Age fails to wither Dev Anand’s charm. And the box office fails to dull his spirit
The best thing about speaking to Dev Anand is the feeling that there is no sadness in life. That happiness is a constant companion, and not some fleeting visitor it chooses to grace.
In New Delhi for a three-day retrospective organised by the Directorate of Film Festivals, Dev Anand comes across as a patient and cheerful man. Also, a man unscathed by his countless flops — his last hit, Des Pardes, was over 30 years ago.
For an 86-year-old, he is remarkably positive, and plans for the next summer and the one after that. Says the flamboyant veteran: “Cinema is not meant for a message. It is not a pulpit. You see a movie because you want entertainment, drive away the worries of everyday life. For a sermon on moral values and the like, you go to a church, a mosque or a temple. I am not the conscience of the nation.”
But, wasn’t there a time when our filmmakers believed in socially-responsible cinema, and came up with classics such as Mother India, Do Bigah Zameen and Do Aankhe Barah Haath? “Things have not changed much even today. When you see the climax of the film, everything is fine, good prevails over evil. Talking of evolution of cinema has no meaning because even the benchmarks have changed. What was taboo yesterday is considered orthodox today, and what is liberal today will be conservative tomorrow. But, like in 1950s, our cinema continues to live by certain values. The same love affairs, the same sentiment, the same human drama. Human beings do not change, their sentiments remain the same.”
But has not our cinema become less theatrical, and less melodramatic? “Early cinema derived a lot from theatre; hence, the pronounced body movement. Today’s actor has to connect, identify with the urban youth. He has to speak their language, show their dreams and aspirations. He cannot behave like a Fifties’ hero and expect to strike a chord with the masses.”
However, isn’t it true that yesterday’s hero had a hold on the masses, the common cinemagoers loved every movement of their favourite hero? “The world listens to nobody today. Nobody can change the world. But with cinema, you can at least strike a chord with the audience and for a couple of hours, pretend everything is fine with the world, there is no discrimination, there is no persecution, poverty, unemployment, etc.”
Talking of everything being fine with the world, has it not been a mixed blessing to colour the classic of yesteryear in modern-day tones? Both Mughal-e-Azam and Naya Daur (that were coloured) got mixed reviews. So, how come Dev Anand has gone ahead and turned Hum Dono into a colour saga? “Hum Dono was made in 1961. If there was colour available then, I would have made the film in colour. It is a larger-than-life story with sorrow, suffering, disability, and also melody and riches. Mughal-e-Azam was a period film; so, people saw the colour film in that light. Naya Daur had a tonga, dhoti-kurta and the like, so today’s youth could not connect. But the subject of Hum Dono is such that it will surely click with the film-loving public.”
Dev Anand might be betting on a revamped Hum Dono doing for him what brand new efforts such as Censor, Love at Times Square and Mr. Prime Minister failed to do, but there is no stopping the relentless dreamer. Absolutely delighted with the response of the audience at the DFF Retrospective where Hum Dono was screened along with the likes of Jewel Thief and Guide, he is busy putting finishing touches to his latest Chargesheet. “It has thrill, suspense and a touch of contemporary ethos,” he sums up the film he intends to release by the year-end.
Knowing the fate of his films post-Des Pardes, not many may bet their last penny on the film being a box office success. But, when did box office ever matter to Dev Anand? He just loves to make films. And, is happy to make them his own way. Happiness can indeed settle in for a long innings.ZIYA US SALAM