The Dev Anand I know

Dev Anand would have been a young 100 year-old today. Photo: Publicity Photo

It is difficult to think of this man in the past tense—I know him, it is not knew him! Dev Anand, whose corporeal avatar would have touched a youthful, exuberant and effervescent 100 today, is very much around in his eternally young spirit even now. He must be sprinting and cavorting to one or more of his timeless melodies wherever he is right now with his classic mannerisms, his unique gait, his tilt of the head, wearing his scarves, hats, caps and sweaters with a suave shirt buttoned to the neck and his even more colorful personality.

My first memory of Dev-saab, as I affectionately would address him like a million others, remains unforgettable. In his office then at the Anand Recording Center in Bandra, I sauntered up two floors to his sanctum sanctorum, one warm Sunday evening somewhere in the late 1990s. The meeting was arranged by his PRO, Bunny Reuben. Bunny was also PRO to big names like Dilip Kumar and B.R. Chopra among others.

Sitting behind a desk full of papers and other work items, he stood up and firmly grasped my hand, and said, “Bunny tells me you are a doctor.” I nodded, and there was no further curiosity about how I was meeting him as a journalist.

Addressing me by my first name, he stated, “Well, Rajiv, I have to apologize to you. Some urgent work has come up in town in connection with my new film. I know I gave you a time but sorry, we can’t talk today.” He offered a diary and went on, “This is my appointment book. You fill in any time on any day from tomorrow. And I will be there!”

Embarrassed by his uncommon humility, I told him, “Dev-saab, it’s okay! Please give me another time and I will be there!” The date and time fixed, the man then actually escorted me down. We started on the stairs together, but by the time we reached the ground floor, he was actually half a flight ahead!

As we shook hands and parted, I found myself walking home with a spring in my feet, quite unlike the other couple of occasions in which an interview had been cancelled at the last moment.

That was the Dev Anand effect!

The ‘Direct’ funda

Dev-saab did share his mobile number with me later, but it is not for nothing that he is the Dev Anand, At 10 a.m. on any morning, you could get him on his landline number, 26497550 (I remember it even now!). Just a couple of rings, and he would drawl the typically-Dev “Hellooooow!” There was no in-between—no manager, no secretary, no family member. I could directly talk to him, even fix an appointment in that very intimate era.

Dev looked ahead at all times. He always maintained that for him, cinema was all about the sheer joy of writing, directing and acting. “If the people like what I am charged about making, great, otherwise, I just move on!” he would say, “When I wake up each morning, I know that I am going to learn a few new things before going to bed that night!”

Reminiscing about the past was anathema to him. As he once said to me, “As a creative artiste, I have been acting, making films, writing, globe-trotting and more. Acting in movies has never been just a 9 to 6 job for me. I have risked my earnings and put them back into the film industry. I have made 36 films, 80 per cent of which have made money, and invested in this studio. But yesterday is best left to historians. It has played a beautiful role in my life. If I remained there, I would stagnate. I love being with youngsters rather than my generation!”

Dev Anand and Nutan in Tere Ghar Ke Saamne. Photo: Publicity Photo

Romancing with Life

His autobiography, Romancing with Life, remains one of the very rare books on cinema artistes that sold very well. In a phone interview, he said, “I spent three years away from my work, writing a book that is a sellout with 40,000 copies sold and is into its third edition in less than a year. I was felicitated in Scotland by Lord MacKay, the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Margaret Thatcher government, and in California and London in three different functions, As the title says, my romancing with life is still on and if something triggers me off, nothing will stop me from writing another book. I have been honest, bared my soul and thus written a book when I never thought I could! I get calls from complete strangers complimenting me even now.”

He added, “I want to give you a signed copy. Where are you now?”

Him and me

Our last major interview happened in 2012 when we met to discuss his colorized film, Hum Dono, his first and most memorable double-role drama. The interview done, he personally invited me to the premiere that was scheduled a few days later.

At the late night premiere in a Mumbai multiplex, he walked in after 11 p.m., energetic as always, surrounded by a coterie of friends and the usual cinema theatre security, We the media and the guests and fans were all standing in opposite rows and the flashlights of the paparazzi were blindingly frequent. Dev-saab was looking straight ahead, but noticing everything and everyone around. Uncannily, he saw me and stopped, saying, “Vijayakar, make sure you write a solid piece on my film!”

“Of course, Dev-saab! The story will be out tomorrow!” I replied. That was the last conversation we ever had.

I once asked him, “You are a legend. What is your own analysis of your unique achievements?” His simple and instant answer was, “That’s for the world to figure out. But in all modesty, I think that I have worked very hard and with complete honesty!”









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