Dev Anand’s racy, pacy, cinematographic autobiography, Romancing with Life, is an exception to his rule of not revisiting the past MINI ANTHIKAD-CHHIBBER
Dev Anand’s eyes glow with excitement as he talks of the genesis of his autobiography, “Romancing with Life”. “It is like releasing an epic film!” he exclaims.
The book, which was released in the Capital on the legendary actor’s 84th birthday last week, is a candid recounting of Dev Anand’s journey from the border town of Gurdaspur in the Frontier Mail to the city of dreams, Mumbai, in 1943. Encompassing as it does 63 years of Dev Anand’s career, the book also works as a history of India and cinema.
“I am very focussed. When I decide to do something I ask myself if I can do it and then all my energies are concentrated on the task at hand and it is finished in a jiffy and I move on.”
For the eternal romantic he is, Dev Anand has a remarkably pragmatic view of his incredible achievements. He has gone on record saying “it is a shame if you have to look to the past for strength.” For the autobiography however, he says he made an exception to that rule. “I closed my eyes and opened my mind to go as far back as possible and put it all down.”
Mechanics of writing
Getting down to the nitty-gritty of writing, Dev Anand proudly displays the callus on his forefinger. “I don’t know how to use a computer. I write in long hand on paper. That is how I have always worked. When I put pen to paper, ideas just flow. I told the publishers that they could make whatever grammatical corrections and shorten it if they wish but they should not tamper with my style. The book is me in my style.”
And what a style it is! The book is practically unputdownable as you plunge headlong into a magic world filled with tinsel town’s brightest luminaries and a refreshingly candid look at life before and behind the silver screen.
Dev Anand proves to be a ruthless editor even when telling the story of his life. “I held back chapters because I felt it was bogging down the pace. It is written like a screenplay and my main concern is to keep the reader’s interest.”
And so will the held back chapters go into the second book? “I don’t know. It depends on the reaction of the readers. If it is positive then that will give me the enthusiasm to write another.”
While admitting that the world has gotten too cynical for romance, Dev Anand comments: “The world is moving at a rapid pace and no one has the time to feel wonder. But we cannot sermonise or lecture to people. There is, however, romance in you talking to me, in you translating this interview into a wonderful article.”
That is Prince Charming speaking – the man who enchanted the ladies with his smile, his pucca British accent, his natty clothes, the cow lick and the cute gap-toothed smile.
So would we be seeing more of Dev Anand the writer or Dev Anand the filmmaker? “Making movies is a different high. You have complete control. It is like being a leader and presenting a point of view. Sometimes it is accepted and sometimes it is not. That is why a film succeeds or fails. I am sure if I had the time to argue for each of my films, they would all have been successes.”
The two things that come to mind about Dev Anand’s films are the music and the women. Who can forget Zeenat Aman as the epitome of boho chic in “Hare Rama Hare Krishna”? Or Tina Munim’s child-woman in “Des Pardes”?
“I took Zeenat into confidence and told her, her character, Janice, was a mod girl. I told her to work on her wardrobe and choose clothes she would be comfortable in and show them to me for my okay.” It is amazing in these days of super specialisations of designers to hear of this kind of hands-on approach.
And as far as music goes there was the otherworldly trinity of Kishore Kumar’s voice, compositions from S. D. and later R. D. Burman and of course Dev Anand. “We were a great team. We would sit around and take each other apart. Take one note from here, another from there, work, rework, it was great. I believe music defines Hindi cinema and a good melody and well integrated songs add so much to a film.”
With the book, there is also a DVD with a compilation of songs. “The publishers asked me to choose songs and out of the vast collection, I chose 18 songs based on my performance and the taking, the camera movement.”
And now the question which one dreads to ask but has to ask anyway — which is your favourite film? And Dev Anand smiles gently, “Everyone talks of ‘Guide’. Among my films, ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ is close to my heart as is ‘Censor’. I enjoyed writing it as it presented a strong point of view.”
Crushing any thought of hanging up his boots, Dev Anand says he is working on two films and also has the punishing book tour which has taken him from Delhi to Kolkata, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Chennai and onward to Sweden, Frankfurt and the United States of America through which he will “grab all the experiences afresh.”
Obviously boredom does not exist in the legend’s vocabulary!