Deven Verma no more

Veteran character actor and director Deven Verma, who graced Bollywood for four decades with endearing roles in classic domestic comedies, died here early Tuesday in his home in Pune.

He was 77. The cause was heart attack and kidney failure, family sources said.

Mr. Verma graduated in politics and sociology from the city’s Nowrosjee Wadia College for Arts and Science in 1957 before joining films.

While he commenced his career with dramatic roles, he found his métier in witty and ironic comedy in the best films of Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Gulzar and Basu Chatterjee.

Producer B.R. Chopra, who spotted Verma in a stage play, picked him for Dharmputra in 1961. The controversial film was one of the first to tackle Partition and took a hard-hitting look at the baleful effects of religious fundamentalism.

It also marked Shashi Kapoor’s debut, who, as Mr. Verma humorously recalled later, sent him a letter saying that everyone was bewildered as to why the film flopped.

While Mr. Verma’s first comic role came in Gumraah in 1963, playing Ashok Kumar’s servant, the decade saw him being cast in some of Bollywood’s finest dramatic films like Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anupama (1966), and Gulzar’s Khamoshi (1970) - where he had a scene-stealing part as the self-deprecating, melancholic ‘patient no. 22.’

He was also superb playing Meena Kumari’s cantankerous, yet warm-hearted theatre artist husband in Mere Apne, Gulzar’s 1971 classic about eroding values and social disgruntlement set against Kolkata’s decaying social background.

But it took the better part of the 1970s for Deven Verma’s comedy to crystallize, as he came into his own in1975’s Chori Mera Kaam. Mr. Verma’s interplay with co-stars Shashi Kapoor and Ashok Kumar transcended the banal storyline and saw him walking off with his first Filmfare Award for ‘Best Comedian.’

Other meatier roles followed in films like Arjun Pandit (1976) and Chor ke Ghar Chor (1978) before Verma capped the decade with a memorable part as Amol Palekar’s ‘creative improviser’ in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s delightfully zany and harum-scarum masterpiece of middle-class life, Golmaal (1979).

Three years later, he gave a sparkling performance – arguably his best – in Gulzar’s Angoor where both he and co-star Sanjeev Kumar play dual roles. The film, a remake of the 1963 Bengali picture Bhrantibilas (which itself was modeled on Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors), saw Verma win his third Filmfare award for his crackerjack performance.

A gifted mimic and brilliant raconteur, Mr. Verma is survived by his wife, Rupa Ganguly, the daughter of legendary actor Ashok Kumar. His funeral was attended by family and friends at the city’s Yerwada crematorium.

Bollywood mourns his death through social media.

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Printable version | Sep 13, 2021 5:18:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/bollywood-actor-deven-verma-takes-his-last-breath/article6654433.ece

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