He’s a tetra pack of energy. Neither time nor tide can dull the Peter Pan actor-producer-director, ensconced in a room littered with books, mementoes and newspapers at his Bandra studio.
It’s his 85th birthday today. And so at HT Café, we send him a big chocolate cake, a warm hug and champagne cheers. Ladies and gentlemen, here’s the abiding credo of Dev Anand as told to Roshmila Bhattacharya.
Your autobiography Romancing with Life was released by the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, last year, on September 26, at a special birthday bash in Delhi. How do you plan to bring in your 85th birthday?
I had planned to be in London for the release of the international edition of my autobiography. The book’s been on the best selling list for the last year.. Penguin India wants to take it ahead.
They had a series of events planned in London and Essex. It was all chalked out. I would release the book, whizz through a couple of meetings, return to the recordings and shooting of Chargesheet and then fly off to Germany. But now there could be a hitch.
I was to leave for London on September 24 but my recording with Asha Bhosle who is singing for me 28 years after Jab chaahe mera jadoo in Lootmaar, was postponed by a day. Now, I could be celebrating my birthday either in the Queen’s city or my own city. (Shrugs) It doesn’t really matter. A birthday is like any other day. It’s only when you do something that makes you happy, like the book I did, that makes it special.
Why did it take you almost three decades to get back with your Dum maro dum girl?
Believe me, it wasn’t deliberate. Asha is a singer with a unique voice which can really hit the high notes. This song from Chargesheet needed her to pitch it right. (Dreamily) I still remember those Dum maro dum days. Dada (S D Burman), Pancham (R D Burman), Asha and I would squat on the studio floor while working on the song. These days we have electronic recordings.
Chargesheet is supposed to be modelled on a real murder investigation. True?
It’s not based on any one particular incident but something like this could happen anywhere, anytime. It’s a story about police corruption.
Meaning the system stinks?
There are bad fish in every stream of life. But you can’t say the system is corrupt. I have no complaints against our cops.
I play a retired CBI officer. Jackie (Shroff) and Riya (Sen) have important roles along with a host of newcomers whom I will introduce to the press when I start shooting in Mahabaleshwar and Panchgini in October. If you remember even Jackie was launched in Swami Dada by Navketan. Newcomers are the lifeline of our industry.
Why has Sameer Kochhar, who was to play a corrupt cop, walked out?
I had called Sameer over because I thought he suited a particular role. But he didn’t strike the right chord.
Are you aiming for a 2009 summer release?
Oh definitely, I should be finished with the shooting by January. I already have three reels in the cans. Three-four months on post-production and I could be ready for Cannes.
Yeah, last May my Guide was screened at the Cannes Festival in the ‘Classics’ section, 42 years after its release. I was overwhelmed by the response from a largely European audience.
And to think that back in the 1960s, I was dissuaded from making the film because Raju was not a hero in the true sense. But all my characters, be it in Jaal (’52), Taxi Driver (’53), Kala Pani (’58), Kala Bazar (’59), Guide (’64) or Jewel Thief (’67), had shades of grey.. and yet wowed audiences around the world. Next year I’m hoping Chargesheet will be screened in the ‘Competition’ section at Cannes.
There was talk of a Guide remake?
I won’t let that happen. No matter how good a film it is, it will always be compared to the original which has been elevated to the status of a classic. Why should anyone want to remake it anyway?
There’s no dearth of original ideas. I’ve been a part of this industry for 62 years. Chargesheet will be Navketan’s 37th movie. I’ve never remade a movie or lifted an idea. All my movies have been originals.
There was talk of a Guide sequel called Bhookh.
Goldie and I had planned a film called Bhookh, but it was not a follow-up to Guide. We couldn’t fix the casting, so the movie was never launched.
Guide was India’s official entry for the Academy Awards back in 1966. Do you think Aamir Khan’s Taare Zameen Par bring home the Oscar?
Anything’s possible, you just need to lobby well. At every festival and important award ceremony across the world, there’s a panel of judges who have their favourites. Lobbying to get into the A-list is a must.
I’m 100 per cent sure that if Goldie and I had stayed back in the US and lobbied for Guide we could have brought the Oscar home. But we were in a hurry to return and launch Jewel Thief.
One of your best performances was in a double role in Hum Dono. You will re-release it in colour.. right?
Yes and that should happen soon. It was one of the last of the black-and-white films and has been colourised beautifully. I haven’t seen the new look Mughal-e-Azam or Naya Daur but without trying to run down the films, I’ve heard that the colours weren’t that good. Goldstone Media has done an extremely good job with Hum Dono.
Like Guide, Hum Dono was ahead of its time. So it doesn’t seem outdated even today. And yes, it is one of my best performances. The words of that song, Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya, har fikr ko dhuen mein udata chala gaya, could sum up my life’s philosophy.
Will you write another book?
Perhaps. My romance with life continues. I just need a trigger. Once I’m motivated I’m a fast worker.
Zeenat Aman was upset with your confessions in your book (Romancing with Life).
Why? I was paying her a compliment. She’s a beautiful and intelligent girl who held her own and became a big star. It’s not surprising that I was attracted to her. It can happen to anyone. Love, joy, separation.. it’s a part of life.
Today, when you look back is there anything you regret doing or not doing?
No. That’s why, even today, I’m so full of energy and enthusiasm. This involvement with life is important. It shows in your face, body and system. It stops you from growing old.