Mumbai: Dev Anand, who passed away at 88 in London early Sunday, was perhaps the first Bollywood star who formally tried his luck in politics. He had a short but not sweet stint, but certainly started a trend of celebs entering the corridors of power.
Way back in 1977, after the Emergency was imposed by then prime minister Indira Gandhi, Dev Anand decided to set things right and "teach the politicians a lesson". He plunged into politics by launching the National Party of India (NPI).
His opposition to Indira Gandhi, her late son Sanjay Gandhi and other top Congress leaders of the time arose mainly out of his disdain for Emergency, which he vociferously mentioned in public and private, his favourite line being: "Unko sabak sikhana hai", said a close family friend, who was also an office bearer of the NPI.
This was despite the fact that Dev Anand enjoyed good relations with top leaders, including the country`s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and even Atal Behari Vajpayee, who also went on to become prime minister.
In his autobiography aptly titled "Romancing With Life", Dev Anand has devoted a significant portion to his short-lived political movement.
He recalled the slogan "Indira is India, India is Indira" and referred to Sanjay Gandhi as the "Pampered young Prince"- "......I knew I had become a marked man for the Sanjay coterie," he wrote.
About the 1975-1977 period of Emergency, Dev Anand wrote: "The pro-Emergency lobby enforced strict discipline amongst the masses and the rank and file of the government offices through certain legislative measures. It did a lot of good to the country. But, the fact was that the soul of the people was smouldering, their spirit stifled by an iron hand."
"They were dying to break the shackles, and the lava inside them was gathering momentum, soon to explode into a spluttering volcano. It just needed a single matchstick to light up. And the matchstick was provided by Indira Gandhi herself."
He got inspired from the initiative taken by late southern superstar M.G. Ramachandran, whose foray into politics did wonders for the people of Tamil Nadu.
"I accepted the challenge and was elected president of the party, the determined motto of which was to help elect only those people to the Lok Sabha who were the most qualified in respective fields, and therefore the most deserving," he wrote.
For the new-born NPI`s inaugural rally at the historic Shivaji Park here was comparable to political rallies by any other mainstream political party.
Besides Dev Anand, other Bollywood big names like F.C. Mehra and G.P. Sippy addressed the crowds which cheered enthusiastically - signalling that "Bollywood had finally arrived in politics," according to his close friend, who attended the rally, but declined to be identified.
However, for the evergreen star, the dust and grime of real life politics was difficult to stomach.
Though he quit politics, Dev Anand and his top colleagues were seen regularly in public, rushing to help the victims of floods, earthquakes, riots or other natural and man made calamities around the country.
After that, he was never considered close to any party, though he was invited by Vajpayee when he went on his famous Bus Yatra to Pakistan over a decade ago, in Feb 1999.
Dev Anand, born in undivided India and educated in Lahore, now in Pakistan, and some other celebs grabbed the opportunity to travel on the bus.
It is believed that political parties realised the crowd-pulling magnetism of actors only after the NPI and later almost every party made it a norm to include one or two celebs in its top rungs.
For instance, Indira Gandhi nominated the late Nargis Dutt to the Rajya Sabha, much later, her late husband and actor Sunil Dutt also became a Lok Sabha member from Mumbai and was a minister at the centre.
There were politicians like Shatrughan Sinha and Vinod Khanna in the Bharatiya Janata Party.
In fact, film stars are a `must` on the list of speakers for most major political rallies.