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Giving Dev his due

books Updated: Dec 09, 2011 17:01 IST

Poonam Saxena, Hindustan Times, poonamsaxena@hindu
Highlight Story

The Navketan Story Cinema Modern

Sidharth Bhatia

HarperCollins

Rs 1,999 pp 163

Let's face it. When Dev Anand died earlier this month, the man we mourned was the dashing, rakish star of the Fifties and Sixties, not the actor-director who made embarrassingly forgettable films called Censor and Chargesheet in the last 10 years of his life. But despite the dozens of obituaries and articles that appeared in newspapers and magazines, I had a sense of dissatisfaction.

Somehow, when someone like Dev Anand - who all Hindi film lovers loved - dies, there is an intense need to recall and revisit his films, his songs, his stardom, his life. And routine, dutiful stories in the media are not enough. That's why journalist Sidharth Bhatia's coffee-table book, The Navketan Story Cinema Modern is so welcome. Don't be misled by the title. Though the book is about Navketan, in that it also looks at Chetan Anand and Vijay Anand's careers, the spotlight is firmly on Dev Anand. The only caveat: the book focuses specifically on the films Dev did for his home banner. So you won't have too much on, say, CID (produced by Guru Dutt) or Johnny Mera Naam (which Gulshan Rai produced).

But once you've accepted that, sit back and enjoy this very readable, affectionate and perceptive book about Dev Anand's screen persona and what made him and his films so different from the prevailing norm (Bhatia makes short work of the Dark Years, from the Nineties onwards. I am grateful for that).

Navketan classics such as Baazi (1951) and Taxi Driver (1954), part of what could be called Bombay Noir, positioned Dev as the rootless, urban, outwardly cynical hero who also managed to be heart-stoppingly romantic. This profile was so different from Raj Kapoor's Chaplin-inspired Tramp or Dilip Kumar's melancholic tragedy king act. Bhatia traces how in subsequent years, Dev's screen character matured into the urbane dandy of films like Tere Ghar Ke Saamne (1963). But the actor always remained a buoyant, modern city slicker. Just like his films, which were always contemporary and forward-looking.

Bhatia also dwells on Dev's early turn as director with films like Hare Rama Hare Krishna (and briefly on his depressing slide in later years), his many 'discoveries', from Zeenat Aman to Tina Munim, and the magnificent music of Navketan films (mostly composed by SD Burman).

Oh yes, enjoy the wonderful photographs too. If you are a Dev Anand fan, this one is for you.