SUNDAY MAGAZINE

Incurable romantic

Remarkable career: The autobiography gives insights into his early days.

Remarkable career: The autobiography gives insights into his early days.   | Photo Credit: Photo: PTI

V. GANGADHAR

Dev Anand’s memoirs reveal the man behind the evergreen star.

Sixty-one years, 112 films and no thought

of retirement. He began as the leading man and continues to do so. He made some outstanding films, became a cult figure among the youth ...

In New Delhi, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, in the presence of Sonia Gandhi, released the book; the cream of Mumbai society, including top stars, welcomed the book. For days together, the media was full of Dev Anand. The 84-year-old ‘evergreen’ hero, who says he wrote the book for the people of India, must have been gratified. The book only confirms what we ‘Dev saab watchers’ already know. Dev Anand loves life, loves love and, more important, loves himself.

Supreme confidence

On the way for his first screen test, young Dev Anand was supremely confident. “Talent goes hand in hand with presentability, which is the key word for the world to recognise you. I know I had this quality, for the mirror always told me…” At the end, he comments again, “My best moments with myself are when I am in front of the mirror in the bathroom. It is there ideas come rushing to me, as I look at my own reflection.” A clear case of Narcissism.

Why not, he asks in the Foreword. “I, Dev Anand, am the central point of everything I say and do. As a popular star, the image of Dev Anand is like that of a deity to his millions of his fans. To honour that image, I must project myself as best I can in my professional and personal life.”

Yet it has been a remarkable career. Sixty-one years, 112 films and no thought of retirement. He began as the leading man and continues to do so. He made some outstanding films, became a cult figure among the youth and it does not bother him that his recent films have not clicked. Early in his career, six or eight films were being released every year.

Star quality

From the beginning, the industry realised he had that elusive star quality. Dev saab explains, “It all happens in the dark cinema halls. That sudden, spontaneous magical reaction to a face or a personality and his or her behaviour on the screen is what stardom is all about. An actor who can have this maddening effect on the audiences is a true star.”

Dev Saab attained this stature as a romantic star. While studying, girls in school and college chased him. He was the most popular among the girls in the offices where he worked. Once inside the magic world of cinema, his co-stars swooned over him. He fell violently in love with some of them; one chapter is devoted to the deliciously clandestine affair with Suraiya. He proposed marriage, she could not defy her family and they parted.

On the rebound, he fell in love with another co-star and married her. She disappeared from public gaze. The romance did not end there. He fell in love with Zeenat Aman, whom he discovered in “Hare Rama Hare Krishna” but she opted for Raj Kapoor and “Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram”. His life was a never-ending parade featuring aspiring starlets, beautiful secretaries, interpreters, translators from all parts of the world, all willing to eat out of his hand.

Where does Dev Anand, the filmmaker, figure in all this? Romancing with Life is not a book on making movies but there are interesting details on how “Guide”, his best film, was planned and produced. We often get an idea how he got the ideas to make films. Some glimpses of life in general caught his eye and fired his imagination — the hippie crowd (“Hare Rama”); problem of immigration (“Des Pardes”), cricket (“Awall Number”); his own problems with the Censor Board, (“Censor”), political corruption (“Mr. Prime Minister”)…

Dev Anand never walked, but ran. His later films were shot all over the world and had world premieres but seldom clicked in India. The book does not reveal how he manages to finance so many box-office flops. But once a film was completed, he moved on to the next one, planning the one after that; never looking back. A most unusual formula for filmmaking, but that is Dev saab.

Personal travelogue

Perhaps that is why there is more in the book about his more recent co-stars while we look in vain for details about Nutan, Nalini Jaywant, Sadhana, Hema Malini or Vyjayantimala. But they are from a past which Dev saab is ready to discard without any sentiment. What he provides is a personal travelogue spread over many beautiful nations and full of beautiful people.

There are interesting stories about his early life, family attachments, relationships with talented brothers Chetan and Goldie. The Bombay of those days comes alive as he struggles to make a mark as an actor. There are no critical comments about any of his colleagues.

Dev Saab’s concern for India is clear when he writes about the leaders he met but his brief foray into politics after the Emergency convinced him that he had no place in politics. There is a moving reference to V.K. Krishna Menon and his sad decline after the 1962 Indo China war.

Dev saab did not attempt a movie on such a theme. Where was the romance in failure and rejection?

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