ZIYA US SALAM

Age fails to wither Dev Anand’s charm. And the box office fails to dull his spirit. Dev Anand remains a winner.

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. In New Delhi for the three-day retrospective organised by the Directorate of Film Festivals, Dev Anand comes across as a patient man, a 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. If cinema is a medium of entertainment, Dev Anand continues to be an entertainer unlike any other.

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 moral conscience of the nation.”

But wasn’t there a time when our filmmakers believed in socially responsibly cinema, and came up with classics like “Mother India”, “Do Bigah Zameen” and “Do Aankhe Barah Haath”?

“Things have not changed that 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 the 1950s, our cinema continues to live by certain values. Same love affairs, same sentiment, same human drama. Human beings do not change, their sentiments remain the same.”

But has not our cinema become less theatrical, a little less of melodrama?

“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 ’50s 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, that common cinemagoers loved every movement of their favourite hero?

Strike a chord

“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 classics of yesteryears 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, also riches, disability and melody. It demanded colour then. Today, colour does not disturb the story. It gives it a different perspective. ‘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 revived and a revamped “Hum Dono” doing for him what brand new efforts like “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, it has 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 the 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.

* * *

Things have not changed that much even today...Human beings do not change, their sentiments remain the same.DEV ANAND