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Maan graduated with a degree in physical education from Malout and then got a diploma in judo from the National Institute of Sports, Patiala. But he soon found that music was his true calling.He would sing for his friends at social get togethers but it was only after a gig at a wedding that he realised that he could pursue it as a career.He came to limelight in 1980 when he performed Dil Da Mamla on Jawang Tarang a New Year Eve programme on Doordarshan. Three years later, he released his first album, Mamla Gadbad Hai. And as the cliche goes, there was no looking back after that.

Indeed, for the young boy who studied at a government school in Giddarbha in Faridkot district, it has been a rather long—and eventful journey. Today Maan shuttles between Mumbai and his home in Patiala, making trips to his village where his mother and brother still reside or a quick hop to Chandigarh, where his sister lives. When he is in Mumbai, he's busy with recordings and shoots (the team is currently working on its fourth film Waris Shah—Ishq Da Waaris) and rest of the time is spent travelling for shows.

While in Mumbai, Mann manages to catch an odd English film at Fame Adlabs opposite his office, but if you happen to catch him at home in Patiala, don't be surprised to find him tucking into rajma chawal sitting cross-legged on a manji, he warns. It's almost like living two lives. And when we ask him which he prefers—his answer is delivered in his trademark poetic style: "I am a traveller. Put me anywhere and I'll be fine"

As Gurikk, Maan's 20-some-thing Eton-educated son, says, "Dad is a true renunciate, a fakir. He is not at all fussy and is extremely detached from material things. If he goes abroad for a show and the organisers can't organise a suite for him, he is the last person to complain." Manjeet confirms that Maan still makes his own cup of tea in the morning, in spite of having lived a life surrounded by servants and domestic help.

Maan is completely at peace with himself and it shows. Cooperative and relaxed for the photo shoot, he keeps spouting shers and lines of Punjabi poetry. They are from a book he's had since he was a child and he knows them by heart. Which is why he also writes well. Manoj Punj, director of his three productions, including Des Hoyaa Pardes for which Maan just won the National Jury Award for Best Actor this year, says the singer is the best Punjabi lyricist around.

Actor Parmeet Sethi says, "He is a superstar not only in the sense of being an actor or singer but also as a human being. I have worked in many films but there have been very few films where the producers have made me feel like a part of their family—Gurdas and Manjeet are among that select few. There's always home-cooked food, never outside catering. The Punjabiyat is pronounced when it comes to food and the atmosphere is so relaxed I that you feel the shooting is almost just incidental."

We understand what he means as we sit down for lunch brought from Manjeet's home in Madh Island where she prefers to live "it's more open and green than the city". Maan stays with her father and son in their 19th floor flat in Lokhandwala Complex. The couple eats every day with several other staff members who are family than employees.Besides , Punj, their director, and Omkar Bhakri, their editor, there is Kanan Dhawan, who Manjeet says is her foster mother (as well as the executive producer of their films).


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