Mould In Which Stars Are Cast: The Dev Saab I Knew, Worked With And Admired


(MENAFN- IANS) New Delhi, Sep 24 (IANS) If India ever had a star, it was Dev Anand. He was the mould in which subsequent generations of stars were cast.

Dev Anand was born Dharamdev on September 26, 1923, in the Shakargarh tehsil of Gurdaspur district of Punjab. His father Pishori Lal Anand was a successful advocate and a follower of Mahatma Gandhi. Dev, the third of four brothers, graduated with English Honours from government College, Lahore. He moved over to Bombay to join his older brother Chetan, who was trying to get a break in films.

Both brothers got involved in the progressive Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA). Chetan made 'Neecha Nagar' in 1946 and went on to win the Grand Prix at the inaugural Cannes film festival.

Dev told me that when he heard that Babu Rao Pai of Prabhat Film Studios was casting for a new film, he literally gatecrashed into his office and got the lead role in 'Hum Ek Hain' (1946), directed by P.L. Santoshi (director Raj Kumar Santoshi's father). While shooting for the film Dev Anand befriended a young assistant director named Guru Dutt. Between them they agreed that if either of them became successful he would help the other.

Dev Anand's first hit was the 1948 Bombay Talkies film 'Ziddi'. He fell in love with Suraiya, who was a top star then, when they were doing 'Vidya' together. In 1949, he launched his own company Navketan (New Banner).

After Chetan's 'Afsar', based on Gogol's 'Inspector General', bombed at the box office, Dev chose Guru Dutt as the director for the crime-thriller 'Baazi' (1951), which was a big success and followed it with another success, 'Taxi Driver', directed by Chetan Anand.

A rapid-fire style of dialogue delivery and a penchant for nodding while speaking became Dev's style in films such as 'House No. 44' (1955), 'Pocket Maar' (1956), 'Munimji' (1955), 'Funtoosh' (1956), 'C.I.D.' (1956) and 'Paying Guest' (1957). In the 1950s, his films were generally thrillers or romantic comedies.

In 1955, he also co-starred with Dilip Kumar in 'Insaniyat', the only two-hero project he ever did. He won his first Filmfare award for best actor for the film 'Kala Pani' (1958), directed by Raj Khosla.

Dev Anand acquired a romantic image with films such as 'Manzil' and 'Tere Ghar Ke Samne' with Nutan, 'Kinaare Kinaare' with Meena Kumari, 'Maya' with Mala Sinha, 'Asli-Naqli' with Sadhna, 'Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai' with Asha Parekh and 'Teen Deviyan', which had S.D. Burman's excellent music, opposite three heroines -- Kalpana, Simi Garewal and Nanda. Incidentally, an English version of the film titled 'One Boy 3 Girls' was shot simultaneously but never released.

His first colour film 'Guide' with Waheeda Rehman was based on the novel by R.K. Narayan. Its English version was co-produced with the Nobel Prize-winning author Pearl S. Buck. The Hindi version of the film -- written and directed by his brother Vijay (Goldie) Anand -- is his most-remembered film.

'Guide' was followed by 'Jewel Thief', a thriller about a doppelganger thief and featured Vyjayanthimala, Ashok Kumar, Tanuja, Anju Mahendru, Faryal and Helen, and was a hit.

The brothers' next collaboration, 'Johny Mera Naam' (1970), again a thriller, where Dev was paired opposite Hema Malini, was a box-office success and is still considered as an all-time classic.

While he was the unofficial director of 'Teen Deviyan', Dev's official directorial debut was with Prem Pujari starring Waheeda Rehman and Zahida. Shot all over Europe and India, the war-cum-espionage drama was unsuccessful at that time, but has been loved in its reruns, especially because of S.D. Burman's haunting songs.

His next film was the cult success 'Hare Rama Hare Krishna' set against the backdrop of the hippie culture, shot on location in Nepal. I had an opportunity to work with him on its script. Later that year, he starred in Vijay Anand's sensitive romance, 'Tere Mere Sapne', an adaptation of A.J. Cronin's novel, 'The Citadel'.

He went on to star in many more hits after that, including Mohan Kumar's 'Amir Garib', Pramod Chakravorty's 'Warrant' and my 'Man Pasand'. Another film I produced, called 'Naya Johnny', unfortunately couldn't get completed.

From the 1990s, Dev went on making films, indifferent about their box office results, and by 2000 he had lost touch with reality. But he never stopped making films. He was a much-loved, much-admired person and a huge star for over five decades. He had an informal, friendly air about him which made even a stranger feel at ease.

He was very good at remembering faces and names several years later, even after a brief meeting. This made people believe they were Dev Anand's friends. The fact was he was a loner, a solitary reaper. But he touched the lives of millions and transformed the destiny of many who worked with him during his long career.

He loved books and was fond of music and had a large collection, both at home and in his office. He was well-acquainted with many litterateurs such as the Hindi writer Agyeya, Irving Stone, Raja Rao, K.A. Abbas, Mulk Raj Anand, Kamala Das, Manohar Malgaonkar and R.K. Narayan.

During the 1950s and 1960s he often had musical soirees at his Juhu home. Navketan was a cradle for many talented composers, musicians and poets. Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, Pannalal Ghosh, Jaidev and, of course, S.D. Burman and R.D. Burman, and poets such as Narendra Sharma, Sahir, Majrooh, Shailendra and Neeraj did some of their best work with Navketan.

Dev Saab had a great ear for melody and Navketan's musical scores are evidence of this. He loved watching movies and initially would go to the cinemas to catch the latest Hollywood releases, but later watched them at private screenings at Goldie's preview theatre Ketnav.

He loved to travel and he had a special bond with the mountains. The two places he really loved were London and Mahabaleshwar, which he visited regularly, staying at the same hotels, Londonderry and Frederick, respectively.

Contrary to popular opinion, Dev Saab loved to eat, but in moderation and his favourites were Continental, especially salads, and his native Punjabi. Virtually a teetotaller, he was an early follower of Iyengar Yoga. Careful of what he wore, he often picked his costumes during his travels abroad. For example, the famous 'Jewel Thief' cap was purchased in Copenhagen. His love for scarves, ties, high-collared shirts and sharp blazers and cardigans is still remembered. Perhaps, clothes, shoes and his travels were his only indulgences.

And he hated hangers-on. In the early 1970s he asked me to hire a suite for him in Juhu's stylish hotel Sun-n-Sand, where he would write, meet his visitors, entertain occasionally, or just chill with close friends.

Sometimes, he would drive down to his brothers' homes, or to his close friend, associate producer Amarjeet. He was equally comfortable with his contemporaries such as Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Sunil Dutt, Manoj Kumar, Nargis, Madhubala, Nutan, Sadhana, Hema Malini and his other film associates as he was with his friends from the corporate sector, notably Naval Tata, Harish Mahindra and Soli Godrej, or his several girlfriends.

He had cordial relations with leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Jayaprakash Narayan, Jagjivan Ram, Krishna Menon, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani and Rajiv Gandhi. King Mahendra of Nepal, the Chogyal of Sikkim and the King of Bhutan, as well as many Indian maharajas, were his friends. Shirley MacLaine was a special friend.

I remember how he threw regular parties at the International Film Festival of India till the 1980s.

I had a fond relationship with him and he, over the years, grew from a mentor or boss to a colleague to a friend. We would discuss everything under the sun and I was one of the few who could disagree with or criticise him.

Like all great persons he too had his weaknesses. His insistence on writing his own scripts was a major reason for the failure of his last few films.

After the 1980s he gradually isolated himself. I remember once, around 2003, Yash Johar and I dropped in to meet him at his penthouse. He was delighted to see us and urged us to meet him more often.

We promised but never got down to it. Yash and I felt sad after that meeting with Dev Saab. A man we had worked with, loved and admired, appeared lonely and tired. Dev Anand died in his suite at the Washington Mayfair Hotel in London, on December 3, 2011, from a cardiac arrest.

-- Excerpted with permission from Amit Khanna, 'Words Sounds Images: A History of Media and Entertainment in India', HarperCollins India, 2020

(Amit Khanna's association with Hindi cinema goes back to 1970, when he joined Dev Anand's Navketan Films as an executive producer, writer and lyricist. He went on to produce and direct well-received films and became the founder-chairman of Reliance Entertainment, apart from heading media initiatives for FICCI and CII.)

--IANS

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