Dev Anand was a frequent guest at Nehru Centre, a stone's throw from the hotel where he passed away on Saturday night.
His last appearance was in connection with the promotion of his autobiography, Romancing with Life, and as always it was full house. Or, “House Full,” in filmi lingo.
In the audience were several generations of his fans, including a fair sprinkling of British-born youngsters keen to see the man about whom they had heard so much from their parents and grandparents but knew very little about.
“Cool guy,” a teenager said listening to Dev Saab recall the highs and lows of his life. And, especially, his (many) loves.
Nostalgia and memories
It was an evening laden with nostalgia: memories of his early struggles in “Bombay;” his first encounter with Suraiya and how she swept him off his feet; his experience of making Guide, whose English version sank without a trace after scathing reviews in America; how he discovered Zeenat Aman when looking for a girl to play a drug addict in Hare Rama Hare Krishna (“The minute I saw her, I knew she was just right.”); and then Tina Munim, the last of his really successful discoveries.
Although at 80 plus, the man whose looks and style (he was dubbed the “Gregory Peck of India”) had once girls swooning now appeared a shadow of his former self, he had lost none of his passion for life and living.
“No regrets,” he declared emphatically.
Heartbreaks, disappointments “yes;” but regrets “no.”
Dev Anand insisted that it had never been his “style” to regret having done something he felt passionately about even when the outcome was disappointing, as if very often was. He got satisfaction from simply doing what he wanted to do. Life was about playing with ideas. Never mind, if sometime they didn't quite work. And he intended to carry on in the same spirit.
Lagta hai, imaarat kabhi buland thi, a colleague said later citing an Urdu saying that you can tell from the ruins how grand a building must have been in its heydays.
Dev Anand was arguably the most anglicised of the Hindi film heroes of his time but beneath the veneer he was a good, solid Punjabi. In Southall, west London, where he shot his 1978 film Des Pardes they still remember him as saada Punjabi munda and are proud of a son of Punjab who went on to achieve such heights of fame.
And in the pub where he shot some scenes, Dev Saab's fellow-Indians need not worry about pounds and shillings. Rupees will do.