Thursday, March 25, 2010


For the uninitiated, Manmohan Desai (1936-1994) was a famous Bollywood Producer and Director who began his filmy journey since 1960 when he directed Chhalia at the age of 24. In fact, he had started earlier with Janam Janam Ke Phere (1957) but under the pseudonym of Manoo Desai, and as a producer of musical hit Bedard Zamaana Kya Jaane (1959).  Thereafter from 1963 to 1973 his directorial ventures included Bluff Master, Budtameez, Kismat, Sachcha Jhutha, and Aa Gale Lag Ja besides other movies. He was the story-writer for two movies: Raj Kumar (1964) and Kismat (1969) in addition to writing the screen-play for Bluff Master.

Manmohan Desai reached his zenith between 1974 and 1985 when he directed such hit movies as Roti (1974), Dharam Veer, Amar Akbar Anthony, Chacha Bhatija, Parvarish – all released in 1977, Suhaag (1979), Naseeb (1981), Desh Premee (1982), Coolie (1983) and Mard (1985). Manmohan Desai is known for his ‘Masala’ movies and creating “Anhonee” from “Honee” and vice-versa. Therefore, he is also said to be the factor responsible for transformation of Amitabh Bachchan into a superstar. His next movie in 1988, Ganga Jamuna Saraswati, however, was a total disaster, signaling his downfall.

It is notable that Manmohan Desai  chose Mohammed Rafi to sing for Amitabh Bachchan in movies such as Suhaag, Naseeb, and Desh Premee at the time when Kishore Kumar had become the voice for the super-star. Can anyone forget the John Johny Janadhan number from Naseeb! Or the patriotic number of Desh Premee: Aapas mein Prem Karo Desh Premiyon. What about Dharmendra’s Dharam Veer (fasten your seatbelt): O Meri Mehbooba!  Rafi Sahaab was his choice for his first movie too, Janam Janam Ke Phere. This movie is more remembered by its songs such as Rafi Sahaab’s title track and Rafi-Lata duet: Zaraa Saamne toh Aawo Chhaliye! We remember the 1959 movie, Bedard Zamaana Kya Jaane more by its songs, especially the Rafi-Lata duets: Main Yahaan Tuu Kahaan, and Duur Kahin Tuu Chal, as well as Rafi Sahaab’s title track. Even in Chhalia,  which was a Raj Kapoor starrer and could accommodate only Mukesh, Manmohan Desai saw to it that Rafi Sahaab had a song too. This was the philosophical number: Gali Gali Sita Roye Aaj Mere Desh Mein. As regards the Shammi Kapoor starrers do we need to say anything?  Govinda Aalaa Re from Bluff Master has become immortal along with the festival of Gokul Ashtami, and till today remains the best song ever both in terms of the song and the picturisation that captures the mood of the festival. 

Manmohan was a true Rafi-Bhakt, to borrow the Hindi expression. After the untimely demise of Rafi Sahaab, this great fan dedicated each and every film of his to the memory of the Immortal Singing Legend.   Here’s what he said on the TV channel with candour and conviction:

“Mohammed Rafi – I worship this man.

Besides his family who felt his loss naturally, I think the person who felt the maximum loss in this country is Mr. Manmohan Desai (points out himself).

I’ve been his greatest fan – I should call it “Devotee.” Ever since I was a kid, I remember I used to go to his recordings, hear him, and I used to go and touch his feet.

And then, when my films started, he sang all my songs. And I personally feel he died at a very young. I feel it was the voice of a god. And the gods wanted to hear him personally, that is why they took him up so young.”

- Manmohan Desai.

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