Eternal romantic

Print edition : December 30, 2011

Dev Anand during an interview on his new movie, "Chargesheet", in New Delhi on October 23, 2010. - SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Dev Anand (1923-2011) was full of verve, a dynamic personality who knew his vocation well.

HE spent his life facing the camera, bringing joy to countless fans. His last wish, ironically, was not to face the camera after death. He did not want his followers to see his lifeless face. Dev Anand was the very essence of life, a man who knew how to make films, not always for the masses, but to make his point, again, not always successfully.

Born to a well-settled Punjabi family in Gurdaspur in Punjab, Dharam Dev Pishorimal Anand was a quintessential film-maker. He was the third of four brothers, the others being Manmohan, Chetan and Vijay. His mother called him Dev and his father Dev-aan. Dev Anand was very fond of his father and wrote glowingly of him in his autobiography, Romancing With Life.

Dev Anand was an actor, producer and director and, above all, a great promoter of young talent. I gave the world Zeenat Aman, he would proudly announce. Dev Saab was indefatigable, she said after hearing about Dev Anand's death in London.

Dev Anand was indeed indefatigable. His energy was infectious and he kept everyone on their toes. Cinema was his life. His unsung debut in 1946 in Hum Ek Hain was the beginning of an illustrious journey for a man who just refused to age. Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor were a glorious triumvirate of Indian cinema. For decades they dominated the silver screen. Raj and Dilip graduated to play senior roles, but Dev Anand stayed the hero of his movies.

He did his schooling in Dalhousie, Himachal Pradesh, and went to college for a while in Dharamshala before going to Lahore (now in Pakistan) to study English literature. His focus was on cinema, and he lost little time in getting his priorities right. Bombay (now Mumbai) was his destination. Dev Anand would have been lost to Indian cinema had he been selected for a commission in the Royal Indian Navy of the British armed forces. Thank God he was rejected! With a royal sum of Rs.30 in his pocket, Dev Anand boarded the Frontier Mail to Bombay in a third-class compartment.

A job at the Military Censor Office on a salary of Rs.145 a month was Dev Anand's initiation to the city he wished to conquer. My first assignment was to censor letters, to and from Indian and British Army personnel, posted in India on army bases. It was a very interesting job, for I could open and read all sorts of letters, written by officers and men of the British armed forces to their loved ones. This was an education for me, wrote Dev Anand in his autobiography.

He was working at the Censor Office, but his mind was occupied with cinema. In one of the letters, an army officer wrote to his wife: I wish I could chuck this job right now. Dev Anand had made up his mind by then. He chucked his job and soon got an offer to act in Hum Ek Hain with P.L. Santoshi as its director. Dev Anand had landed a contract with Prabhat Film Studios. His journey with cinema had begun.

Zeenat Aman came to signify the change in Indian cinema, thanks to Dev Anand. When he chose her, following a brief encounter at a party, for the role in Hare Rama Hare Krishna of a misguided girl, neglected at home and seeking solace in drugs, Dev Anand was only conforming to his reputation of winning over the youth. Zeenat slipped into the role easily too.

Hippie culture was sweeping the youth in the 1970s, and Dev Anand did justice with a story that appealed to cinema lovers. Of course, he remained the central character of that movie but not at the cost of Zeenat, who became a huge star after Hare Rama Hare Krishna. Chargesheet was his last movie, hitting the screens a mere two months before he passed away. It was a flop, just as most of his movies of the past two decades were, but it proved that Dev Anand spoke his mind. He chose subjects that few would touch and did not mind failure.

An anecdote by his nephew, the actor-director Shekhar Kapur, throws light on how Dev Anand, 55 at that stage, faced life bravely. Ishq Ishq Ishq was a project close to his heart, but it was a disaster at the box office. As reports of the film having bombed poured in, Dev Anand remained closeted in a room for some 10 minutes and emerged with the announcement that he had found a plot for a new movie. Ten minutes was all it took for him to forget past failures and look ahead with an infectious enthusiasm.

A great hit with most female stars, Dev Anand acted with some of the top names of the industry Suraiya, Nargis, Madhubala, Geeta Bali, Nimmi, Kalpana Kartik, Nalini Jaywant, Meena Kumari, Waheeda Rehman, Nutan, Vyjayanthimala, Mala Sinha, Suchitra Sen, Nanda, Asha Parekh, Sadhana, Hema Malini, Mumtaz, Sharmila Tagore, Rakhee, Zeenat Aman, Parveen Babi and Priya Rajvansh. He was known for introducing new faces. Zeenat and Tina Munim turned out to be his most outstanding gifts to the film industry even as his charisma as a film-maker began to fade in the mid-1970s.

His work ethic left many of his co-stars in awe. His tireless dedication was inspiring, and his work was acknowledged as the new trend in cinema. He believed in conviction when shooting with young actors, and his zeal for his work on the sets would leave many in a trance because he would not sit still.

Guide, the English version of which was released first, was his most celebrated work. It became an iconic movie for its screenplay adapted from R.K. Narayan's book and its music and subject adultery. Rosy, portrayed by Waheeda in an unforgettable performance, was so beautifully projected in the movie that she ended up earning the sympathy of the audience for her bold step of deserting her workaholic husband.

Vijay Anand was the director, but the stamp of Dev Anand's input was unmistakable. Waheeda had the freedom to express herself. Dev Anand allowed women actors the space they desired.

Music was an integral part of his films. The trio of S.D. Burman, Sahir Ludhianvi and Dev Anand gave Hindi cinema innumerable hits for decades. Dada [Burman] was a genius. His understanding of the situation and the mood of the characters was reflected in his instrumentation. He could create magic almost at will. Sahir was phenomenal. Just look at the emotions behind the words he wrote. They are equal partners in the success of Navketan [his film production company] and my films, acknowledged a grateful Dev Anand.

He was a cult figure for his handling of issues through the medium of cinema. That he was dashing and debonair was well known. He was also said to be a kind-hearted man and very accommodating. He was full of verve, a dynamic personality who knew his vocation well. He was as comfortable doing comical scenes in Afsar, the first film for Navketan in 1950 as he was playing negative roles in Baazi.

WHEN HE RECEIVED the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in New Delhi on December 29, 2003.-PTI

Much before Prem Pujari dealt with love in the time of war or Hare Rama Hare Krishna cautioned society about vulnerable youth turning to drugs, Dev Anand was Bambai ka Babu, a movie considered way ahead of its time when it was made in 1960. In it, a man who is mistaken for the lost son of a family in a village falls in love with the daughter of the family. The subject was not very comfortable to deal with, given the mindset of the people of that era. But the performances of Dev Anand and Suchitra Sen, S.D. Burman's music, and the apt direction combined to make a beautiful picture.

A man of varied interests

Dev Anand was a man of varied interests. He followed politics even though he was never inclined to become a politician. He had strong views on many social issues, some of which he dealt with through his movies, beginning with his debut film, which dealt with communal unity during troubled times in the country. He writes of the historic and inspiring speech of Jawaharlal Nehru on August 15, 1947. It was a masterpiece both in its content and its mastery of the English language, delivered in an impeccable crisp accent.

A year after Independence came Ziddi, a film that Dev Anand reckoned was a milestone in his career. He came into close contact with Ashok Kumar, but importantly, he was introduced to Kishore Kumar, who was to become his voice in many successful Navketan ventures later. Kishore's debut song, Marne ki duayen kyun mangoo (Why would I pray for death), was sung by Dev Anand in Ziddi. Even though the film did not include Dilip Kumar, it laid the foundation for a friendship between them. Both would travel together in the local train to work Dev Anand for Ziddi and Dilip Kumar for Shaheed.

Not all his films did well, but then he stood out for the subjects he chose. Prem Pujari was his way of saying no to war. He combined love and border conflicts to come up with a movie that had music as the strongest ingredient. It was amazing how he accepted different singers to be his voice. He revelled in Mohammad Rafi's Khoya khoya, chand khula aasman, a song that immortalised Dev Anand's inimitable gait: a combination of swagger, stooping frame and flailing arms. He swooned to Hemant Kumar's Hai ana dil to awara and Kishore Kumar's Mana janaab ne pukara nahi. Manna Dey's Chale jaa rahen hain mohabbat ke mare, kinare kinare suited his style perfectly as did Talat Mahmood's Jayen to jayen kahan.

There was a sense of rebellion in the manner in which he chose his wardrobe for some of his movies. A shirt-pyjama combination in Milap and the sherwani in Kala Pani were in huge contrast to the outrageous yellow trousers-red-shirt kind of combinations, a scarf around his neck, which came into vogue in the 1970s. It is tough to recall Dev Anand in a T-shirt even though he went shirtless for a couple of sequences in Amar Deep and Hum Dono.

Only Dev Saab could get away with such mind-boggling variety. He had a penchant for the hills. He would spend weeks in search of ideal spots to shoot his songs. He was fascinated by nature, and it was an essential part of his locations for filming songs. He would travel any distance, even go to Switzerland, in search of an exotic location. One of the most romantic songs from Indian cinema Tere mere sapne ab ek rang hain (from Guide) was shot in twilight at a striking spot.

The locations matched the songs, the situational shots being his forte. Apni to har aah ek toofan hai from Kala Bazaar was a gem, with Waheeda Rehman on the top berth of the train compartment and Dev Anand at his romantic best.

Dev Anand was in 50 films before the memorable Kala Pani was made. It not only fetched Dev Anand his first Filmfare Award but also established him as a versatile actor. He also benefited from four outstanding directors brothers Chetan and Vijay and dear friends Guru Dutt and Raj Khosla. They had a huge influence on his career.

Chetan directed him in Afsar, Aandhiyan, Taxi Driver, Funtoosh, Kinare Kinare, Janeman and Saheb Bahadur. Younger brother Vijay was his favourite, playing the director in Nau Do Gyarah, Kala Bazaar, Tere Ghar Ke Samne, Guide, Jewel Thief, Johny Mera Naam and Tere Mere Sapne. He never failed to acknowledge his debt to Raj Khosla for movies such as CID, Kala Pani, Solva Saal and Bambai Ka Babu. The legendary Guru Dutt created hits such as Baazi and Jaal.

He was disappointed at not being able to settle down with Suraiya as his life partner following opposition from her family. He married Kalpana Kartik in 1954 during the making of Taxi Driver. She stopped acting after six movies. Dev Anand later introduced his son, Suneil, in films. He remained fiercely protective of his family and kept his personal life private.

As a director, Dev Anand experienced more flops than successes. He made his debut with Prem Pujari in 1970 and went on to give hits such as Hare Rama Hare Krishna and Heera Panna. His last worthy offering as director was Des Pardes, in which he introduced Tina Munim. He made 15-odd movies in his later years, but not one came to be accepted by the masses.

The unforgettable Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gayaa from Hum Dono truly signified Dev Anand's career. It was a journey full of life where he accepted challenges as part of the process to give meaning and joy to his work. The Padma Bhushan in 2001 and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2002 were well-earned honours. He died in a London hotel on December 3 at the age of 88. The legend of Dev Anand lives on.

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