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"Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon" - Joy Mukherjee

08 Apr, 2020 | Beete Hue Din by Shishir Krishna Sharma
Joy Mukherjee. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

The nephew of star actor Dada Moni Ashok Kumar…producer Sashadhar Mukherjee’s son, one of the inheritors of the famous Filmalaya studios, a superstar during the 60’s and above all, the hero of super-hit films like Ek Musafir Ek Haseena, Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon and Dil Aur Mohabbat for which the music was composed by my favorite composer O.P. Nayyar. It is obvious that I had a larger than life image of Joy Mukherjee.

I was preparing for my regular column titled Kya Bhoolon Kya Yaad Karoon for Sahara Samay Weekly. I was apprehensive about approaching Joy Mukherjee not knowing how he would reciprocate to my request for an interview. But after speaking to him briefly over the phone, I realized that my fears were misplaced. His voice brimmed with enthusiasm and he agreed to meet me for an interview without much ado.

Accompanied by our cameraman, I reached the venue (Joy Art Gallery located at the entrance of Shastri Nagar near Lokhandwala circle). This place was rented out for conducting exhibitions or sale of products for a temporary period. On one portion of the structure was located Joy Mukherjee’s office where he spent most of the time.
 

Joy Mukherjee. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
Joy was candid about his personal and professional lives; however, the glint of sadness and anguish in his voice did not escape my attention. The reason for the latter was eventually revealed when he commented, “My life is characterized by a pearl falling into my lap without my asking for it and alms that I did not receive even when I requested for it”.
Joy Mukherjee’s photographs and movie posters adorned his office walls. I was amazed at his friendly countenance and affable manners. Joy was candid about his personal and professional lives; however, the glint of sadness and anguish in his voice did not escape my attention. The reason for the latter was eventually revealed when he commented, “My life is characterized by a pearl falling into my lap without my asking for it and alms that I did not receive even when I requested for it”.

Joy Mukherjee’s father Sashadhar Mukherjee belonged to an affluent Bengali family hailing from Jhansi. In 1933, Himanshu Rai and Devika Rani came down from London to set up the foundation for Bombay Talkies in Malad (West). Sashadhar Mukherjee reached Mumbai from Jhansi during this period to get associated with Bombay Talkies as a sound recordist. Sashadhar Mukherjee’s diligence and commitment inspired Himanshu Rai to make him a partner in his company. Soon enough, Sashadhar invited his wife’s brother Ashok Kumar Ganguly to visit Mumbai and join Bombay Talkies as a lab assistant. The lab assistant later went on to become a Bollywood icon reprising various roles as an actor of substance. 
 
Sashadhar Mukherjee. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
Sashadhar Mukherjee’s diligence and commitment inspired Himanshu Rai to make him a partner in his company. Soon enough, Sashadhar invited his wife’s brother Ashok Kumar Ganguly to visit Mumbai and join Bombay Talkies as a lab assistant. The lab assistant later went on to become a Bollywood icon reprising various roles as an actor of substance. 
Born in Jhansi on 24 February 1939, Joy’s upbringing was in Mumbai. He also did his schooling from Mumbai. Says Joy, “During my growing years, it dawned on me that a lot of my relatives had made a name for themselves in Bollywood. But I was least interested in Bollywood and in acting. I was shy of proclaiming my filmi background to others. My cousin Ram was directing Hum Hindustani that was produced by my dad. This was the second film under the Filmalaya banner. Filmalaya’s 1959 release debut Dil Deke Dekho proved to be a major success. Ram was on the lookout for a second lead for Hum Hindustani. It was the role of the hero’s younger brother. Sunil Dutt was signed to play the lead. I was studying in college then. I was more active in sports. I used to spend lot of time indulging in wrestling, tennis and foot ball. So when Ram requested me to play the role of Sunil Dutt’s brother, I refused point-blank as I was not mentally prepared to become a movie actor.”
 
Joy Mukherjee and Helen in Hum Hindustani. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
Joy quips, “Ram told me that he would give me Rs 200/- in place of my pocket money Rs 15/- if I agreed to act in his directorial venture”.
Joy quips, “Ram told me that he would give me Rs 200/- in place of my pocket money Rs 15/- if I agreed to act in his directorial venture”. Unable to control his avarice, Joy immediately agreed to act in Hum Hindustani.” No top heroine during that era was willing to play the female lead opposite Joy. So, Ram had no choice but to engage Helen. Helen was branded a “cabaret dancer” (item girl, in today’s lingo) in Bollywood and she was trying hard to break away from that image and accept roles of substance. But Helen did not have it easy. 

Joy’s next film was Love in Shimla made under the Filmalaya banner. R K Nayyar was the director. Sadhana was learning acting in Filmalaya Acting School and she got an opportunity to debut as heroine in Love in Shimla. (Sadhana had earlier played the second lead in a Sindhi film Abana that had released in 1958. Sheila Ramani played the lead in this Sindhi film.) Sashadhar Mukherjee was not too sure about Joy’s chances of success as a hero and so he dissuaded Joy from trying his hand at acting. Agha Jani Kashmiri, who wrote the script for Love in Shimla did not agree with Sashadhar Mukherjee as he saw huge star potential in Joy. It was only due to his insistence that Joy landed the role in Love in Shimla. Kashmiri’s prediction proved right and Love in Shimla was a big hit.
 
Love in Shimla. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
In the words of Joy Mukherjee, “My opinion about a career in Bollywood had still not changed. So I did not feel the need to tom-tom about my films in my social circles. My friends came to know about my filmi antecedents only when they saw me on the posters of Love in Shimla and Hum Hindustani both of which released in 1960. The astounding success of a small budget film like Love in Shimla made me a star overnight. I completed my BA in third class and then became busy in films”.
In the words of Joy Mukherjee, “My opinion about a career in Bollywood had still not changed. So I did not feel the need to tom-tom about my films in my social circles. My friends came to know about my filmi antecedents only when they saw me on the posters of Love in Shimla and Hum Hindustani both of which released in 1960. The astounding success of a small budget film like Love in Shimla made me a star overnight. I completed my BA in third class and then became busy in films”.
 
Love in Tokyo.Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din


As a great fan of legendary actress Vyjayanthimala, it was Joy’s dream to work with her. Joy got an opportunity to play the lead with Vyjayanthimala in the 1964 release Ishara that was filmed by K. Amarnath. This was the period when Joy gave one successful film after another – Ummeed (1962), Ek Musafir Ek Hasina (1962), Door Ki Awaaz (1964), Aao Pyaar Karen (1964), Bahu Beti (1965), Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon (1963), Ziddi (1964), Love in Tokyo (1966), Yeh Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai (1966), Ji Chahta Hai (1964).
Says Joy, “I was on cloud nine as my films continued to succeed at the turnstiles. My self-confidence was at an all-time high. This triggered a desire in me to produce and direct films under my own banner. I signed Sharmila Tagore and Mala Sinha for Humsaya and commenced production. I decided to play the lead”.

The 1968 release Humsaya was an important film for Joy Mukherjee. He had rejected offers from outside banners to dedicate his time and effort for the home production. He spent lavishly for Humsaya. The responsibility of composing music was given to his favorite music director O.P. Nayyar. All the songs of this movie proved to be super-hits; however, the film tanked and sank without a trace at the box office.

(It is alleged that the arguments between the lead actresses of Humsaya caused heavy damage to the movie schedule. There were reports of fisticuffs between the actresses so much so that rumours spread thick and fast that Mala Sinha had slapped Sharmila Tagore during a scuffle on the set).
 
Joy Mukherjee in Humsaya. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
Joy Mukherjee admits that Humsaya caused him humongous and devastating financial loss - the severity of which lasted a life time.
Joy Mukherjee admits that Humsaya caused him humongous and devastating financial loss - the severity of which lasted a life time. Not losing heart, Joy started work on his next production – Love in Bombay in which Waheeda Rehman was signed to play the female lead and Shankar Jaikishan were signed on as music directors. Ill luck continued to plague Joy. When Love in Bombay was ready for release in 1971, there were no takers as a new breed of actors and actresses had started adorning the cloud line of Bollywood. The film was destined to lie in the cans. Reminisces Joy, “I could not get what I aspired to have and to add insult to injury, I ended up losing whatever I had. I was in heavy debt. I directed Chhaila Babu starring Rajesh Khanna and Zeenat Aman and to add balm to my wounds, the movie was declared a hit when it released in 1977.”
(After lying in the cans for close to 42 years, Love in Bombay released on 2nd August 2013. But Joy did not live to see the day as he passed away 18 months before its release.) 
 
Love in Bombay. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

The failure of Humsaya and the inability to release Love in Bombay resulted in Joy Mukherjee losing his stardom as soon as the 70’s dawned. To repay his debts, Joy was forced to act in B- and C- grade movies like Ehsan (1970), Puraskar (1970), Mujrim (1970), Aag Aur Daag (1970), Kahin Aar Kahin Paar (1971). This ended up denting his reputation further. Joy’s sorrow and inner anguish reflected in his face and the sadness that had crept on his face was palpable.  
 
Phoolan Devi. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din


As a hero, Joy Mukherjee appeared only in 32 films. In his last two outings – Phoolan Devi and Insaf Main Karoonga (both 1985), Joy took up the role of the villain. Both these films were released in 1985. Among Sashadhar Mukherjee and Sati Rani’s brood comprising 5 sons and a daughter, Joy was in the number two slot. Actors Ashok Kumar, Kishore Kumar and Anup Kumar were Sati Rani’s brothers and Joy’s maternal uncles. Producer-director Subodh Mukherjee who is known for movies like Munimji (1955), Paying Guest (1957), Love Marriage (1959), April Fool (1964) and Sharmeelee (1971) was his paternal uncle (Sasadhar’s younger brother).
 
Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din


Ram Mukherjee who directed Hum Hindustani is Joy’s cousin. Actress Rani Mukherjee is Ram’s daughter. Deb Mukherjee who played the lead in Sambandh and Ek Bar Muskaro Do is Joy’s younger brother. Ashutosh Gowariker is married to Deb’s daughter while Deb’s son Ayan Mukherjee directed the sleeper hit – Wake Up Sid. Joy’s brother Shomu was married to actress Tanuja and Kajol is their elder daughter. (Incidentally, Tanuja played the lead with Deb and Joy in Ek Bar Muskura Do, a 1972 release.)

Joy’s family comprises spouse Neelam, daughter Simran and sons – Sujoy and Mojoy. Sujoy had featured in a few films in the early 90’s like Mehboob Mere Mehboob, Hum Hain Kamal Ke and Pyar Pyar but sadly he couldn’t achieve a modicum of success that his father had achieved.

In 2009, Joy made his TV debut in the serial Ae Dil-E-Nadan in an important role. This serial was produced by his son Sujoy.

On 9th March 2012, Joy Mukherjee passed away in Mumbai at the age of 73 years.


English translation by: Shri Kalakad V. Ganapathy

Part of Shishir Krishna Sharma's Beete Hue Din blog series. 

 

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