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At 83, Dev Anand thirsts for romance

At 83, even the most flamboyant of celebrities retreat from public life, but if you are Dev Anand, the evergreen hero of Hindi cinema, it's never too late for love.

india Updated: Sep 12, 2007 18:44 IST

At 83, even the most flamboyant of celebrities retreat from public life, but if you are Dev Anand, the evergreen hero of Indian cinema, it's never too late for love.

With a white scarf draped over a blue jacket, his hair dyed black and his skin still taut, Anand retains the charm of a mischievous romantic -- the image from his heyday that he has cultivated over a career spanning 60 years.

Credited with introducing several actresses to Bollywood, Anand lived his lover-boy image to the fullest, wooing heroines with songs late into his 50s. When he was too old for that, he turned to making romantic films.

"Romance is beautiful. I am always in love," the actor told Reuters. "But it doesn't mean you are sleeping with women all the time. Even thinking about a beautiful girl or reading poetry is romantic."

Anand, considered the epitome of the suave, urbane gentleman, was seen as one of the most handsome men in Indian cinema and looked strikingly similar to Hollywood hero Gregory Peck.

The puff in his hair and collared shirt became the rage among Indian men and his trademark singsong delivery and penchant for nodding while speaking were all heavily copied.

Many accused his acting of being all style and little substance, but he produced some of the biggest cult hits in Bollywood, won best actor awards several times and was given India's highest award for cinema.

His personal life was equally dramatic. He fell in love with a beautiful Muslim actress he saved from drowning while shooting a film. After her grandmother opposed the relationship, the actress retreated from public life and never married.

<b1>Anand has acted in, directed and produced more than 110 films -- most of the recent ones being such disasters that many call him master of "magnum flopus".

A vegetarian and a teetotaller, Anand, who turns 84 this month, says he never feels old because he retains all the elements of youth.

"I'm excited all the time about the things I do. So I feel young. Young people feel excited all the time," he said. "And what compensates me for my youth is my wisdom, my experience, whatever I have gained from life so far."

Anand's autobiography is due out this month. He says the book mentions details even his family does not know.

"I'm getting old and there's so much to say," he said about his autobiography titled Romancing with Life.

Anand will tour India with his 465-page book which he will also take to Frankfurt, London, Stockholm, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta and Canada.

"You see how busy I am," the actor said. "The secret is I enjoy what I do and I do what I enjoy."

First Published: Sep 12, 2007 13:48 IST