‘Forever yes, young I don’t know’: My last meeting with the evergreen, ever loved Dev Anand
Dev Anand was always polite, always dashing and so charming even in his twilight years. On his 100th birth anniversary we remember the legend.
August 2010, a balmy Mumbai evening, as we were ushered into Indian cinema’s true blue evergreen star Dev Anand’s Pali Hill office, I felt as if I was making my way into a time capsule. Dressed in an oversized corduroy red shirt, his trademark scarf tied around his neck and olive green corduroy jeans, his eyes fixed on the computer, with the characteristic wave of his hand, he asked us to set up wherever we wanted. One could breathe into the redolence of history that hung around the room, piles of files, jostled with discs celebrating the many jubilees, trophies and a large poster of his iconic film Guide. (Also read: When Dilip Kumar wrote about kind Dev Anand going out of his way to help junior artistes)
My last meeting with Dev Anand
At 87 his once handsome face bears lines of experience and a life well lived. He broke into a smile, as I nervously said the only way I can describe you is “forever young”. “Forever yes, young I don’t know. But yes I think young temperamentally, I think young from my cinema point of view. I am a cinema man, everything I see, when I travel, contemplating, my mind is focussed on cinema, and guess that’s who I have been since I started in 1945 and till now," he responded to me as part of my interview for NDTV’s Flashback.
Little did I realise that this would be my last meeting with the legend, who passed away a year later in December 2011.
The style icon, the romantic hero who serenaded his leading ladies with some chart-busting hits such as Tasveer Teri Dil Mein (Maya) and Ek Ghar Banaunga Tere Ghar Ke Samne (Tere Ghar Ke Samne), he revealed he had a romantic disposition towards life.
On the other hand, he was also a charming hustler, whose flamboyance and zest for life imparted hope, to audiences still grappling to live up to the political idealism of the 1950s.
The beginning of the journey
The enterprising Anand brothers, Dev Anand along with older brother Chetan Anand founded Navketan Films in 1949, with the core focus on moving forward in storytelling… As studios of the time focussed on period pieces and narratives set in villages, Navketan tapped the urban milieu, bringing along a new breed of directors such as Guru Dutt, Raj Khosla and Vijay Anand.
It was Dev Anand’s best friend Guru Dutt who made his directorial debut with Baazi in 1951, a film which was not only a front runner in the Bombay Noir genre, but also saw Dev Anand emerge as the poster boy of the flawed hero, who found mass acceptance. Though playing the anti hero always weighed as a risk by matinée idols, but that was not the case with Dev Anand. His onscreen characters were perfect in their many imprecations, as he questioned the utopian idealism and unraveled the socio-cultural fabric of the time.
A cap perched on his puffed up gelled hair, a handkerchief tied around his neck, dressed in plaid shirts, he was the don’s footman in Baazi (1951) who had little time for patience. In the 1952 Jaal, Tony Fernandes was described as a hero who had qualms in bending moral codes.
The gangster of House No 44, the black marketeer of Kala Bazaar or the accidental murderer seeking redemption in Bambai Ka Babu, he made bad look good.
But not one to restrict himself in a genre, as in his own words “you cannot stick in the past, evolution is a must”, he kept up with the times, never regressing but always progressing with his choice of roles. From the law enforcer of CID, to a son avenging the wrongs done to his father in Kala Paani, or an aimless young man who finds his mission in serving the country in Hum Dono.
Describing films as the most fulfilling experience of his life, he remarked “when you give a film you are actually giving a thought to the world to discuss it, criticise it, to admire it, but that should never deter you”.
A guide to Guide
However, he confessed that it was the 1965 Guide which was perhaps the most glorious moment and high point his six decade long career. An adaptation of RK Narayan’s book, the film came with its own share of struggles. Shot first in English, the film’s bold theme of adultery and infidelity which he said was “revolutionary” for audiences of the time, was reshot again. “Though I felt there was nothing to hide and my brother Vijay Anand did a great job with the screenplay. But, we shot the movie from scratch to justify my character Raju, the guide who falls in love with a married woman, his justifications and him gravitating towards spirituality. But despite the challenges were insurmountable, it was not being sold, and everyone told me no one would accept the image of me in the film”, his memory sharp as he recounts the time.
The film not only swept awards at home but was also India’s official entry at the 38th Academy Awards as well as found its way into the greatest Indian films of all times.
His co-star Waheeda Rehman, who played Rosie whom I met soon after she was awarded the lifetime achievement award at the International Film Festival of India in 2013, recounted “Many people warned me from playing her, sayings she is a negative character, she is a vamp, how I should not play her on screen. I silenced them all by saying Rosie is real”, she remembered fondly. But said, “More than the complexities of my character, I told Dev, am a dancer in the film, and have no dance scenes, please cut my scenes and let me dance, and thats how the celebrated Piya Tose Naina Lage Re came into existence.”
He was also the part of Hindi Cinema’s infallible trinity along with Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar. The three dominating screens and hearts. But unlike the present day screen rivalries and fandoms, their off screen friendship and camaraderie withstood the tests of time.
“We were busy with our work, we never bothered or felt insecure of each other. Competition is healthy it keeps you alive, but one should never degenerate the other”.
The evergreen melodies
Music also played an integral part adding to the charisma of Dev Anand. From the teasing Chodh Do Anchal (Paying Guest) to the moving Din Dhal Jaye (Guide), the romantic Dil Ka Bhanwar (Tere Ghar Ke Samne) to the poignant Khoya Khoya Chand (Kala Bazaar) or Hum Bekhudi Mein Tum (Kala Pani) these songs continue to wrap us in the timelessness of their emotive appeal. The collaboration with music composer SD Burman holding a special place in his heart.
“Every song had a story, SD (Burman) would just sit on the floor and start composing. We all worked together, the lyricist, the singers Mohd Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, we sat, discussed the song, the scenarios”.
Though he says its hard for him to pick his one favourite song, but the one song he says describes him best is Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya from Hum Dono.
That’s perhaps how one remembers the enduring charm of Dev Anand that captivated generations and still does as we celebrate his centenary.