‘Romancing life’ – the Dev Anand way
The man who epitomized the so called spirit of life and had the inexhaustible energy to go on has bid us adieu. Even though Dev Saab, as he was fondly called, was 88 years old (or 88 years young as he would have liked to be called), the news of his passing away came as a shock and disbelief. Maybe because as Shekhar Kapoor, filmmaker and Dev Anand’s nephew explains, “We’d speak about him as if he’d live forever.”
A song from Dev Anand’s movie ‘Hum Dono’ - <i>Abhi na jaayo chhodh kar ke dil abhi bhara nahi</i> - probably encapsulates the emotions of his fans and admirers best.
Though Dev Anand was not an actor of my generation, I grew up watching his immortal movies on VCR and television like, ‘Guide’, ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘Hum Dono’, ‘Paying Guest’, ‘Baazi’, ‘Jewel Thief’, ‘CID’, ‘Munimji’, ‘Johny Mera Naam’, ‘Tere Ghar Ke Samne’, ‘Teen Deviyaan’ and ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’. I watched one and soon I was hooked to the rest.
I remember the excitement on watching ‘Johny Nera Naam’ and ‘Jewel Thief’ for its pure entertainment, hummable songs, sheer pace and chic looks. Nonetheless, it is ‘Guide’, based on RK Narayan’s novel that is considered as his best work and my personal favourite too. A movie ahead of its time – dealing with the subject of adultery.
When I first saw a Dev Anand movie, what struck me about him was his flamboyance, his style and his urbane appeal. Fast-paced dialogue delivery, nodding of the head, full sleeves shirt, collar button closed, bright scarves and of course puffed hair became the trademark of his personality, something which didn’t change till the very end. A debonair actor whose good looks and handsome persona overshadowed his acting on screen.
Maybe he was not considered in the same league by the critics as some of his peers like Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar as far as acting talent goes but his dedication to his craft and his determination to entertain the audience was second to none. A list of his movies, the themes that he picked, the music directors he worked with, the lyricists that he backed all prove the same.
He gave breaks to some of the biggest names like Kishore Kumar, Guru Dutt and Zeenat Aman in films. The magic which was created by the combination of Dev Anand, SD Burman, Kishore and Rafi resonate till today. His films and his songs have a shelf life like no other.
The movies that Dev Anand produced and directed in the later years were a disappointment and even though I am a movie buff I stopped watching his films in recent times. Nonetheless, I did always admire his passion for life and his sanguinity. He lived and breathed movies. Even though he was panned by his critics for casting himself in the lead in all his movies despite his age, he just ignored all and carried on. To quote from his book ‘Romancing with Life’, “Movie making is a great adventure, an adventure of the mind, soul and body. In a split second your mind crosses millions of miles, weaving together stories and characters from anywhere in the world.”
From earning Rs 165 a month working in the military censor’s office at Churchgate in Mumbai to becoming Hindi film industry’s mega star, Dev Saab, celebrated life like no one else. From his first film ‘Hum Ek Hain’ in 1946 to his last movie ‘Chargesheet’ in 2011, Dev Anand probably himself had never imagined that he would last in the fickle industry for more than six decades. He wondered in a TV interview sometime back, “How did this all happen?” when asked about his career and his life.
The first box-office success that he tasted was in the film ‘Ziddi’ but ‘Baazi’ was in his own words, “A super-duper hit” which “made me a huge star.” Dev Anand was honoured with the Padma Bhushan in 2001 and the Dadasaheb Phalke award in 2002. His production company Navketan International Films which was established in 1949 churned out more than 30 movies.
Even though Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar were bestowed with Dadasaheb Phalke award much before him, in 1988 and 1994 respectively, he was not the one to complain. As he said once in an interview to Zee News, “Even if I didn’t get something, I still felt that I got it. That is my attitude. I have no complaints against anyone, no remorse … one should just move on. And keep working. That is how life is for me.”
Amazing … where did he get this outlook to life from? Did he live in his own world or was he an eternal optimist? When he celebrated his 88th birthday on September 26 this year, this is what he had to say, “My life is the same and I am at a beautiful stage at 88. I am as excited as I was in my 20s. I have so many things to do.”
He was also a man who stood up for his beliefs. Unlike many others in the Hindi film industry, he vociferously opposed the Emergency imposed by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the country in 1975. He also campaigned against her in the 1977 General Elections. He accompanied former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Lahore on his famous bus yatra in 1999. Born in Gurdaspur, in an undivided Punjab and having studied in Lahore, this was a chance to revisit his roots.
The interviews that I have seen and read about Dev Anand, the articles and write-ups that I have gone through about him all reveal that as in movies, so in his personal life, he was an eternal romantic. He fell madly in love with the diva Suraiya and when the relationship could not culminate into marriage because of her grandmother’s opposition Dev Anand said in another TV chat, “I wanted to get married, her grandmother was always opposed to it ... I was sad, very sad, I cried.”
Another side of the impulsive romantic came out when he married Kalpana Kartik or Mona during lunch break while making 'Taxi Driver'. He also wrote in his autobiography that he fell in love with Zeenat Aman, whom he gave a break in ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ even though he was a married man.
“Suddenly, one day, I felt I was desperately in love with Zeenat and wanted to say so to her.” But that was not to be and as Dev Anand wrote in his autobiography, “My heart broke into pieces …”
Dev Anand may have had his share of heart breaks in life, he may have faced disappointments when his movies in the later years did not do too well and he may have had his critics but absolutely nothing could break his will to make the most of one life that was given by God.
As we bid farewell to the man who is said to have created a riot when he wore black trousers and black shirt, there is another song from ‘Hum Dono’ which comes to my mind which epitomizes the spirit of the evergreen hero - <i>Mai jindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya , har fikar ko dhuyen me udata chala gaya.</i>
<i>Post Script:</i> On hearing the news of Dev Anand’s demise I called up my mother – she had been a fan of his, liked him for his Hollywood actor Gregory Peck looks – the first thing she told me was – he was a good man, he worked till his last days. Though he had been ailing for a brief period, I guess Dev Saab went the best way that anybody would want to go – working till his last breath, not dependent on anybody and with his spirit intact.
There is one line that Dev Anand said in one of his last interviews that I was fortunate enough to see and which I’ll never forget. When the anchor mentioned about his never-say-die attitude, he said, “You call it spirit, I call it Dev Anand. This is my personality.” This in many ways defines his life in his own words – a life which had no full stops till the end.
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