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‘Raj Kapoor kept his head on my lap and started crying’: Manoj Kumar on his interaction with the showman

A miscommunication between Raj Kapoor and Manoj Kumar had ended on an emotional note. Manoj had earlier recalled his interaction with the showman with whom he worked in Mera Naam Joker.

‘Raj Kapoor and Manoj KumarRaj Kapoor was so impressed with Manoj Kumar that he asked him to rewrite his own scenes in Mera Naam Joker. (Photo: Express Archive)

For Manoj Kumar, his first introduction to Raj Kapoor was not on the screen, but in front of it. As a child, Manoj had gone to watch the actor’s Shree 420 when a group of hooligans tried to create a ruckus during the show in a Delhi theatre. Raj Kapoor had jumped on the dais and told them off in no uncertain terms.

As a young Manoj went home impressed by Raj’s actions, his grandmother had called the actor a ‘karmayogi’ — a man who connects with God through his actions. That is how he remembered Raj Kapoor when he offered him a role in Mera Naam Joker (1970). The role was small but the young actor had no hesitation.

However, Raj felt he was trying to avoid him a few days later when he called Manoj and got told rudely that it was a wrong number. The truth was that Manoj was shooting outside Mumbai and never got Raj’s message.

Manoj Kumar, Raj Kapoor Raj Kapoor and Manoj Kumar in a frame. (Photo: Express Archive)

In an interview to Mumbai Mirror a few years ago, Manoj had recalled how he tried to explain everything to Raj Kapoor in a meeting. “We met at 4 pm at (composer) Jaikishan’s residence, where I assured Raj saab that neither I nor my wife Shashi would dare discomfit him. I told him I was looking forward to working with not the showman but a karmayogi and went on to tell him about the earlier incident at Regal theatre in Delhi. Raj saab quietly heard me out, then, put his head on my lap and started crying.”

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Manoj Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Ashok Kumar on te set of film KRANTI Manoj Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Ashok Kumar on the set of film Kranti. (Photo: Express Archive)

He was so impressed with Manoj that he asked him to rewrite his own scenes in Mera Naam Joker. “When I demurred, pointing out that (KA) Abbas saab (who wrote the story and screenplay) was a senior writer, he made me speak to him on the phone and he gave me his permission,” he further told the tabloid, adding, “Appreciating that dialogue (God and joker do things for others, not themselves), Raj saab called (DoP) Radhu Karmakar and a few others to listen to me as I narrated what I’d written, pointing out that I had encapsulated the philosophy of the joker in these lines.”

First published on: 29-11-2021 at 18:31 IST
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