Saturday, June 22, 2024

Priyanka Chopra says ‘moral police is still around’ as Zeenat Aman recalls playing sex worker in Manoranjan


Zeenat Aman, who is known for her honesty and taking up bold roles during her acting days, recently shared her experience working in Shammi Kapoor’s directorial debut film Manoranjan, alongside Sanjeev Kumar. In the film, she played the role of a liberated sex worker who was unapologetic about how she earns her living. The role which was quite forward for its time, attracted moral police, who according to the yesteryear actress had a field day with her 1974 film — an adaptation of the 1963 American comedy Irma Le Douce. However, Zeenat claimed that despite moral police, the 70s were a wonderful time to be alive as “the atmosphere of experimentation, freedom, and fashion was unmatchable.”
On Monday, the actress took to her Instagram handle to share a couple of throwback photos from the time she shot for Manoranjan. While the first photo was of the actor in her role of Nisha, the next photo was a hand-painted poster. The last and final photo was a beautiful black-and-white candid picture, in which both Zeenat and Sanjeev could be seen with Shammi Kapoor.
Sharing the photos, the actress wrote, “If I’ve had a steady companion through my career, it’s been the moral police. And, my goodness, did they have a field day with this one!”
She added, “Manoranjan defied existing conventions. It was an adaptation of the fabulous 1963 American comedy ‘Irma Le Douce’, and it featured me in the starring role of Nisha. A sex worker with a sense of dignity, independence and humour.”
“Filming Manoranjan was a ‘haste-haste, khelte-khelte’ affair. It was Shammi Kapoor’s directorial debut, had RD Burman in the role of music director, and Sanjeev Kumar as the leading man. The producer FC Mehra was a family friend. We shot the film entirely in studios in Mumbai, and it released in 1974,” she wrote further.
Writing about her character Nisha, Zeenat said, she was no damsel in distress. “Her outfits were flirtatious and sexy, but more importantly, she was unapologetic about how she earns a living. This was a character that I could have fun with: sexually liberated, financially independent, and fully capable of locking horns with, and turning down, any man.”
“I’ve always maintained that I am a ‘director’s actor’, and I do believe Shammi ji coaxed out one of my better performances with this film. The music and costumes were also a hoot. In ‘aaya hoon main tujh ko le jaoonga’ we dance upon gigantic musical instruments, ‘chori chori solah singar’ (sung by Asha ji) has a titillating shower sequence, and ‘dulhan maike chali’ is pictured entirely in a police van full of sex workers being taken to the police station and was sung by all three Mangeshkar sisters! If you’re interested, you can watch these on YouTube,” she added.
Concluding her long post, the actress claimed, “The 70s were a wonderful time to be alive! Despite the moral police (they’re always around) the atmosphere of experimentation, freedom and fashion was unmatchable!”
The post caught the attention of global star Priyanka Chopra, who wrote in the comment section, “Moral police is still around and will continue to be around it seems! But you are beyond.” Meanwhile, Archana Puran Singh wrote a long note, recalling her experience of watching the film for the first time.
She wrote, “Of course I remember watching this absolutely amazing film in the small town theatres of Dehradun! And big what an experience it was. Even though I was very young I was enthralled by the world that was created and my parents thought nothing of sending a young girl to watch a film on this subject (I wonder if it had an A certificate and that somehow I was still allowed! Those times were different and parents were not very well informed I guess.”
She added, “But I’m happy I got to watch a film that has endured in my memory till date! ) This is one of your films Z which has had a lasting impression on me (the other being Hare Rama Hare Krishna) and I became your hugest fan… the costumes, your styling and your entire presence was such an inspiration for me at the time and when my brother came yo know that over the years you and I became friends he was like ‘wow, you got to make your dream of meeting your icon come true’. So yes, Manoranjan and you played a big part in my own aspirations and realisation of becoming an actor myself.”
Manoranjan is regarded as the only Hindi film where prostitution was presented as a ‘fun’ activity without moralising. The film, however, was panned by the critics and audience due to the send of immorality. While the film was not a box office success, it has arguably acquired the status of a classic.
(Courtesy: IE)