Last Sunday, I woke up to the news that Dev Anand was gone. Impossible! How could the Peter Pan producer-director-writer-actor, who was 88 and had been bouncing around with the energy of an eight-year-old, have turned quiet forever? I switched on the TV hoping it was just a nightmare that could be wished away. And was hit by a deluge of eulogies, dirges and tears. Memories are heart-wrenching and usually leave me teary-eyed but in Dev saab’s case, the tears refused to come...
My editor buzzed me wondering who could speak about the man and their moments. A voice from within me prompted, “Vyjayanthimalaji”. I haven’t seen their Amar Deep (1958) or Duniya (1968), but I remembered ‘Hothon pe aisi baat main dabake chali aayi…’ from Jewel Thief (1967).
I called up her son, Suchindra Bali. He was in Bangalore but gave me a Chennai number and told me I could call around noon. I was expecting more tears but Vyjayanthimalaji wasn’t in mourning. Like me, she refused to believe that her always courteous, mercifully tall co-star was lying still in a hotel in London. “I can see him walking towards me with a smile saying, ‘Pappa, where have you been?” And suddenly I knew who had guided me towards this still-young 75-year-old diva. Dev saab, who on his 85th birthday had told me that there were no regrets and his romance with life continued, unfettered by age or conventions.
“This involvement is important. It shows on your face and body, it stops you from growing old,” he had reasoned. He was right.
Old is a word no one ever associated with him. He lived in the present and hated revisiting the past.
He also hated remixes and remakes. Once, when I asked him about a Guide remake that Rituparno Ghosh was reportedly planning with Akshay Kumar and Vidya Balan, he had frowned darkly, “I’ll never let it happen. Why should anyone want to remake a film? There’s no dearth of original ideas. I have been a part of this industry for over six decades, Chargesheet is Navketan’s 37th movie. I’ve never remade a movie or lifted an idea.”
Colourising a black-and-white classic like Hum Dono (1962) to connect with generation next was okay. As he pointed out, both Guide and Hum Dono had been films ahead of their times and so did not seem outdated half a century later. “
Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya, har fikr ko dhuen mein udata chala gaya…
’ could sum up my life’s philosophy,” he smiled, as he faced me across his desk, piled high with half-finished film scripts, drafts of another autobiography, and publicity material for the Nayi Hum Dono.
So often he had chided me for using Alexander Graham Bell’s invention to connect with him. When I’d tell him a deadline was looming ahead and a ‘telephonic’ would be quicker, he would oblige with a long-suffering sigh, his thoughts scattering in different directions as the words tumbled out. The conversations always ended with, “Now come across one of these days for a cup of coffee and a casual chat.”
I’m glad I planned our coffee date days before the premiere of the new Hum Dono. I even let a younger colleague tag along. Dev saab reminiced about his first double role, dismissed the remixed ‘Dum maro dum…’ song, shared his excitement over a Hare Rama Hare Krishna sequel that he was planning to shoot in Nepal as hours flashed past. As I got up to leave, my professionally-detached colleague, who had turned into a starry-eyed fan, fished out a camera from her bag and asked me to click a picture of her with her childhood idol. Dev saab was charmingly gracious as I smiled into the lens. Then, to my surprise, he beckoned me over and turning to her instructed, “Now you, my dear, can take a picture of Roshmila and me.”
Click! That pic is not with me, but the moment will always be framed in my memory. Yesterday, the world bid Dev saab a final adieu. But for me, it’s still hard to say goodbye. Like Vyjayanthimalaji, I too believe that one day soon, my friend, philosopher and guide will walk back into my life smiling, “Roshmila, I’ve just been on this magical journey, there’s so much to talk about. Shall I order the coffee?”