Joy Mukherjee made romantic musicals come alive
The dancing star’s story is a gladdening tale where talent found its true place in the spotlight, says Sunaina Kumar
There was a time in Hindi cinema when sons of influential filmmakers were not guaranteed a career in movies on the basis of nepotism. Joy Mukherjee’s story is one such gladdening tale. The son of Sati Devi (sister of Ashok and Kishore Kumar) and Sashadhar Mukherjee, founder of Filmalaya Studio, joy Mukherjee made his debut in Love in Simla (1960). His father was keen to cast Shammi Kapoor as the hero, but the script writer Aghajani Kashmeri saw Joy and suggested him as the hero. Sashadhar Mukherjee was fairly sceptical about casting his own son and asked Kashmeri to take responsibility to train the young man as an actor. Love in Simla was also the launch vehicle of actress Sadhana and went on to become a huge hit. So did its lead pair.
It was not just this one time, in his brief but bright career in the 1960s, Joy Mukherjee would repeatedly step into the shoes of Shammi Kapoor. The movies that Shammi could not take on, were done by either two Bengali stars, Joy and Biswajeet. They were dubbed the poor man’s Shammi Kapoor. The movies were all light-hearted musicals, like Ek Musafir Ek Hasina, Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon, Love in Tokyo and Ziddi. His pairing with Asha Parekh and Sadhana worked magic at the box office. With his tall, movie star looks and flamboyant Shammi-style dancing, his fan following was largely female.
“With his very first film, Joy entered [the industry] with a bang. He modelled himself on Shammi Kapoor and was well known for his dancing and his physical presence. There was a time in the ’60s when he consistently delivered hits and was very popular, and a rage with women,” remembers film writer Rauf Ahmed.
More a performer, less an actor, he found himself struggling for roles as actors like Manoj Kumar, Dharmendra, Jeetendra and Rajesh Khanna steadily ate into his niche, and the musicals of the ’60s started fading away. He went behind the camera, producing and directing under his home banner and found moderate success with films like Ek Baar Muskura Do (1972) with Deb Mukherjee and Tanuja and the 1977 suspense thriller Chailla Babu with Zeenat Aman and Rajesh Khanna.
Joy Mukherjee’s brother Deb Mukherjee too acted in a few films, and his second brother, and actress Kajol’s father, Shomu Mukherjee was a film producer. His younger niece is Rani Mukherjee and nephew filmmaker Ayan Mukherjee.
Sunaina Kumar is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.com.