Veteran actor Dev Anand with his autobiography Romancing with Life in Mumbai on Sunday.
There are very few 84 year-olds who are still around and as active as Dev Anand, India's first mega star. The irepressible filmmaker and actor has always lived in the present and revels in making movies on contemporary subjects.
"One should live the moment and look ahead. There are so many things and so many people to meet," he said while disclosing that his new ventures include a movie to be shot in Croatia with the 'most beautiful 16-17 yr-old European girl' and another one titled "Song of Life" inspired by the success of Grammy award winner Norah Jones.
Dev Sa'ab who is in the capital in connection with the release of his autobiography, Romancing with Life, by the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh with whom he shares his birthday, spoke at length about his 62 years with the film industry in an interview to the Hindustan Times.
He recalled his associations with some of India's most beautiful heroines from Suraiya "who was madly in love with Gregory Peck" to Madhubala and from Zeenat Aman to Tina Munim and Richa Sharma. Incidentally, Tina Munim (now Ambani) along with her husband Anil is expected to go to London for his book release on October 13.
Dev Anand who has given a break to more stars than anybody else (Shatrughan Sinha, Jackie Shroff and Tabu to name a few) also had praise for young talented Indian film makers including Karan Johar whose father, Yash Johar had a long association with Navketan, Dev Anand's film company. He fondly recollected how he and late Guru Dutt, "my only true friend in the film industry" got close to each other while working for Prabhat, one of the big banners of those days. "I gave him his big break in Baazi and he cast me in some of his movies like CID."
Dev Anand also confirmed that Prakash Mehra had offered Zanjeer to him and though he liked the script, he declined since "I liked to work with my own team". The movie launched Amitabh Bacchan into super stardom subsequently. "I have always made movies which were perhaps ahead of their times. Look at Hum Dono or Guide, my most acclaimed film or Hare Rama Hare Krishna on the Hippie movement and Des Pardes on illegal immigrants." <b2>
Asked why his movies did not do as well as they did in the past, he said that "these days all filmmakers keep a budget of six to seven crores for promoting the film on TV and media. He has not been able to do that and so many of his movies made in recent years have gone unnoticed. But I make films with my own money. They reflect my creativity and close identification with subjects close to my heart."
Why was it that he did not ever act with Raj Kapoor while he co-starred with Dilip Kumar in Insaniyat? "Actually Goldie (Vijay Anand) had planned a movie with the three of us but the project had to be shelved since Dilip kept asking for the script and what his role would be. Goldie said lets get on to something else. Raj Kapoor had offered a role to me in Sangam, but after I declined it, he went to another actor."
Music had always been a strong point of his movies. Was it because of SD Burman? "Yes, Sachin da was a musician who understood filmmaking and composed songs accordingly. We also gave a break to Jaidev who had been brought to Navketan by Akbar Ali Khan. Later he served as Sachin da's assistant. Hare Rama Hare Krishna did not appeal to the senior Burman so I brought in his son Pancham. The movie launched Pancham on to a bigger canvas. Both Rafi and Kishore were my voices. I used Rafi for ghazals and Kishore for romantic numbers."
Dev Anand also fondly recalled a three-hour meeting he, Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor had with Pandit Nehru shortly before he died. "Indira Gandhi was the hostess and he (Panditji) was like a child as he spoke on so many subjects. I asked him jokingly if he had something going on with Lady Edwina Mountbatten to which he too replied jokingly ki log kehte hain, mujhe to pata nahin." He said that Nehru could see that his end was near and his laughter during their meeting had a tinge of sadness.
Dev Anand said that the Partition of India was a great mistake and it could have been rectified within 15 years or so. "I do not know what went wrong. The issue could have been negotiated better since the British were ready to give us our Independence after the second world war had crippled their economy. Jinnah should have been handled better. Lakhs of Hindus and Muslims lost their lives."
He talked about how in 1977 he had come out against the suspension of rights during emergency and how the tide turned against the Congress at that point of time. He also spoke about his journey back to Lahore, the city from where he graduated in English honours after his schooling in Gurdaspur and Dharmshala.
Asked about his Arya Samaj background, he said, "My father used to take me to the Arya Samaj. He also gifted the Quran and Bible to people. He used to recite from Hebrew scriptures I am a liberal. I have written a lot in my book because I am not a hypocrite. I believe in people and I believe in my work. I will continue working till the end."