Dev Anand, four times twenty two…

The dashing and ever green Dev Anand is no more. A man who I thought would outlive us all. In more ways than one, he still does, through his zeal and zest translated into his love for cinema. I came across two wonderful tributes for Dev Sahab. One from Amitabh Bachchan and the other from Pritish Nandy which I am sharing below. As someone rightly said, Dev Anand did not live until 88, he lived four times twenty two! Of course.

A tribute by Amitabh Bachchan….

Dev Anand that human body with exceptional inhuman skills .. incessant will, speed of thought and compilation of desires. Committed to the art of cinema in more ways than one. I first saw him on a personal private visit to then Bombay in the early 60′s. I cannot remember where the exact location was, but I do know that it was in South Bombay in one of the more elegant shopping centers, inside a store of clothing material. A flash of activity preceded him and then he appeared, sharp, quick in walk, eager and conscious eyes, darting about almost surveying the terrain in one look. Some material was being unfolded in front of him, perhaps a dress he may have wanted for his next film. A quick decision, a feel of the cloth a few words to his team and he was gone .. just gone, before you could spell Dev !!

The other occasion was when I worked in Calcutta as an executive. The evenings there were always full of the joy of living. Calcutta was the swinging town of the days. The best night life the restaurants the bands and the music and that one place where all of us would struggle to get in – Princes at the Grand Hotel on Chowringhee. The guest list was exclusive and the tables expensive. We were never in any condition to afford the entrance, but a kind and benevolent friend had invited us over for a meal. And there sitting on the upper tier as we lounged through our meal, the band struck up a roll and in entered Dev Anand, with Shirley Maclaine ! She was on her way to explore the mountains and the Himalayas, he was there to do charity for a social event. I still remember that one sentence that he had to say about his guest from Hollywood, that she had accompanied him ‘for a cause that was basically Indian’ and how important it was for us all to contribute to it and understand the emotion behind her gesture. He disappeared soon after but left all of us gasping for breath, with the speed of his appearance and disappearance.

On joining the Industry and in those early days of uncertainty and struggle I would be shooting at Mehboob Studios, where Dev Saheb had his office. He would often be seen there, rushing in through the corridors, waving an encouraging word or two to those that filed past him, as he would unmount from his modest Fiat car, sitting on the front seat alongside the driver. He always sat in the front seat, the window down and his hand stylishly placed on the sill, as though the cameras were continuously rolling even when he was not at work.

He would always acknowledge an occasion or a moment of importance in the others life that he came in touch with. A brief note, hand written in large fonts were his trade mark elements. When he desired a meeting, he would volunteer to come over, rather than speak on phone or expect the other to come over to his place. Always gracious, always considerate and always with a smile of positivity on his handsome face.

We would copy his style of dress. In particular the folded sleeve over the pullover that he showed in that immortal song down the slopes of a hill station – ‘khoya khoya chand .. khula aasmaan .. And when Shekhar Kapoor, the eminent director, his cousin, who was in the Delhi University at about the same time as when we were, would attend those mixed socials in similar fashion, he would be the envy of all of us !

Jaya and he were shooting for two different films at a snow clad hill station – either Shimla or Mussorie and she would narrate to me, we were not married then, of how Dev Saheb would be the first to climb up to the location, high up on the range, whilst all the other youngsters would be struggling and breathing hard to get up there.

He wanted me to release his autobiography that he had written with great enthusiasm and care and made several calls messages and personal visits to make sure I came for the event. Of course just a call from him would have been sufficient, but it was his way of doing things that mattered. Once done, he came over personally again to thank me for attending. In todays times one does not see anyone do that. He last spoke to me on the phone when he was wanting me to come to his premiere of ‘Charge Sheet’. He complimented Jaya and me for having brought up Abhishek with good values and culture. Apparently Abhishek had bumped into him at Delhi airport and never hesitated to seek his blessings by touching his feet in reverence. He had valued that moment. At the premier he was there before all the guests arrived seated in the foyer with a motley crowd of enthusiasts around him. I was to be at another event but since I had promised I would come, I went across. He was frail and weak and needed assistance to pick him up from his chair as he insisted on standing up to greet me – ‘ ek photo kheechte hain yaar, Amitabh’ he strained his vocals for it and when it was over thanked me for coming and for the flowers that I had got him.

” Tum aa gaye , bahut achcha laga” he announced aloud now and gave me the permission to leave after.

In his 80′s he dressed like a 20 year old .. and carried it off too. I have met many ladies that have married their husbands because they looked like Dev Anand. Public swooning became a fad among the girls in conservative India, when they would encounter him on screen. He would attend a wedding reception at a large ground filled with guests and on sighting him the entire mass would move, almost driven magnetically towards him. And he was not the only star at the venue !

I read somewhere yesterday in the media where he was talking on his life to an eminent senior journalist that to remain a star you needed never to change your style and manner. Do not surprise your audiences and fans too much. Keep within the range that they identify you with. I doubt people went to see his films to discover a character change. They went to see Dev Anand and they got what they wanted all the time.

Does that explain why the all time greatest hero of American films, Mr John Wayne, never got off his horse in all his films ???

Goodbye Dev – Pritish Nandy

I grew up on the mean streets of Calcutta. It was a great city in those days, full of magic and excitement, and one of my big thrills at school was to save my two anna tiffin money to watch Hindi movies. The great stars were Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand. Each had his own loyal following. And they would queue up days before a movie released, to buy tickets in advance. There was a counter for Advance Booking and fans, to mark their loyalty, would often stand in line for three days to buy a ticket for a First Day First Show. There was no black market, but yes, you could always find someone to stand in line for you if you gave him a free ticket. It was a big thing, the FDFS. It was your badge of loyalty. Many of us preserved those tickets.

Years later, when throwing away my FDFS tickets, largely of 10 anna denomination, I figured most of them were for Dev Anand movies. Dev was no actor. But, like Salman today, he was a style setter. His attitude defined the trend. His hair styled after the young Elvis with a puff on the forehead was the most popular style of the time. So was the way he kept his collar up, a mannerism that cricketers like Jaisimha and Azhar emulated in later years. Dev’s own hero was Gregory Peck and he copied Peck as shamelessly as we all copied him, including the endearing way in which Dev stretched out his arm with a limp wrist, his head cocked to one side. Dilip Kumar may have been the greater actor, Raj the bigger showman. But Dev was the hero. He was the star we loved, admired, aped, and tirelessly discussed in between geography and algebra.

Dev had a magic of his own and he eventually proved, by making Guide, that he was also an actor and a showman. Guide was one of Bollywood’s first attempts at making an international movie. Like all other such attempts before and after, it failed. It was based on a RK Narayan story. Nobel Prize winner Pearl Buck worked on its screenplay. Tad Danielewski directed the English version. Vijay Anand, the Hindi one. SD Burman scored its incredible music. It went on to win all the five top Filmfare Awards. But it never became the huge international movie Dev dreamt of. It broke his heart and he went back to making what he knew best: blockbusters like Jewel Thief and Johny Mera Naam.

When I came to Bombay in 1982, Dev was already struggling to be remembered. Raj had moved on to directing movies. Dilip Kumar was playing character roles. But Dev refused to age. He kept making movies, almost one a year, as a hero, much to the embarrassment of all those who loved and admired him. It was his ticket to timelessness, as he saw it. It was the only way he knew to fight mortality. We loved him for it; yet we grieved for him as well. For a new generation of movie watchers had long passed him by. Time is unforgiving. It was Bollywood’s worst kept secret that no one went to watch his movies any more. No one remembered Dev as the iconic hero he once was. He was but a tragic caricature of himself.

It is the tragedy of stardom. You must know when to quit. Few do. I loved Dev. I loved his movies. I loved their songs. Many of them went on to become classics, which means songs we adore but never listen to. SD was his favourite music director and Dev’s few admirers still around largely remember him by SD’s melodies. Many of these I still recall in moments of personal grief and loss. In moments like this when we grieve not just the death of a friend and a legend but also the passing of an era.

Dev Anand was actually gone long before he passed away. But no, he did not go gentle into the good night. Like all brave men, he fought, fought against the dying of the light. He was one of the loneliest people I knew. He craved for immortality. We gave him respect. But he didn’t give a damn for our respect. He didn’t want Lifetime Achievement Awards. All he wanted was adulation. And we had stopped giving him that a long time back.


8 Responses to “Dev Anand, four times twenty two…”

  1. Anand Khare Says:

    AB’s tribute- Directly from heart.
    PN’s tribute- Directly from head.


  2. Lovely, had tears in my eyes throughout, Sharmila!

  3. Pritish Nandy is a pompous ass -Dev Anand lived life on his own terms -he did what he knew and loved best -make movies and had a bloody good time doing it! I dont think he craved adulation -he was too busy enjoying himself .He had this childlike quality of being too self absorbed to notice or care what the world thought of his movies or him .As for loneliness – speak for yourself Mr Nandy . For Dev Anand being alone did not mean being lonely .To a lot of us -and yes I am talking about the current generation -Dev Anand embodied the human spirit and that can never die.

  4. Rajarshi Ghosh Says:

    Everthing in life is temporary and Dev had his own way of defining life which he showed through his films and the way he lead his life. He was a born stylist and his humility and generosity is what made him much more than a Star. His never die attitude is what is unique. We still love to hear his songs which are everlasting impact on our minds. They are never old and everytime we see and hear his songs it is as if new.

  5. puru toke Says:

    Amitabh Bachan’s assessment appears to be realistic!

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