At the Mumbai Press Club the mood was euphoric. “It is a clear record!” chortled the club’s secretary. “In just three days the media carried 13,894 articles on Dev Anand. What an achievement! Forget the reporters’ beats. Forget hierarchy. Every journalist managed to get his piece on Dev saab published. It’s a fitting reply to Press Council of India chairperson Markandey Katju, for his unkind remarks on the quality of Indian journalism.”
Dozens of journalists sat around a huge table, glasses in their hands to discuss this achievement.
Senior editor: The coverage cut across barriers. I had been too busy to see a movie for 37 years. Yet I produced a piece on Dev saab. He did so many things, handled so many themes of which he had no knowledge or experience in his career! Like one of our politicians. So it was easy to do my piece.
Crime reporter: That’s the point! He made so many films on so many topics that it was easy to write about him. As a crime reporter I had watched Jewel Thief, Loot Maar, Gambler, Bullet and CID. There was so much material available on him from these films, I could dash off a piece in 20 minutes!
Political correspondent: Indian cinema treats politics shabbily. Why don’t we make pictures like Seven Days in May and Frost/Nixon. This is my worry. But thankfully, Dev saab did make some political films like Censor, Mr Prime Minister and, of course, Amir Garib also carried some messages (though obscure) on the national economy. But then political stories can be speculative and I could dash off a piece like the one I did on Mamata Banerjee after watching Ziddi.
Cricket correspondent: With the nation crazy about cricket, how could I miss out? I wrote a piece on the old flick, Love Marriage, and on the more recent Awwal Number. The latter had a terrorist angle and the crime reporters wanted to barge in, but I held them off. After all, cricket is greater than terrorism.
Senior editor: Who can forget his Sache Ka Bol Bala, which enabled me to write a magazine piece on colourful journalism. Dev saab played an editor in the film and his presence lit up the news room — pink trousers, dark green shirt, purple waistcoat, blue scarf, brown cap, orange socks and what not. And we talk about Harold Evans, Ben Bradlee or James Reston. Did any one of them bring so much colour to our profession?
Social causes reporter: Oh, some of his films did carry major social themes! Such a welcome change from covering the likes of Medha Patkar. I was an avid fan of Asli-Naqli, Sharabi, Kala Bazar and Ek Ke Baad Ek. All these films had important social messages. Doing an article was easy!
Sex and romance reporter [A new beat]: Wow, thanks Dev saab, your films gave me so many ideas on romance at various levels. The scene in CID where he chases the heroine was clearly a case of eve-teasing. And what can I say about films like Ishq Ishq Ishq, Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai, Teen Deviyaan, Pyar Mohabbat and Love At Times Square? He was the king of romance and my article just flowed.
Defence correspondent: His war films gave me new ideas. Two identically looking soldiers in Hum Dono and the complications over their wives. You don’t get these from real army life. Prem Pujari? A new twist to our border dispute with China. And Yeh Gulistan Hamara with its tribals in exotic (or very little) costumes gave us several new angles.
Senior editor: Never has one film personality helped us generate so many articles! Let us drink to a man who revitalised journalism and led us to write so much. To Dev saab.
( V Gangadhar is a Mumbai-based writer )
The views expressed by the author are personal