, in Titwala where they were put up at a guest house. The place was so remote that they had no electricity and had to use petromaxes at night. One of the servants, while my dad was asleep, pumped the lamp and it exploded. My father who was lying down close by, was in his silk kurta and lungi which instantly caught fire. He suffered 80 per cent burns. There was difficulty getting conveyance out of that area because vehicles could not reach the place they were put up at. Somehow, after six hours, they managed to get dad to the Thana General Hospital. The doctors there asked for him to be shifted to town because he was sinking. They managed to get him to Nanavati Hospital. We came to know about this only the next afternoon. His burns were very bad. His whole back and left ear was burnt. He remained in hospital for almost six months and could not work for almost a year till he recovered. Even when he was recovering in hospital he needed his drink and there too, the stars got their share when they went to meet him. We thought at that time, that we had lost him.

Then there was the time dad came home looking awful. When we asked him why, he said that he had to do a scene with Jaya Bachchan, where she had to spit on his face. The scene had several retakes and told us that Jaya spat at him almost eight to 10 times. That’s why he was feeling terrible! We all had a hearty laugh when we heard this. Many people have fond memories of him. Rishi Kapoor told us this a few days ago. Rishi and my dad were shooting in the US for a film and The Godfather was at that time, being released in some theatres. My dad dragged Rishi to see the film. But they did not actually get to see the film. They were both so fired, that they fell asleep in the theatre!

H e did many films in Bengali, Punjabi and Gujarati. He did not have a sense of business however and never bothered about money. He was the last person to discuss money with the producers and never looked into the future. He was so ignorant in certain things, that his C.A. once cheated him, landing him in trouble with the Income Tax people. He would give his C.A. the money to pay his taxes, but the man never paid them. So when the Income Tax people raided the house, he knew he was in trouble. With great difficulty, he got out of it. The officials were also very helpful. Only after his death, we managed to clear his debts. My dad was hot-tempered, so none of his secretaries lasted long. It was I who took over his financial affairs.

I think he had a premonition about himself and just two years before he passed away, he stopped signing films. His last film was Manoj Kumar’s Kranti. His health was failing, so he decided to take a break. He wanted to go back to Jamshedpur to secure financially, because there was no security if anything happened to him. He got both my sister and me, married. And he went back to his home town. Nitin, at that time, was very young and was working with my uncle. Dad had given up drinking and seemed as if he was recovering, when he suddenly passed away, in August, 1979. No one expected it. Luckily, all his films were complete.

Nitin is like dad. He has inherited all his qualities. He is very hard, working. When dad passed away, we had to start from scratch. Today, we have reached a state which dad would never in his wildest dreams have thought of, considering he never wanted us to be part of the film industry. We were lucky to have a father like him. We get enough respect even today because of dad’s good deeds and nature. (As told to Dinesh Nair in 1994).