It was on this day 26 February 1937 a child was born in the family to Kalavati and Kikubhai Desai. I pay tribute to this prolific producer and director none other than the genius Manmohan Desai. Let me take this opportunity to share some interesting anecdotes of this legend who believed, “Anhonee Ko Honee Karna Hamara Kaam Hai” (Making the impossible possible is our job).
Born on the 26th day of February Manmohan Ji was four years old from the time he started living in Khetwadi in Mumbai. Born in Gujarati family but his love and home had always been the city of dream and dream merchants namely Mumbai. The love for the city Mumbai was often portrayed on the screen in his movies.
There was a time when neither Khetwadi nor Manmohan Ji address was reflected on the maps of the city. Not many had heard of Khetwadi then in the early 80’s. No doubt the taxi drivers gave blank look when asked for the address for MKD Films.
His father was a film producer who owned Paramount Studios (later Filmalaya) and made films between 1931 and 1941. His father died at young age on 39 due to ruptured appendix. The family also owned massive bungalow in Versova then but the sudden death of his father left behind heavy liabilities and debts.
Manmohan Ji mother was pretty clear, “No, I don’t want to live with debts”. She sold off the bungalow and cars owned by them to repay the debts. Only thing that she did not sell was the studio as it was their monthly income then.
Making the Impossible Possible
Manmohan Ji first directorial film had been “Chhalia” with actor Raj Kapoor in the lead role. The movie was shot in black-and-white and not to forget the title song “Chhalia Mere Naam”. It’s learnt that the creative thoughts and inputs regarding the plot or storyline were mostly amplified by him below the famous landmark restaurant Café Naaz on the slopes at Malabar Hill.
He did not appreciate the idea where the movie ended on sad note. He always believed in happy ending even if it does mean making the impossible possible. No doubt he was regarded as the master entertainer whose passion was to please the masses watching his movies with happy ending always. His career graph became more popular between the years from 1960 to 1988.
The characters that depicted in his movies were mostly the common masses be it the person on the railway platform Coolie, the waiter in Naseeb or Anglo Indian from the streets of Bandra in Amar Akbar Anthony. The confidence he exhibited in each of these characters which later tasted success is indeed highly respected that came from this master entertainer and genius Manmohan Desai.
He was middle class man. Be it at the shooting location or otherwise Manmohan Ji was known for his hour’s afternoon nap. He always used to feel fresh and recharged after his short nap. After the success of his movie Amar Akbar Anthony he bought an aristocratic apartment designed with modern amenities in one of the most expensive place in Mumbai then. But, his heart was always in Khetwadi the colony that belonged to the middle class people of Central Mumbai.
Amar Akbar Anthony (Story Line)
While Manmohan Ji gave many hit movies in his career span but one of his movie that appeals to many even today is “Amar Akbar Anthony”. I would like to share some interesting anecdotes about this evergreen entertainer which has captivated millions of audiences even post thirty five years after its release.
Director Manmohan Desai got the idea for the movie “Amar Akbar Anthony” from a news item he read in an evening newspaper. An alcoholic man named Jackson was fed up with his life and one day he packed his three children in a car and decided to drop them off in the park. It can be rightly said where the news items ends director Manmohan Desai’s story begins. He twisted the story a bit by forgetting the alcoholic part and ensured that when the father returns he finds that all his three children have gone missing. In the story, the eldest kid is adopted by Hindu police officer and the other two by a Muslim tailor and a Catholic priest.
My Name is Anthony Gonsalves
The inspiration for Anthony came to Desai from the real life character Antav, a bootlegger who was staying closer to his home in Khetwadi. He used to wear a funny hat and used to converse with Desai in his lingo, “Desai Kaisa Hai Dikhtaich Nahin”. Director Desai was very much fascinated by his character and decided to showcase him on the screen.
In the song ‘My name is Anthony Gonsalves’ (You see, the whole country of the system is juxtapositioned by the haemoglobin in the atmosphere because you are a sophisticated rhetorician intoxicated by the exuberance of your own verbosity) spoken by Anthony when he emerges from the Easter egg, is an almost exact quotation from a speech in the Parliament of the United Kingdom given by British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli in 1878. Disraeli (who was referring to William Ewart Gladstone) used the word “inebriated” rather than “intoxicated.”
As said by superstar Mr. Amitabh Bachchan: “He (Desai) would first design the `items’ that he wanted in the film then he would shoot them and then write the (screenplay) to link them up.” He was known to do some of the craziest stuff but it always worked for him.
If we were to talk about the famous `blood donation’ scene (where three sons of a mother give her blood at once). “It was a medical disaster. Where in the world you have three people lying in the same room giving transfusion from one bottle?” Three separate tubes carry the men’s blood to a suspended bottle from where only one tube relays blood to the mother Bharti. The credits end and then the main story begins.
“It was a medical impossibility. But Desai did it, and it worked. When the (scene) opened, there was unbelievable applause in the theatre.” That’s the creativity director Manmohan Desai exhibited.
The Man Himself
In most of the films of Manmohan Desai, one thing was evident; he always showcased his profound respect for Mother figure. He said: In my films I always talk about “Ma Sherovali”. I feel a woman is a supreme creation. It is she who conceives, she who bears the child after nine months, she who takes care through hardship. She brings into the world a new life. I rate them very high. I am a great believer in Durga, Amba and Lakshmi. His work includes movies Naseeb, Suhaag, Parvarish, Coolie, Mard, Desh Premee and Amar Akbar Anthony to name a few.
Desai always believed that parents came above God and of course, above self. Hurt them and you hurt yourself, was his simple belief which continues to echo even today in the world of cinema.