Happy Birthday Dev Anand! The evergreen hero is still fondly remembered ten years after his passing

Dev Anand, the screen idol of Bollywood in a bygone era, turned 80 this Saturday Sept. 26, 2021, a decade after his death, he is still remembered fondly. Photo Reuters/Prashanth Vishwanathan/File Photo

With the fear of the pandemic which might bring life to a standstill again, we all want to be reminded of something which is positive, which is good, which lifts one’s spirit and what better than films which bring back memories of young and happy days, days of melodious tunes hummed under the breath and aloud, days of wearing stylish clothes, days of watching Dev Anand in films!

Dev Anand has a special place in everyone’s heart.  His birthday on September 26th brought back to mind those fond days, and memories of his films and his songs.  Many of his admirers took to twitter to pay him tributes, many wishes were expressed about wanting him to be here with us.  Many newspaper articles were written remembering him on his birthday.  Many older Indian Americans just remembered him and watched one of his films.

However, it is not only the older generation which has known him.  “You might be surprised to know that many people know Dev Anand in the U.S.,” said Professor Tejaswini Ganti, an Indian anthropological and film scholar at New York University to Desi Talk.  Ganti is the writer of many books including Bollywood : A Guidebook to Popular Hindi Cinema.  “He was always making films, till the end of his life.  He came up with a new film every one or two years.  And he was always discovering new talents.  He used to get in touch with filmmakers in the U.S. in search of new actors.  And many younger talents, desirous of getting a foot into Bollywood, were eager to do his films,” Ganti said.

Bollywood idol Dev Anand holding a copy of his autobiography. Photo: Reuters.

Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh, chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media and publisher of  Desi Talk recounted his interaction with Dev Anand. “I met him when he came to the U.S. to release his autobiography, Romancing with Life.  I was one of the sponsors of the book release function.  In his autobiography he has said that his life is his message, and today we can see that. …He was a trail blazer. His work in Hindi films was quite unusual. He worked in a different fashion than other contemporary actors,” said Dr. Parikh.  “He has done so much for Bollywood.  He inspired all the younger actors and actresses.  He gave so many hit movies.  A lot of his films were silver jubilee films,” said Dr. Parikh, adding he was very fond of him.

 Dev Anand is known first and foremost as a style icon. In his days, young people in India wanted to look like him and adopted a lot of his styles, especially the puff of hair.  He was a handsome man and was loved by both men and women.

“I loved Dev Anand. He was my favorite actor. I liked his good looks, his stylish clothes, and the way he carried himself,” said Asha Shukla to Desi Talk in an interview.  She said she liked Dev Anand’s acting and the dialogue delivery. “Guide was my favorite film and I saw it five times,” she remembered.

Speaking to Desi Talk, Nirmal Munshi said her late husband loved Dev Anand, she told Desi Talk in an interview. “My husband had a similar stature, similar height, and almost similar looking features as Dev Anand, and he would copy Dev Anand’s style of dressing and would wear hats and scarves like him,” she said.

Anish Shah, a young Indian American said to Desi Talk, “He was a fashion trendsetter, with buttoned up shirts, jackets, ties. I think that Dev Anand had a good personality.  And he was a gentleman, a very stylish man, and had a special way of doing romantic scenes,” Shah said.  “Hare Rama Hare Krishna was my favorite movie.  I liked all his films.  I also liked his acting and found it impressive,” Shah said, adding, “His movies bring life lessons.”

A lot of people also remember him as a down to earth person. Bhupendra Shah said in an interview with Desi Talk that he used to meet Dev Anand at the studios for which he used to do audits in Bombay.  “He always acknowledged me, coming over to say hello, and sometimes joking with me saying ‘don’t come after me (for money)’, Shah said. “He was a real gentleman,” Shah said, adding “He was never status-conscious”.  Shah said he remembers going to the premier of Guide at ‘Maratha Mandir’.  Shah listed Guide, Solva Saal, Jewel Thief, Jab Pyar Kisi se Hota Hai, and Johnny Mera Naam as his favorite films, adding, “I like just about everything about Dev Anand, his look which became the fashion trend in those days, his acting, his films, the songs of his films.”  “Dev Anand worked with all the beautiful actresses of his time, and none of them ever said no to work with him again,” said Manoj Vyas. “I have seen that he never used to say no to autographs or picture-with-him seekers,” he added.

Bollywood idol Dev Anand (1923-2011). Photo: Reuters/Prashanth Vishwanathan/File Photo

Dev Anand never stopped being a gentleman in films and outside.  In films, he seemed to put his heroines at ease and they relaxed and looked their most beautiful in his films.  There was also an inherent respect for women that was visible in him.  Speaking to Desi Talk, Neena Sharma recalled an old interview of Dev Anand with Simi Garewal, an interview that has turned out to be one of the best interviews of Anand till date, available on YouTube.  “Before he began the interview, Dev Anand complimented Garewal on her acting and the progress she made in her career after their film together, Teen Deviyan.  That was very impressive,” Sharma said.  Most other man actors would go on talking about themselves and would never talk about the woman interviewing them as Dev Anand did, Sharma added.  Sharma said, “A lot has been said about how he was a well-dressed man and a good looking man.  But I feel that he was also a good actor.  I have liked his acting in some of his films which include Guide, Bambai ka Babu, Hum Dono and Manzil,” Sharma told Desi Talk.

Speaking about his acting, Professor Ganti said, “Dev Anand’s was a mannered acting”. “Acting is a very personal thing and everyone has a different liking,” she said, adding, “I think Dev Anand was a successful actor. His films did very well and that is an indicator that he reached out to his audiences”.  She said Guide has been his successful film, so has been Hum Dono.

 Bambai ka Babu is considered one of his best films as an actor where one saw Dev Anand giving one of his finest, most sincere and subtle performances.  In that film, Dev Anand superbly portrayed the emotional turmoil arising out of his falling in love with the girl who then became his sister.  Dev Anand’s performance in Manzil is considered excellent portraying his relationship with his childhood sweetheart and promises broken and the hurt and longing in both their hearts was very well expressed in the film.  The film is also remembered for some beautiful songs including ‘chupke se mile pyase pyase’, ‘yaad aa gai wo nashili nigahen’, ‘ai saath chalte mil ke yeh teen rahi dil ke’.  S.D. Burman, of course, like most of Dev Anand’s films.

Women in Dev Anand’s films were always strong characters and his guide on the path of reality and truth.  Dev Anand seems to have shared very well the same screen space with powerful women characters.  Guide would come to mind first as the story of an independent thinking successful woman.  Dev Anand’s was an almost non-glamorous anti-hero kind of role of a man who falls in love with another man’s wife, lives with her, steals from her.  And yet, Dev Anand won our hearts with his sadness and shame while portraying the distancing between him and his heroine and his spiritual upliftment at the end.

A big credit for such fine performances also goes to Dev Anand’s brother Vijay Anand who directed most films of Navketan, a production company shared by the two brothers.  Vijay Anand had the talent of innovative stories and dealing with complex subjects in a very simple and endearing way.  Vijay Anand directed Tere Mere Sapne, Kala Bazar, Jewel Thief, Johnny Mera Naam, Chhupa Rustam, and many more.

When you think of Dev Anand, you have to think of him along with his brother Vijay Anand with whom he shared a partnership.  Together they gave Bollywood some beautiful and successful films.  That was a perfect partnership, which evolved with a lot of respect and understanding,” said Professor Ganti.

Dev Anand was also an action hero of sorts.  He was fighting his own internal battles with his own conscience, facing his own temptations, his own weaknesses, his own choosing the more traveled road, struggling with his conscience torn between knowing what is right and wanting to succumb to temptations.  This action hero did fight and he did ultimately win over his own evil side, in  Guide, in Tere Mere Sapne, in Teen Deviyan, in Asli Naqli. 

According to Neena Sharma, “He still had the same look, same style of clothes and accessories,” she said.  He was aware of getting old.  But that did not come in his way of living his life to the full.  It was his spirit that was ever young, ever green.  He had grown older, more mature and had a developed spiritual side, but at heart, he remained evergreen.  He did zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya – walked in step with life!

Archana Adalja is a freelance writer based in New York City.



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