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When Kumar Gaurav acted in an American film


Long forgotten by Hindi film industry, Kumar Gaurav featured in an unheralded American film 'Guiana 1838' on the theme of slavery

Mayur Lookhar

He turned into an overnight superstar following a smashing debut with the 1981 flick Love Story. Late Rajendra Kumar’s son Manoj Tuli (better known as Kumar Gaurav) and a beautiful Vijayta Pandit  came as a breath of fresh air. Rumour had it that their reel love had spilled onto real life too but their respective families opposed this union. Sadly, Love Story was the first and last time the duo would be paired.

Both Kumar and Pandit would fail to build onto their impressive debut and would soon be lost in oblivion. While Pandit got married to music director Aadesh Srivastava, Kumar made many attempts to resurrect his career but failed. He was part of few hit films, but Kumar merely played a supporting role.

People would discuss both Kumar’s dramatic rise and dramatic fall in the same breath. From '80s onwards, Kumar had few films in every decade, but none worthy enough to bring his career back on track. His last work of repute was in supporting cast in Sanjay Gupta’s thriller Kaante (2002). This was the second time he had worked with his brother-in-law Sanjay Dutt.

In 2004, he attracted attention when it was reported that Kumar will be making his debut in an American film. Well, this was no big film though as it was made by one by independent director Rohit Jagessar. 

‘Guiana 1838’ was the tale of an Indian who travels to Guiana (now Guyana) seeking a better life for himself but ends up being a slave.

The film goes back to the mid 18th century, where it was thought that the British Empire had abolished slavery, but the British plantation owners wouldn't have it. It reveals the trials and tribulations of both the resilient African slaves and the unsuspecting Indians from Calcutta who were sold on the golden dreams of "El Dorado" only to find themselves on a slave ship to hard labour in an unforgiving land. Each faced perils at the hands of British plantation owners who positioned these two exploited people against each other. The character of Laxman (Kumar) defies centuries of colonial exploitation and forces the hand of the British Empire to ultimately enforce the abolition of slavery once and for all. 

Without backing from any big American studios, Guiana 1838 was never going to create much buzz in America, but Kumar can take pride that despite his domestic career all but over, he was chosen to be part of this film.

As he turns 56 today, he can take heart from his toil in Guiana 1838.