Mumbai: Dev Anand, Hindi cinema’s timeless leading man, who electrified generations with his charm and cinema, died in London on Sunday. He was 88.
From the late 1940s till his death, Anand was obsessed with movies. A versatile actor and movie producer, he inspired film artistes and the common man alike. Until he left for London recently, his office in Khar, Mumbai, had a trickle of fans waiting to see him.
Dev Anand with Zeenat Aman in Hare Rama Hare Krishna.
Socialist ideas permeated the art world and cinema in the years immediately following India’s independence. Anand, who arrived in Mumbai (then Bombay) after graduating in English literature from the Government College in Lahore in the 1940s, was soon to shatter that norm.
He was not a weepy hero and, in his films, the city was not a menacing place waiting to devour the poor—a world view repeatedly and beautifully evoked in the films of Balraj Sahni and Bimal Roy. In Anand’s films, like one of his first hits Taxi Driver, Bombay is a cruel city, but the hero negotiates it with tenacity and often, with chicanery. In his lifetime, he was, and indeed in posterity, the never-say-die romantic hero.
He was adored, worshipped and emulated like few film actors were. Lyricist and writer Javed Akhtar remembers, “I did not know him very well personally, but in my school and college days, like everyone else, I fell in love with him; all of us did. I would pull my sleeves up to my elbows because he wore it that way, I made a fuss and got my family to make me a courduroy jacket like the one he wore in Nau Do Gyarah. Love for Dev Anand was like the love for a child; whatever he did, his fans forgave it and found it cute. That was the kind of loyalty and warmth he evoked in people.”
With his brothers Vijay and Chetan, Anand started Navketan Films in 1949, a banner which launched many great leading ladies including Waheeda Rahman and Zeenat Aman, and many directors and writers. In the 60th year of Navketan, Anand agreed to an interview with Mint Lounge.
In his makeshift office at Khar (the original Navketan office at Pali Hill was in ruins; Anand was building a new structure in the same spot), Anand greeted us in a red and black shirt. A bright orange scarf was slung around his neck. He was difficult to interview—he spoke fast, and spoke endlessly, about his plans for Navketan and the script he was then working on. It was as if time was running out and he was in some great hurry.
Dev Anand with Nanda in Hum Dono
“Navketan is my favourite baby,” he said with infectious glee. When we requested him to accompany us to the spot where Navketan’s original office stood and talk about his plans for the new structure, he said, “I’m not going there until the work is done.” He hoped to return to a compact, spanking new studio.
The new Navketan office is yet to come up. Journalist Siddharth Bhatia, whose book on Navketan, The Navketan Story: Cinema Modern, releases this week, says, “Nostalgia was against his grain. He never liked to talk about the past. I hardly ever found him rueful. But the last couple of years, not having the new Navketan office built for various reasons affected him. And he couldn’t really reconcile to the failure of his last two films.”
After Anand and his brother Vijay, an illustrious director and writer who directed Guide, went their separate ways, Anand couldn’t quite replicate the magic of the early Navketan’s films.
“Like all actor-producers, he wanted to have his way. He did not attract new talent. Vijay wanted to act, which didn’t go down well with Dev saab. But later, he missed his brother a lot,” Bhatia says. “I once watched Taxi Driver with him. He started weeping, remembering Vijay, who wrote the film.”
Many who worked with him, and those younger than him, such as Lata Mangeshkar, Rahman and Naseeruddin Shah who acted in his last film Chargesheet this year said it was difficult to accept that Anand was no more.
“It’s really very shocking to hear this. He was my first hero. We made many movies together. He would say ‘look here and there but eventually do what you have to do, whatever comes’,” Rahman said. “He was comfortable to be around, and co-operative. I never saw him tired. He insisted I call him Dev and not Dev saab. ‘All my heroines call me Dev,’ he would say.”
On Sunday, a nation of cinema lovers collectively seemed to sing back to Dev Anand, one of the most memorable songs picturized on him, in the 1962 film Hum Dono: “Abhi naa jao chhod kar, ke dil abhi bhara nahin.”
Gayatri Jayaraman contributed to this story.
Bollywood’s evergreen star Dev Anand, whose flamboyant image and innate romantic spirit swayed millions of fans, died in London on Saturday night following cardiac arrest.