At 73, Joy Mukerji, the handsome chocolate hero of the ‘60s and early ‘70s who had been ill for many weeks and critical since Mar.5 and succumbed to his illness on Mar.9 at Mumbai’s Lilavati Hospital.
India-West had met him at a filmland event in the ‘90s and requested him for an interview, which the actor had refused for his own reasons. He had barely, if at all, spoken to the media since he quit work in the ‘80s.
Born February 24, 1939 to filmmaker, star-maker and studio baron S.Mukerji and Sati Devi, he had a relatively short but dazzling career. One of the clones of Shammi Kapoor along with co-Bengali Biswajeet and some lesser actors, he had a clean reputation personally and professionally and was a favourite of co-stars like Asha Parekh, Saira Banu, Mala Sinha and Sharmila Tagore. He is survived by wife Neelam, two sons and a daughter. One of his sons, Sujoy, tried unsuccessfully to be a hero in the ‘90s. Joy’s brothers include Deb, Shomu (Tanuja’s husband and Kajol’s and Tanishaa’s father) and Rono Mukerji.
Joy was also the nephew of filmmaker Subodh Mukerji, who produced his career-biggest hit, “Shagird” (1967) and was very close to Ram Mukerji, Rani Mukerji’s father, who was his cousin, who is said to have been the main driving force behind his becoming an actor. Through his mother, Joy was also related to Ashok Kumar and Kishore Kumar (who were his maternal uncles) and distantly to Bappi Lahiri - the Mukerji clan with all its offshoots is the largest family in showbiz after the Kapoors.
Joy Mukerji, who started out in films with the 1960 hit “Love In Simla” produced by his father, incidentally the first film of Sadhana as well, was never known as a great actor and was never exactly loved by the media as he went full-steam cavorting with and serenading an array of ‘60s heroines. He was always the urban stylish gentleman and with his very un-Bengali looks and strapping height was quite the fantasy man in those days.
His hits included popcorn entertainers like “Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon,” “Ek Musafir Ek Hasina” (produced again by his father), “Ziddi,” “Love In Tokyo,” “and “Door Ki Awaz.”
Ironically, it was after “Shagird,” that the actor released “Humsaya” (1968) which he wrote, produced and directed, and its failure marked the beginning of his downslide. Joy played a double role of a Chinese agent and an Indian spy in this ambitious espionage drama, released at a time when younger stars like Jeetendra and Sanjay Khan were making their marks. After this, Joy’s other films like “Dil Aur Mohabbat,” “Ek Kali Muskayee” and “Umeed” also tanked and in the ‘70s he had to settle for B-graders like “Puraskar,” “Inspector,” “Mujrim,” “Ehsan,” “Kahin Aar Kahin Paar” and “Aag Aur Daag.”
Joy next directed “Love In Bombay,” his effort at staging a comeback. He repeated his “Love In Tokyo” composer Shankar (as Shankar-Jaikishan) and had Waheeda Rehman as his heroine but the film could not even get a release. Meanwhile, his cousin Ram’s film “Ek Baar Mooskura Do,” launched to salvage both Deb’s and his own career, nosedived too. Composer O.P.Nayyar and Joy had been a hit combination and the fact that Joy did not enact a single song in this 9-track musical might have been a major reason for its failure. A film launched by his brother Deb, “Dehati” was to star Shammi Kapoor, Jeetendra and Deb Mukerji under Joy’s direction, but was soon shelved.
In 1977, Joy returned to direction with his brother Shomu’s “Chhaila Babu,” the hit starring Rajesh Khanna and Zeenat Aman and got a temporary second brush with fame. His last film as a leading man was “Haiwan” (1977), which flopped. Joy ended his career with small cameos in two 1985 films, Shomu’s “Lover Boy”(as a villain) and “Insaaf Main Karoonga.”
Saira Banu recalled Joy’s sense of mischief. “He would distract me during close-ups by making faces, and laughed when I complained to his father by asking, ‘Why have you cast me with a monkey?’”Co-stars Sharmila Tagore, Vyjayanthimala, Mala Sinha and Asha Parekh remember him as a helpful, handsome and considerate co-star who was confident, very handsome and never prone to throw his weight around despite being the son of S.Mukerji.
Joy, like most heroes and heroines of his generation, ended up having a huge repertoire of timeless songs. O.P.Nayyar scored the maximum films with him, scoring evergreens like “Aanchal mein sajaa lena kaliyan” and the title-track of “Phir wohi dil laya hoon”, “Dil ki awaz bhi sun” (“Humsaaya”) and “Aap yun hi agar” (“Dil Aur Mohabbat”). Kalyanji-Anandji’s “Hum chhod chale hai mehfil ko” (“Ji Chahta Hai”) and “Dil beqaraar sa hai” (“Ishara”), Shankar-Jaikishan’s “O mere shah-e-khubaa” and “Le gayi dil” from “Love In Tokyo,” Ravi’s “Hum bhi agar bacche hote,” Madan Mohan’s title song in “Ek Kali Muskayee” and Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s “Woh hai zaraa khafaa khafaa” and “Bade miyan diwane” from “Shagird” were among the crème-de-la-crème of his music of a star who worked in his limited oeuvre of 30 films with every top heroine of those times from Nutan and Nanda to Rajshree and Mala Sinha.