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Lost in translation

Today is the 89th birth anniversary of Dev Anand who is still one of the most well-known romantic icons of Indian cinema. However, even after all these years, one aspect of Anand remains unknown to many: his English movies. But they went largely unnoticed. Ranjan Das Gupta writes.

india Updated: Sep 25, 2012 22:09 IST

Today is the 89th birth anniversary of Dev Anand who is still one of the most well-known romantic icons of Indian cinema. However, even after all these years, one aspect of Anand remains unknown to many: his English movies. Though the actor gave commendable performances in The Wayfarer, Hey Boy and Three Girls and The Guide, these movies went largely unnoticed.

In 1952, KA Abbas decided to make the English version of Rahi called The Wayfarer. Balraj Sahni, who played a doctor in Rahi, encouraged Abbas to do so. But shooting The Wayfarer was a challenge for Abbas. Anand, who played the lead role of a jobless army officer deputed by the British owners of a tea garden to discipline workers, delivered a more convincing performance in The Wayfarer than he did in Rahi.

During an intense scene, Anand got so involved in his character that he hit and broke a windowpane with his palm. Though the actor received minor injuries, he repeatedly asked Abbas if there was a need for a retake. After the incident, Sahni, who had once told Anand that he will never be a successful actor, was all praise for him. The movie was released only in Kolkata's Elite theatre and perhaps a few more theatres in Delhi and Bangalore, depriving a majority of Anand's fans the opportunity to watch one of his finest performances.

After The Wayfarer, it took 13 years for Anand to act in another English movie. Inspired by the offbeat theme of Teen Deviyaan, Anand ghost-directed its English version Hey Boy and Three Girls. Influenced by DH Lawrence's works, this movie was way ahead of its time. It brought to light the sensitive side of the actor. The film had four haunting English songs written by Haridranath Chatterjee and composed by RD Burman. However, it was never released in auditoriums.

Producing an English version of his widely-acclaimed Guide and acting in it was Anand's greatest cinematic experiment. Nobel laureate Pearl S Buck worked with Anand to produce and write The Guide. The Polish-born American filmmaker Tad Danielewski directed the movie with Anand and Waheeda Rehman in the lead roles.

Though a great novelist, Buck could not do justice to the script of The Guide, which was based on RK Narayan's masterpiece by the name same. Danielewski was unable to fathom the depths of the classic novel and did an average job. It's also said that there were many conflicts on the sets. Danielewski wanted Rehman to wear a robe made of grass. But the actress objected to this. Anand supported Rehman and the director had to drop his plan. All this made The Guide a disaster of a movie. This discouraged Anand from producing and acting in another English film.

Later, Columbia Pictures offered to make Two Brothers with Anand and Gregory Peck, who resembled Anand. But the movie never took off due to the lack of a good director. Satyajit Ray politely refused Anand's offer to direct an English movie, as he was busy with his movie Mahanagar.

Anand's last English movie The Evil Within is usually not talked about due to its weak story line and direction. Anand could have made it big in English movies if he had lady luck on his side and a good team to support him. However, his dream could not be fulfilled.

Ranjan Das Gupta is a Kolkata-based corporate communications consultant and freelance journalist. The views expressed by the author are personal.