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A brother remembers

RANJAN DAS GUPTA

Dev Anand has fond memories of his elder brother Chetan Anand.



Inspired living Chetan Anand with Nimmi in a still from his film ‘Anjali’.

Memories don’t fade easily. Specially memories of a beloved brother who was my inspiration. Yes, I am speaking about my dear elder brother Chetan. Eleven years have passed since he left for his heavenly abode. Yet, I still feel he beckons me at every moment, “Dev, Kaise ho. Main hamesha tumhare saath hoon.”

“Chetan was the second of us siblings, younger than Manmohan Anand but older to me and Goldie. He was an intellectual, receiving the best of education in India and abroad. He was a teacher at Doon School when he gave up his academics to pursue a career in films. He came to Mumbai and with his first film “Neecha Nagar” he won the coveted Grand Prix at the first ever Cannes International Film Festival in 1947. He jointly shared the award with Sir David Lean for his film “Brief Encounters”.

In his debut film Chetan Anand showed his command over the film medium in executing his unconventional shots in collaboration with cinematographer Vidyapati Ghosh. His usage of the dialectical montages in “Neecha Nagar” and the background score by Pandit Ravi Shankar made the film a landmark in Indian cinema.

Great meetings

In the middle 40s, I joined him at our residence, 41, Pali Hill, Bandra at Mumbai. We were like a family. Chetan, Guru Dutt, Raj Khosla, myself, K.A. Abbas and a lot of creative people used to meet almost regularly there. I still cherish those moments.

“Neecha Nagar” though internationally acclaimed critically, did not see a release everywhere in India. In the few regions it was released, it flopped. . I jointly formed my production concern Navketan Films with Chetan in 1950 in the name of his eldest son, my beloved nephew Ketan. He directed “Afsar” based on Gogol’s “Inspector General”, Navketan’s first production. I starred in “Afsar” along with Suraiya. The film, made with S.D. Burman’s lovely melodies, was an average success. Chetan’s subtle handling of a social satire was of too high standards for the entertainment loving Indian audience.

In 1952, Chetan directed “Aandhiyan” based on a true story starring me, Nimmi and Kalpana Kartik. He introduced Ustad Ali Akbar Khan to compose music for “Aandhiyan” like he did with Ravi Shankar in “Neecha Nagar”. The heavy theme missed the bull’s eye and I had my first difference with Chetan during “Aandhiyan”. He wanted to shorten my court scene for the international audience. I felt I put in my best in the court sequence. “Aandhiyan” was an official entry at the 1954 Venice, Moscow and Peking International Film Festivals where it was highly acclaimed.

The failure of “Aandhiyan” and “Humsafar”. landed us in deep financial crisis. In 1954, based on a light hearted story scripted by Goldie and Chetan’s wife Uma Anand, I produced and starred in “Taxi Driver”. Chetan directed it, taking up the challenge and it was a run away hit. Kalpana Kartik was highly recognised from “Taxi Driver”. So was Chetan’s discovery Sheila Ramani. S.D. Burman composed lifetime tunes in the film which was shot mainly outdoors at a very low budget. “Taxi Driver” gave me my long awaited stardom after “Baazi” and “Patita”. By then Chetan decided to move on his own. So he directed the black comedy “Funtoosh” for Navketan with me and Sheila Ramani. In “Funtoosh” I will never forget the abundance Chetan extracted out of me as an actor. He picturized the songs “Dukhi Man Mere” and “Denewala Jab Bhi Deta” with a magician’s expertise. “Funtoosh” was influenced by the “Manhattan Man”.

Though I did not work with Chetan for a long time after “Funtoosh”, we did not lose touch. He did not direct “Guide” due to differences with Ted Danwileski, the director of English “Guide”. Chetan passed through a dark phase from 1957 to 1964 only to come back with super hits like “Haqeeqat”, “Aakhri Khhat” and “Heer Ranjha”.

We joined hands again in the middle 70s to work in “Saheb Bahadur” and “Janeman”. Both the films unfortunately lacked his earlier masterly touch. I always remember fondly my dear brother, my idol, my inspiration.

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