Dev Anand never stopped, never looked back
Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya
Har Fiqr Ko Dhuyein Mein Udata Chala Gaya
Yes, Sahir Ludhianvi’s words best describe the life of the ‘forever young’ matinee idol, Dev Anand or Dev Saab, as he was popularly known. He never cared for the consequences, he just lived life in his own terms, following his passion for cinema till he took his last breath in London. “Because I am so much in the present I could do film after film for the past 62 years of my career,” he had once said in an interview. Small wonder the legend acted in over 100 movies, producing 31 films in a career spanning six decades. When he was not shooting there was a compartment in his heart where he was working on different stories.
Truly like a Bollywood story, before he became a star he once sustained off the road, selling his precious stamps for food. After his BA in English, he came to Mumbai to try his luck in the film industry. He had said those two years of struggle was as good as six years in college.
Although he debuted with Hum Ek Hain, his first big break came with Ziddi, which incidentally was Kishore Kumar’s first song for him. This pair has given timeless gems like — Gata Rahe Mera Dil, Phoolon Ke Rang Se, Kwab Ho Tum Ya, Yeh Dil Naa Hotaa Bechaaraa, Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke, to name just a few.
His chequered hat and jacket, his trousers that were always an inch shorter showing how his socks were coordinated with his kerchief and his pullover, which rested carelessly on his back with its sleeves tied in a knot, are just a few examples of his iconic style. The gait, the hairstyle, the turning of his head, which was different depending on whether he was to look at the heroine or the villain, the dialogue delivery, are the stuff Bollywood is essentially made of.
His similarity with Hollywood actor Gregory Peck was much talked about. It was also said that he used to “mindlessly copy” Peck’s style. There was also a story that when Peck broke an incisor during a shooting, Dev Anand rushed to the dentist and pulled out a tooth as well. But stories apart, you just can’t imagine Peck pulling off a Yeh Dil Na Hota Bechaara with a fishing rod and a plastic fish attached to the hook, running in front of a car while singing. No offence, Mr Peck.
He made his directoral debut with Prem Pujari in 1970. He had said directing a movie was an intellectual affair, unlike acting it was not physical, and he would continue directing (and producing) movies till he died. But age did not stop him from acting either.
There were times of Guide, Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Jewel Thief and then there were times of Censor, Love at Times Square, Mr Prime Minister and his last offering Chargesheet. The actor, producer and director had lived both these times with grace, never stopping, never looking back as he felt “when you look back you give yourself a big pause”. He was proud all his creations, including the string of flops post-90, as he felt they were great in their own way. He just did what he wanted to do — moviemaking — like a hero even till his last day, much to the agony of his critics. “Movie making is a great adventure, an adventure of the mind, soul and body. In a split second your mind crosses millions of miles, weaving together stories and characters from anywhere in the world. Your stories can be set anywhere at all,” he wrote in his autobiography Romancing With Life, An Autobiography.
He was the lover, and had he been a few decades younger, could have given the likes of Shah Rukh Khan and even Ranbir Kapoor a run for their money. Whether romancing Suraiya or Vyjayanthimala or Waheeda or Zeenat or even the 20 somethings he launched, he was a master of the art. But his onscreen lover image was not restricted to the silver screen. He was a true Prem Pujari as he himself admits in his book, “I wanted to commit suicide because of Suraiya! Zeenat Aman broke my heart!” He was also not shy of admitting to his innumerable sexual and flirtatious escapades.Nor was he afraid of making public the “tempestuous” Raj Kapoor-Nargis love affair, Dilip Kumar swearing undying love for Madhubala or Guru Dutt's “doomed love” for Waheeda Rehman.
The harshness of the footpaths in Mumbai or the comfort of beautiful lady loves or the luxury of being a superstar or being the victim of continued harsh criticisms — he lived through every phase of his life like there was no tomorrow. “Fame, power and money are the three factors that make you great in the eyes of the world. The moment these desert you, you are like a particle of dust under one’s feet,” he wrote in his autobiography.
Dev Saab is, and not was, evergreen, forever young — hats off to you.