Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Remembering Dev Anand

It is easy to mimic those that set themselves apart. Perhaps few have been mimicked, caricatured and parodied as much as Dev Anand and that too over several generations. It is testimony to the longevity of the man, the actor, the writer, director, and producer. To be considered as one the triumvirate of the Indian film industry in the 50s and 60s along with Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar speaks volumes of his popularity and contribution.

Dev Anand's career spread over three innings. The first innings was pre-70s and defined him really and catapulted him as one of the three superstars. I have little re-collection of this period, except for a few movies I saw much later in life.

His second innings, started with a bang with "Johnny Mera Naam" in 1970. Some film historians also claim it was this movie that made Hema Malini famous. If Rajesh Khanna had teenage girls and married woman swooning over him, Dev Anand had his fair share too. And then were guys like Amar, my next door neighbour, who would insist on wearing these ghastly yellow bell-bottom trousers that Dev Anand wore and made famous in one of his movies.

1971 saw the release of the cult movie "Hare Rama Hare Krishna". I recall being on a boat ride at the "Gateway of India" with my family on a dark Sunday evening and they were playing "Dum Maro Dum" the famous song from the movie during the ride. It was a surreal experience. A very topical film (showcased hippie culture), based on a terrific and moving storyline, backed by excellent acting and music that achieved instant cult status, it also gave the Indian film industry its first glamour girl - Zeenat Aman. I dare say, I consider this to be one of my personal favourites.

Dev Anand continued to make several movies through rest of the 70s, but the one that I enjoyed was the 1978 Des Pardes. Again, highly topical, the movie was based on illegal immigration and exploitation of labour from Punjab to the UK, the movie had everything that one came to expect from a Navketan starrer (the name of his production banner). Above all, it shot to fame Rajesh Roshan, the music director, and introduced Tina Munim.

Dev Anand's third innings that I place in the 80s and onwards is pretty much forgetable. True to his production banner - Navketan, which means newness, he continued to make movies that had different and topical storylines, but somehow he seemed to have lost his ability to connect with the audience. Some of the movies were so bad, I could not sit through its entire length. When asked on his reaction to repeated box office failures and criticism, he would often respond that he did not care as such and would continue to make movies based on his convictions. An artist that does not care for audience feedback is a narcissist, but I dont think Dev saab was one. I think his sheer passion for film making overshadowed everything else, and he just had to go on and go on till death stopped him.

It was on a Shivrathri night, that my college hostel gang and I were watching Guide at a theatre in Vadodara. The song "Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai" burst forth on the screen. In unison, most of us were out of our seats, throwing coins at the screen - it was the first and only time, I did such a thing, but now, looking back it perhaps was a good way of paying tribute to this evergreen entertainer.

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