Dev Dutt Pishorimal Anand, better known as Dev Anand, dominated the Indian film world as few others have. Both on and off the screen, he was a posterboy of zestful living.
I was introduced to him by one of his nephews with whom I was in hostel in Allahabad University. He was a trend-setter whose stylised acting was infectious. But for all his stylised deportment, he was a person who held principled views. In my meetings with him, he would occasionally talk about them. Once, when I referred to the legendary photograph featuring Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and him with former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, he burst into a eulogy of Panditji, describing in detail Nehru’s emphasis on socialism and the need to exercise austerity in one’s personal lifestyle. He went on to describe how in his films, he made it a point to reflect the lifestyle of the common man and to relate to him. He especially spoke of the support that he got from the lyrics of Sahir Ludhianvi, whose compositions were rich in thought and words.
Dev Anand selected his lyricists with great care, choosing from the select band of Shailendra, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Narendra Sharma and Neeraj. He insisted that as an English graduate from Government College of pre-Independence Lahore, he had to uphold its fair name and cited Ludhianvi’s songs in Hum Dono, Baazi, Taxi Driver, House No. 44, Jaal and, especially, Armaan, being rich in philosophical thought.
Following Ludhianvi’s split with SD Burman, Anand’s favourite composer, Dev Anand opted for Majrooh Sultanpuri and, occasionally, Shailendra. Both of them were known to favour socialist views and use simple words to convey them. It was at his insistence that Shailendra wrote meaningful lyrics for Patita, Kala Bazaar and, notably, Guide. Majrooh similarly wrote lyrics for Kala Paani, Manzil, and Nau Do Gyarah.
Dev Anand was proud of his film Loot Maar for projecting the philosophy that violence never pays. He wanted Ramdulari Sinha, the then minister of information and broadcasting, to be the chief guest at the film’s premiere. I took him to see Sinha, who was then living on Mandir Marg in Delhi. Once in her flat, he held Sinha in an embrace. She was shocked by this display of affection and, after she had managed to extricate herself, she chided me for not warning her of the star’s uninhibited ways of greeting people. But Dev Anand was all grace and respect. And that persuaded the minister to accept his invitation to attend the premiere.
On one of his visits to our home some time in the 80s when Punjab was wracked by terrorism, he spoke with great feeling for the state and its people who were unwitting victims of terrorists. His affectionate concern for the country and, specifically, for Punjab, demonstrated his social conscience that he had once earlier displayed when speaking of Nehru. His time with us that evening was spent speaking of how we need to build a friendship with Pakistan (for which he had a soft corner) and create conditions conducive to economic prosperity.
His flamboyant persona, the colourful scarves, the upturned shirt collars, the wide belts and well-cut suits did not ever conceal his social conscience.
( Nikhil Kumar is a former Delhi Police Commissioner )
The views expressed by the author are personal