Remember the superstar last year, authors Hanif Zaveri and Sumant Batra wrote a new certified bio on Sanjeev Kumar called Actor Actor. The book was published by Penguin India on October 25, 2021 and sheds light on the life and times of one of the greatest actors of his era, Sanjeev Kumar. Here we share an exclusive excerpt from ‘Actor Actor’ which gives a glimpse into the moment when Sanjeev Kumar decided to become an actor and his struggles that followed.
Foray into acting
Harry knew that his fate was irrevocably linked to Indian cinema, but many obstacles stood between him and his goal. Overcoming most of them required divine intervention, but some, like his voice, thought he could work on it.
“Yes, he was worried about his weak voice,” CH Entwala confirms. Harry worked hard to convey his dialogue, practicing the same lines in different tones and tones and modifying them with different forms of emotional intensity. His guide CH Intwala will supervise dialogue reading sessions each evening. At the time, Harry had no idea that the voice he was seeking to change would one day help him carve out a niche for himself in the world of cinema and, later, would become a staple in the artists’ tradition, though they would soon find him. It is impossible to reproduce the various nuances that influenced his tone.
Harry concluded that if he wanted to move forward in his career, he would have to train him professionally. Filmalaya directors’ school of acting has had a good reputation.
Harry rushed to gain admission, but, to his disappointment, learned that the fee was out of reach.
The drive home was not easy that day. He wondered if his family would be so poor if his father was alive. His mother was nothing short of a warrior, but there were times when he desperately needed a father figure, and that was one day. He entered the house after ten in the evening upset and went straight to bed. His mother sensed that something was wrong, so she went to talk to him. Harry was mired in despair and let down by words; Sadness enveloped his innocent face, and he seemed to be getting old after his years. Chantappen ran her fingers through her dark curls and mistrusted her son. Her kindness bothered him even more, and he felt guilt and ashamed of his unreasonable demands. He scolded himself, tried to tell her that he needed the money but hesitated, then broke down and told her. Shantappen raised her hand, indicating that he shouldn’t say more than that. She was selling her jewelry to fund his acceptance – as a widow, she was forbidden to wear colored clothes or ornaments anyway.
Harry refused, and stood firm on his position, arguing with his mother and son in the early hours. They finally decided to pawn her jewelry. Once Harry finds his footing, he will buy it again. Chantappen forced him to take action the next morning, assuring that he had paid the full fees and started his classes.
In an interview with Amin Siani, recorded in 1974, Sanjeev Kumar spoke at length about the relationship he shared with his mother:
She is my closest friend, someone who knows all my moods, my likes and dislikes. She helps me solve my problems. When I am hurt or upset, I cry in her lap, and she puts her hand on my head and gives me the courage to stand up and fight my fate; She is the one who helps me maintain my patience. She has one complaint against me, which is that I don’t visit the temple enough. I tell her I don’t believe in God, and I can’t believe in someone I can’t see. I believe in you. You are my mother, my friend and my God.
Was he able to recover his mother’s gold from the mortgagee? You bet he did!
PD Shenoy taught acting in Filmalaya. Many of his students went on to become successful actors, including Sadhana, Asha Parekh and Joy Mukherjee. Shenoy had a unique way of teaching. He would assign a full character with a dramatic story to each of his students and ask them to give an impromptu performance based on the instructions. Hari was natural, flowing in and out of complex characters in the blink of an eye. Mohan Makigani, better known as Mac Mohan, was Harry’s classmate. He is best remembered for playing Samba in Sholai (1975), where Harry played Thakur. Who knew at the time that two students from the same group would become part of one of the most iconic works of art in Indian cinema?