Veteran actor and filmmaker par excellence Manoj Kumar in a prolific career of over 50 years has directed iconic films like Upkar, Shor and Roti Kapada Aur Makaan and acted in superhits like Patthar Ke Sanam, Sanyasi and Woh Kaun Thi.
Recalling the experience of shooting for Woh Kaun Thi, Manoj Kumar says, “Do you know, one of the film’s most iconic songs ‘Lag Ja Gale’ was initially rejected by the director Raj Khosla. I remember the music composer Madan Mohan Saab, a very sensitive artiste, was shattered. He came to complain, ‘Manoj Bhai, look at the composition that your director has rejected.’ I heard the song and I immediately knew its potential. I took it back to Raj Khosla made him hear it with me. At the end of the song, he got up quietly went out of the room to get his chappals came back inside and began hitting himself with it. Madan Mohan and I were aghast. ‘Yeh aap kya kar rahein hain?’ Raj said he was hitting himself for being such a fool to reject a composition like ‘Lag Ja Gale’. I am glad the producer Prernaa Arora has taken the rights of two of the songs ‘Lag Ja Gale’ and ‘Naina Barse’. I feel the other songs in Woh Kaun Thi like ‘Chhodkar Tere Pyar Ka Daman’, ‘Aap Kyon Roye’ and ‘Shokh Nazar Ki Bijliyaan’ are equally iconic.”
Manoj Kumar is in an aggressively confessional mood. He lets it out that the dialogues and scenes in Woh Kaun Thi were written by him. “Yes, I admit I wrote many of the scenes and dialogues. I will tell you how it happened. I reached Shimla for the shooting. The song Shokh Nazar Ki Bijliyaan’ was filmed on Helen ji and me. I felt something was missing. After the shooting, I went to the director Raj Khosla’s room. My leading lady Sadhana ji, the producer NN Sippy were also present. I told Raj, ‘Kuch jamm nahin raha (something is amiss). The lines need to be changed.’ And I handed over papers with the changed dialogues written by me. Raj Khosla read them. He quietly
tore up the original dialogues and threw it into the fireplace saying, ‘From tomorrow we will be using Manoj’s lines.’ That’s how I ghost-wrote the scenes and dialogues in this ghost story.”
Why didn’t Manoj Kumar take credit for his efforts? “Arey yaar. It didn’t matter. I didn’t do it for the name. I did it to improve the film. During those days we worked on every film like a family. Sadhana, Raj Khosla, Madan Mohan and I were one family during Woh Kaun Thi. We didn’t think about who should get credit or not. We worked like a team of cooks in a kitchen putting together the best meal possible.”
Manoj says he would be happy to write the new version of Woh Kaun Thi. “All they have to do is.”