Debonair Dev the eternal hero
His relationship with the camera spans 58 years. At 80, Dev Anand's passion for films keeps him agile and active. He tells ZIYA US SALAM that he wants to make movies till his last breath.
Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman in "Guide"
FOR 58 years he has been facing the camera. Always as the leading man. Never mind the wrinkles, the frazzled look, the drawl in his speech, the awkwardness of his gait, the far from masculine figure, from Prabhat Films' "Hum Ek Hain" to "Love at Times Square", films have been sold on his name.
He has produced 33 films, beginning with "Prem Pujari" in 1970 two more are on their way this year. For 25 years he has not given a hit "Des Pardes" was the last time success came calling home. Never mind. He goes on, impervious to the law of averages, which refuses to take note of his constant effort.
Evergreen Dev Anand, all limbs, all arms and legs, yet debonair in his own way, turned 80 this past week.
Rakhee in "Banarasi Babu".
Typical of the man, he had only a little time for the occasion, busy as he is wrapping up his latest project. His last film, "Love At Times Square" bombed at the box office this year, failing to find cinema halls in the second week at many places, but Dev Anand remains unperturbed, knowing he has done enough in his long innings to take the latest setback in his stride.
``Nobody can predict hits and flops. These things happen. Most of my films have not lost money at the box office. Above all, there is a thrill in making films, which compensates for everything else. I am lucky, how many people can claim to be making films after starting before Independence? Frankly, my optimism sees me through. I am still agile and active. I want to make films till my last breath,'' he emphasises.
He is right on cue. In the 1950s, he formed a triumvirate with Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor. If Yusuf Bhai was the tragedy king, Raj Kapoor was wedded to Charlie Chaplin, and our own Dev Anand was a bit of a tramp, a bit of a romantic, a bit of a loser, a bit of a winner.
Ah! Winner he certainly has been, notwithstanding his not-so-impressive box office record in recent years.
Even as his contemporary Dilip Kumar has struggled to come up with his dream directorial venture, "Kalinga" and has remained only an unofficial director, Dev Anand has been able to write, produce, direct and act in more than 33 films.
At the end of the day, most of the films may not have worked but he is still a winner for having put them together. ``I feel more comfortable,'' is all he says when asked about how he manages to direct, produce and act in all his films.
Zeenat Aman is his sister in "Hare Rama Hare Krishna"
He, however, has made one concession to the march of time. In films like "Des Pardes" and "Prem Pujari" he was the hero, in later films like "Main Solah Baras Ki" and the latest "Love At Times Square" he ceded the romantic space to the younger lot. Just in time too, as his critics had begun to wonder whether reality will dawn on him!
``I don't regret anything. Life is too short for regret or sadness. Instead of moaning the flops I prefer to work on my next films. That way, there is no scope for regret or depression. Work keeps one fit and cheerful.''
Be that as it may. But Dev Anand has really come a long way from being a letter reader in the Army's correspondence department for Rs. 60 to an artiste who had hordes of admirers wishing him on his 80th birthday.
Beginning 1943, life has not been smooth for this ever-optimistic man. Like others, he has had to struggle too. ``I read letters in the Army. But right from the time I did my graduation in arts from Lahore, I wanted to be a hero. I met Babu Pai who offered me `Hum Ek Hai' for a sum of Rs.350. But that was a significant amount those days. I managed to save something to send home too!''
Sharmila Tagore is his co-star in "Yeh Gulistan Hamara"
The film, on the subject of Hindu-Muslim unity, was a success though Dev Anand had to wait for films like "Ziddi" (1948) and "Baazi" (1951) to really carve out a niche for himself.
With films like "Munimji", "CID", "Kala Pani", "Jewel Thief", ``Hum Dono" and "Guide" he becamethe crowd's favourite. They could go to Dilip Kumar for class, Raj Kapoor's films for sensuality yet they would come in droves to watch Dev Anand. His films were his own, though along the way he formed Navketan Films with elder brother Chetan Anand and worked with some of the biggest names of his era.
Guru Dutt, with whom he had struck an early understanding, S. D. Burman, R. D. Burman, Raj Khosla and much later Zeenat Aman, Tina Munim all gave their best work under Navketan Films.
With Nutan in Navketan's "Tere Ghar Ke Samne"
For a loveable tramp, Dev Anand managed to sneak in a few moments of lasting sorrow in his work. Remember "Taxi Driver" and Talat Mahmood's timeless "Jayen To Jayen Kahan". ``To some extent every star is a prisoner of image. People come to expect certain things from him. But I was lucky in that I got to do some really nice films which went beyond my screen image of a kind-hearted, romantic young man.'' Incidentally, it was during the making of "Baazi" that Dev Anand came across Kalpana Kartik. He was later to star opposite her in "Taxi Driver", and still later to settle down as husband and wife.
Yes, Dev Anand, an affable man, a simple filmmaker who loves the simple things of life and despises politics, is not ready to call it quits. He still dresses the way he did in 1950s. His shirts are still full-sleeved, all buttoned up to chin. There is a muffler around his neck and he speaks with exaggerated hand movements.
He still makes films like they used to in the past. Never mind that they don't click with the audience anymore. He won't give up trying after his 80th birthday. Just as he did not, when they wrote him off in the past.
As Jackie Shroff put it, ``He is a legend. They don't die. I would like to be like him. I came to the industry to be a villain. He made me a hero.'' And an eternal hero Devdutt Pishorimal Anand certainly is.
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