A maverick filmmaker who was known for making light-hearted entertainers, Manmohan Desai was of Gujarati ancestry. His father, Kikubhai Desai was an Indian film producer and owner of Paramount Studios from 1931 to 1941.
Manmohan Desai's older brother, Subhash Desai, became a producer in the 1950s and gave Manmohan his first break with the Hindi film ‘Chhalia’ (1960). Subhash later went on to produce ‘Bluff Master’, ‘Dharam Veer’, and ‘Desh Premee’ with Manmohan as the director.
Manmohan Desai was known for his family-centered, action-song-and-dance films which catered to the tastes of the Indian masses and through which he achieved great success. His movies defined a new genre called ‘masala’ films.
He had a string of hits with Amitabh Bachchan in the 70s and early 80s which helped cement Bachchan's status as a superstar of Indian cinema. He worked with Amitabh on ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’, ‘Parvarish’, ‘Suhaag’, ‘Naseeb’, ‘Desh Premee’, ‘Coolie’, ‘Mard’ and ‘Ganga Jamuna Saraswati’; all but the last were box office successes. He was one of the directors who had a special working relationship with Amitabh Bachchan.