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How Joy Mukherjee lost and found Love in Bombay? 


True love goes past the limitations of time, logic, and practicality. For 40 years, a forgotten superstar would take his car down to a dilapidated cold storage facility in Mumbai's business district of Worli. He would spend hours in an empty warehouse. Nobody knew of this. Nobody noticed. For it was here that Joy Mukherjee hid his secret love in Bombay. 

Shriram Iyengar

It is very difficult to explain the phenomenon of Joy Mukherjee. He was the closest Hindi cinema got to the mystique and charm of Rock Hudson, and the only actor to have the 'je ne sais quoi' that marked stars like Dev Anand and Shammi Kapoor. The son of film mogul, Sasadhar Mukherjee, Joy arrived in Hindi cinema with the lighthearted romantic comedy 'Love in Simla'. Playing the coiffed young man with enchanting eyes, Joy Mukherjee exuded a confidence and charm that was rare in the industry.

Soon, he was blazing a trail with films like Ek Musaafir Ek Hasina(1962), Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hun(1963), Shagird(1967) and the famous Love in Tokyo(1966).

The appeal of the actor lies in the light-hearted nostalgia that accompanies his name. Most Joy Mukherjee films were romances filled with delightful poetry,  scenic locales and beautiful heroines. Throw in a dash of physical comedy and you have the perfect Bollywood rom-com. Women were swooning over his physique and the swirling locks of hair. Mohammed Rafi's golden voice made his allure even more irresistible. From the beautifully poetic 'Aye mere shahe khuban' from Love in Simla (1960).

..to the 'Bahut shukriya badi meherbani' from Ek Musaafir Ek Hasina (1962), a Joy Mukherjee film was built on the success of his songs. 

 

As meteoric as his rise was, the sudden fall from fame came as a surprise. The arrival of the 70s marked a decline in the quality of Joy Mukherjee's films.

He soon turned to directorial ventures with films like Humsaya (1972) and Chailla Babu (1977). In between these was the labour of his love, Love in Bombay(1972). The last part of the trilogy, it starred an eclectic mix of star actors that included his uncles Kishore and Ashok Kumar, Waheeda Rehman, Sonia Sahni and Rehman. Made on an expensive budget of Rs 35 lakh in 1972, the film was dropped by producers. 1972 was the year of Anand and Hare Rama Hare Krishna. By then, Joy Mukherjee was fast joining the cast of 'once upon a time', but the man with the most optimistic of first names just wouldn't give up. Almost bankrupt and with no support to release the film, he held on to its prints and bided his time. With every passing decade, the memory of the film continued to fade. His son, Sujoy Mukherjee said in an interview 'He never even told me where the reels of the film were stored. I would tell him that there is no such film called Love in Bombay and that he was lying. I had not even heard songs from the film.' For the actor-director, it was a secret muse that he protected close to his heart. He spent years revisiting the film, now stored in a cold storage warehouse in Worli, finding ways to release the film on the big screen.

Just as the plans to bring the film to life were coming to fruition, Joy Mukherjee breathed his last on 9th March 2012. However, his dream lived on. His son, Sujoy, brought up on the stories of the film decided to give it one last shot. But nobody had any information on the film. He visited several cold storages in the city searching for the lost prints. It was sheer serendipity that he came across a bill for Fazalbhoy Cold Storage, Worli in a file belonging to his father. He says 'One day, as I was going through my father’s bills, I saw a bill from Fazalbhoy Cold Storage, Worli (central Mumbai,/EM>).When I called them, they told me they had the negatives for Love in Bombay. I immediately went there, paid the bill and got the negatives.'

After some work on the prints and the support of PVR Director's Rare section programme, the film was released on Mumbai's screens on 2nd August 2013. In an age of fast edit sequences and vehicles performing dizzying stunts to send Newton into a breakdown, the slow pace and uber-romanticism of Mukherjee felt out of place. To be honest, Love in Bombay is not one of Mukherjee's best works. It was not surprising that the lead heroine Waheeda Rehman, now a graceful grandmother figure, was apprehensive of its release. For old fans of the actor, the film represented something else. A throwback to the simpler times when heroes were charming, graceful, beautiful and heroines demure and shy. It was another chance to watch the man who brought back memories of their lost youth.