Remembering Manmohan Desai on his 23rd death anniversary.

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Manmohan Desai (26 February 1937–1 March 1994) was a producer and director of Indian movies.

Manmohan Desai was known for his family-centered, action-song-and-dance films which catered to the tastes of the Indian masses and through which he achieved great success. His movies defined a new genre called masala films. His best known super-hit movies were Amar Akbar Anthony and Dharam Veer.

He had a string of hits with Amitabh Bachchan in the 70s and early 80s which helped cement Bachchan’s status as a superstar of Indian cinema. He worked with Amitabh on Amar Akbar Anthony, Parvarish, Suhaag, Naseeb, Desh Premee, Coolie, Mard and Ganga Jamuna Saraswati; all but the last were box office successes. He was one of the directors who had a special working relationship with Amitabh Bachchan, the others being Yash Chopra, Prakash Mehra, Ramesh Sippy, and Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Of these, only Yash Chopra went on to make hits beyond the 1980s.

He often worked with the same actors in several different films:

Jeetendra in Dharam Veer (1977) after Bhai Ho To Aisa
Shatrughan Sinha in Naseeb after Bhai Ho To Aisa and Aa Gale Lag Jaa (1973) and Rampur Ka Lakshman (1972)
Shashi Kapoor in Suhaag after Aa Gale Lag Jaa (1973)
Shammi Kapoor in Parvarish (1977) as a father figure after Junglee and Bluffmaster (1963)
Randhir Kapoor in Chacha Bhatija (1977) after Rampur Ka Lakshman (1972).

Apart from Bachchan, Manmohan Desai worked with such leading male stars as Raj Kapoor in the 1960 film Chhalia, Shammi Kapoor in “Bluffmaster” (1963), Rajesh Khanna in Sachaa Jhutha (1970) and Roti (1974), Randhir Kapoor in Raampur Ka Lakshman (1972), Shashi Kapoor in Aa Gale Lag Jaa, Dharmendra in Dharam Veer (1977). 1977 was an exceptional year for him. All four of his films released that year were huge hits: Parvarish, Amar Akbar Anthony, Chacha Bhatija and Dharam Veer. The first two were with Amitabh, and the latter two were with Dharmendra.

Manmohan Desai worked with writers such as Prayag Raaj, K.K.Shukla and Kader Khan and lyricists such as Anand Bakshi, Sahir Ludhianvi, Qamar Jalalabadi, Gulshan Bawra, and Shailendra. Early in his career he worked with composers Rahul Dev Burman, Kalyanji Anandji, later with Laxmikant Pyarelal and in the 1980s with music composer Anu Malik.

Out of the 20 films that Desai directed in his career span of 29 years (1960–1989), as many as 13 films were stupendous hits. His success ratio was 65 percent in an industry where flops abound. His favourite playback singer was Mohd Rafi. In most of his movie, Mohd Rafi was used to sing songs beside Kishore Kumar. When Kishore Kumar voice was frequently used on Amitabh Bachcan by other Directors, he used Mohd Rafi’s voice on Amitabh Bachcan in films like Suhaag and Naseeb . His biggest hits of Mohd Rafi song was Pardah Hai Pardah from Amar Akbar Anthony and John Jani Janardhan from Naseeb. Manmohan Desai once said that Mohd Rafi voice is God’s voice.

Towards the end of his career, Desai’s previously successful stories and style began to lose favour with audiences. Critics accused him of self-parody. His last film as a director Ganga Jamuna Saraswati and the films he produced with his son Ketan Desai directing, Allah Rakha and Toofan, failed at the box office.

Celebrating Cinema

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