Birth: 24-07-1937, Abbottabad, Hazara Division, British India (now Pakistan)
Manoj Kumar is an award-winning Indian actor and director in the Bollywood film industry. He is known for acting in and directing films with patriotic themes, and has been given the nickname "Mr Bharat" (Bhaarat is the Sanskrit and Hindi term for India). In 1992, he was honoured with the Padma Shri by the Government of India.
Manoj Kumar was born in Abbottabad, a town of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, then part of India. Abbottabad is now located within the borders of Pakistan. His original name was Harikishan Giri Goswami. When he was 10, his Gosain Hindu family had to move to Delhi owing to partition. His family lived as refugees in Vijay Nagar, Kingsway Camp and later moved to Patel Nagar area of New Delhi.
After graduating from Hindu College, University of Delhi, he decided to enter the film industry.
After making a little-noticed debut in Fashion in 1957, Manoj landed his first leading role in Kaanch Ki Gudia (1960) opposite Sayeeda Khan. Piya Milan Ki Aas and Reshmi Roomal followed, setting the stage for the Vijay Bhatt-directed Hariyali Aur Raasta (1962) opposite Mala Sinha. Kumar then appeared with Sadhana in Raj Khosla's Woh Kaun Thi (1964), and reunited with Vijay Bhatt and Mala Sinha in Himalaya Ki God Mein (1965).
Kumar's image as the patriotic hero started with the 1965 film Shaheed, based on the life of Bhagat Singh, a martyr in the struggle for India's freedom. After the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri asked him to create a film based on the popular slogan Jai Jawan Jai Kissan.
The result was Kumar's magnum opus and his directorial debut, Upkaar (1967). In it, he played both a soldier and a farmer. The film was also noted for the famous song Mere Desh Ki Dharti, written by Gulshan Bawra, composed by Kalyanji-Anandji and sung by Mahendra Kapoor. Upkaar was a hit and won Kumar his first Filmfare Best Director Award.
After dabbling in various roles in the late 1960s, Manoj returned to patriotic themes in Purab Aur Paschim (1970), in which life in the East and West are juxtaposed. In 1972, he starred in Be-Imaan (for which he won the Filmfare Best Actor Award) and directed and starred in Shor (1972). The latter, opposite Nanda, was not a huge box office success, but it did feature the memorable song Ek Pyar Ka Nagma Hai, a duet by Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh, which was composed by Laxmikant Pyarelal.
The mid-1970s saw Kumar star in three hit films: Roti Kapda Aur Makaan (1974) was a social commentary featuring an all-star cast including Zeenat Aman, Shashi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan that won him his second Filmfare Award for Best Director; Sanyasi (1975) had Kumar and Hema Malini in the lead roles of a religious-themed comedy; and Dus Numbri (1976) also gave Kumar and Hema top billing. In 1981, Kumar reached the peak of his career when he got the opportunity to direct his idol, Dilip Kumar, as well as star in Kranti, a story about the struggle for Indian independence in the 19th century. Kranti was the last notable successful film in his career. He also starred in the hit Punjabi film Jat Punjabi.
After Kranti, Kumar's career began to decline in the 1980s as all of his films failed at the box office. In 1989 he cast Pakistani actors Mohammad Ali and Zeba in his film Clerk which was considered to be a groundbreaking event. He quit acting after his appearance in the 1995 film Maidan-E-Jung. His son, Kunal Goswami, tried to revive the patriotic theme and was directed by Kumar in the 1999 film Jai Hind which was a flop. Kumar was awarded the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award that same year.
His trademark hand-covering-the-face was very popular and continues to be the butt of jokes of latter day stand-up comedians. In 2007, the Shah Rukh Khan film Om Shanti Om featured the lead character pretending to be Manoj Kumar so as to sneak into a movie premiere, by holding his hand over his face. Kumar filed a lawsuit, which was settled out of court.