Joy Mukherjee is best remembered for the sweet as Bengali candy, romantic musicals he starred in during the early 1960s. He was never considered the best of actors, but his boyish good looks and lanky physique made him a favorite with female fans. Mukherjee was tall, had matinee idol good looks, and wore Western clothes like a fashion model. He may have been a bit wooden, and one dimentional as a performer, but at times he showed great comic timing. His role as Dev, the often bewildered hero of "Love in Simla", which was his first film, is his best and most enduring character.
For a few years in the 1960s he was one of the kings of Bollywood lite romances. In films like "Love in Simla" , "Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon" , and "Shagrid"  he wooed the most desirable Bollywood actresses of the period, Sadhana, Asha Parek, and Saira Banu.
Joy Mukherjee was born into an influentual and powerful film family. A list of his relatives reads like a Bollywood who's who. A partical roll-call would include, his father, Sashadhar Mukherjee who was a film producer and ran the influental Filmalaya Studios. Sashadhar Mukherjee is credited with discovering both Sadhana and Asha Parek. Joy's brother Deb Mukherjee married the actress Tanuja. Tanuja is the sister of Nutan and also of course the mother of Kajol. The actress Rani Mukherjee is Joy's neice.
By the late 1960s Joy Mukherjee's star had reached it's peak and was on the wan. The advent of the Rajesh Khanna craze in 1970 caused audiences to loose interest in him as a romantic hero. In the late 60s and the 1970s Mukherjee became a producer and director.
Success played handmaiden to Joy from 1960-1967. His very first film, Love in Simla (1960), catapulted him to stardom. And he wasn't even the first choice for the role. Many newcomers, including Dharmendra, were considered for the project. But director R K Nayyar, desperate to get his maiden film on the floors, noticed producer Sashadhar's son, Joy, and convinced the final year BA student to sign on the dotted line.
Nayyar paired Joy with the attractive and screen-friendly newcomer, Sadhana, and the wide-eyed Azra. Sadhana's Audrey Hepburn fringe became the talk of the town, so did Joy's chocolate boy looks. In this breezy comedy about a bachelor who simultaneously loves two cousin sisters, Mohammad Rafi sang some lilting songs for Joy.
All through his career, Joy's popularity was propped by the sonorous songs that complemented his frat boy image. After all, who can resist jukebox favourites like Bahut shukriya and Aap yun hi agar from Joy and Sadhana's second film together, Ek Musafir Ek Haseena?
Despite a slew of O P Nayyar melodies, Ek Musafirů was initially rejected at the box-office. But a quick re-edit by director Raj Khosla made it more audience-friendly and the film gained in strength week after week.
From 1963, Joy teamed up with Sadhana's immediate rival, Asha Parekh, to collaborate on a hat-trick of musical hits. It was Joy's family banner, Filmalaya, which discovered both Sadhana and Asha. Joy was signed by Nasir Hussain to act opposite Asha in his first colour-saturated song-studded love story, Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon (1963).
Phir Wohi... became emblematic of Joy's image and was a silver jubilee hit.
Then came Pramod Chakravarthy's Ziddi, where Joy enjoyed himself taming the shrewish Asha. The film had even an elephant thrown in for good measure.
At the height of the craze for shooting abroad, Joy declared his love for a kimono-clad Asha fluttering an embroidered fan and false eyelashes in Chakravarthy's next, Love In Tokyo. Chakravarthy's gambit to cash in on Ziddi's success paid off. The film had audiences refusing to do a Sayonara as they returned for repeated viewings.
Parallel to Joy's treacle train of successes with Asha ran a vinegary train of disappointments with Saira Banu. Of the five films Joy and Saira did together --- Door Ki Awaaz, Aao Pyar Kare, Saaz Aur Awaaz, Yeh Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hain and Shagird -- only Shagird hit bull's eye.
Joy showed a fine flair for comedy as Johar's love guru in this golden jubilee hit. He also had a ball playing Casonava to village belle Saira.
Ironically, he didn't work with Saira after Shagird. Also, this was the last Joy film to click at the box office.
The twin cause of Joy's decline was his decision to turn producer-director with Humsaaya and the entry of a younger Rajesh Khanna as the new romantic icon.
In a bid to earn legitimacy as an actor -- he had only acted in fluff fare so far -- Joy decided to give himself a meaty double role in Humsaaya. It was an earnest and expensive effort in which Joy played a spy who doubles as Chinese girl Mala Sinha's husband (also played by Joy) without taking his girlfriend, Sharmila Tagore, into confidence.
He spent lavishly on the production and blew up a bomb on stunts -- including a risky shot of a series of trucks being blown up -- that nearly cost him his life. He even got a lease of unexpected publicity when Mala Sinha and Sharmila Tagore broke into a cat fight on the sets and let the fur fly!
But the audience refused to give the film a fair chance. Joy lost both money and heart.
At the turn of the decade, he tried to pick up the gauntlet again by working in a series of films with ambitious starlets including Ehsaan (1970) with Anjana, Mujrim (1970) with Kumud Chuggani, Puraskar (1970) with Sapna and Kahin Aar Kahin Paar (1971) with Vimi. The brigade of B-grade flicks may have filled his emptied-by-Humsaaya coffers, but it drew the curtain on his career.
Joy tried to revive his career with Ek Baar Muskura Do (1972), which was a moderate success. In this family film, Joy co-starred with brother Deb Mukherjee and to-be sister-in-law Tanuja. The redeeming factor in this replete-with-stage-performances film was O P Nayyar's melodious music.
Ironically, films with big heroines, Love in Bombay (1974) with Waheeda, which he also directed, Saanjh Ki Bela with Nutan (1981) and Umeed with Nanda (1989) trickled in exiguously for the next 17 years of his career. But the heroines, like Joy, were now past their prime.
Joy did enjoy a brief stint of success when he directed Zeenat Aman and Rajesh Khanna in Chhaila Babu (1977). His unerring ear for music found expression in Yaar dildar tujhe kaisa chahiye and Main babu chhaila. But one swallow does not a spring make.
Bottom line is, true to his name, Joy will always be synonymous with the enjoyable, escapist fare of the sixties.