His heart had no wrinkles. For him age was in the mind and not in the math. Like his Twitter handle read ‘Still romancing with life’.
On his ninth death anniversary, we share insights about the indefatigable, the inexorable Dev Anand... which prove his yen for learning, loving and living...
“A force within me pushes me. ‘Come on Dev go ahead! As you age, you tend to slow down. But if you’re a thinker, your mind remains sharp. It’s wonderful to dream. You’re dead the moment you stop dreaming,” once said Dev Anand about his zest for life.
Dev Anand celebrated youth. When he was in Government College, Lahore, young Dev enjoyed reciting Hafeez Jalandari’s poem Abhi To Main Jawaan Hoon. Years later, Sahir Ludhinavi’s classic lyrics Abh na jao choddh kar in his Hum Dono (1961) was based on the same metre as Jalandari’s requiem.
Dev Anand didn’t like people addressing someone older as ‘uncle’ or ‘aunty’. He’d insist everyone be addressed by their name. He made Chargesheet (2011) at 88 and till the very end worked 18 hours a day.
“I’m regarded as an ajooba. I smell movies, I breathe movies… The song Main zindagi ka saath nibhata (Hum Dono) motivates me. It’s me,” he once remarked.
His production company, Navketan, gave innumerable blockbusters through six decades. Among these were Taxi Driver, Baazi, Hum Dono, Guide, Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Tere Mere Sapne, Johny Mera Naam, Jewel Thief, Des Pardes, Lootmaar and Swami Dada...
Washouts including Anand Aur Anand (1984), Hum Naujawan (1985), Awwal Number (1990), Sau Crore (1991) and Censor (2000) couldn’t stagger his pace.
At a press conference, a journalist once asked him, “After so many flops, aren’t you craving for a hit?” His retort was, “Someone like you is interviewing me. That means I’m successful. You wouldn’t have interviewed a flop actor. Would you?”
Getting reflective he said, “Not all of my films have worked. But I have no low moments… Once a film is released, it’s a closed chapter for me. It becomes part of Navketan and belongs to the world. But while doing it, it’s like having two bottles of whiskey. Hosh nahin hota, nothing else matters then.”
His suave personality with the famous nodding of the head made him a favourite with the girls. There are stories that whenever he sported his famous ‘black shirt’, he invited female frenzy. Apparently, once on his visit to a city, the mayor foreseeing a riot, requested him not to wear a black shirt.
“Without romance life’s not worth living,” said Dev whose autobiography Romancing With Life was well-received. “A woman triggers different feelings in a man. Some you want to cuddle, some you want to protect and some you straight away want to flirt with and be through with it... A woman is not about legs and butt. That’s an insult to her. A woman, who stays in your mind... inspires you is a great woman,” he said.
On another occasion, Dev reportedly told a friend, “Romance doesn’t mean going to bed with a woman. Romance also lies in conversation. You can sense the joy of an orgasm even in a conversation.”
YOUNG LOVE SURAIYA
An absolute romantic, Dev had his share of relationships. Co-star Suraiya fell in love with him during the shooting of the song Kinare kinare chale jayenge for the film Vidya (1948). Their boat capsized and gallant Dev saved his heroine from drowning.
During the shooting of Afsar (1950), he proposed to Suraiya and gifted her a diamond ring. Infuriated, her Nani (grandmother) threw it in the sea drowning the inter-faith romance. Suraiya’s mother asked Dev to meet her daughter one last time on the terrace of their Marine Drive apartment, Krishna Mahal.
Friends Raj Khosla and Guru Dutt warned him not to go alone, fearing trouble. So Dev took an inspector friend along. With a loaded gun, the inspector sat on the parapet opposite. He asked Dev to flash his torch if he sensed trouble. On meeting Dev, Suraiya wept uncontrollably. Dev too returned heartbroken. Do Sitare (1951) was their last film together.
Dev always regarded the late Suraiya with respect. “I’m not ashamed of anything. I liked her at one point; call it calf love or whatever. And I did not model myself after Gregory Peck for her… I’ve gone beyond him. Yes, I admired him but I never copied him,” he said.
WIFE KALPANA KARTIK
After his breakup with Suraiya, elder brother and filmmaker Chetan Anand urged him to get a grip over himself and focus on his career. For his second home-production Baazi (1951), beauty queen from Shimla, Mona Singh, was roped in. She was later given the screen name, Kalpana Kartik, by Chetan.
After the hit Baazi, the duo went on to do Aandhiyan (1952), Humsafar (1953), Taxi Driver (1954), House No. 44 (1954) and Nau Do Gyarah (1957).
Dev and Kalpana secretly got married during the shooting of Taxi Driver. They were blessed with son Suneil and daughter Devina.
Years later Dev looked back at his impromptu marriage in Simi Garewal’s show Rendezvous saying, “We were shooting on the sets of Taxi Driver. I had the ring in my pocket… In between the break when the lighting was being done, I signalled to her. We went into our departmental room, got married and came back. But, the cameraman... spotted the ring on her finger… It was great fun!”
"Whenever I heard rumours that he would desert me, I laughed my heart out. I knew that nomadic Dev would always be mine," said wife Kalpana Kartik.
MUSE ZEENAT AMAN
Fans can never thank Dev Anand enough for introducing the bohemian Zeenat Aman in Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971). No one could resist her oomph - be it the highbrow or the hoi polloi. Mentor Dev Anand also developed feelings for his muse.
In his memoir he revealed that one evening he asked Zeenat out for a candle-night dinner. Zeenat said they’d first have to make a flash visit at a party. At the party, when Zeenat met Raj Kapoor, she touched his feet. Reportedly, Raj asked her, “Why didn’t you wear white as promised?” Dev heard this and was heartbroken. He left the party making an excuse... Few days later, Zeenat was signed for Satyam Shivam Sundaram.
A QUICK EXIT
Dev was a health freak and a frugal eater. He’d say, “Kam khaane se bimaar nahin hote, zyada khane se hote hai!” Though his last film, Chargesheet (2011), had tanked, he had begun planning for the sequel of Hare Rama Hare Krishna. He flew off to London to shop and scout for locations.
Close friend and associate, Mohan Churiwala, shared his idol’s last moments, “Dev saab was seated on the sofa talking to his son Suneil. Then Suniel went to the washroom, came out and continued talking to him. When he got no response, he turned around to look at his father. Dev saab had turned silent. He was no more.”
The veteran was cremated in London on December 3, 2011. According to tradition, his ashes were immersed before sunset in the river Godavari in Nasik.
Years have passed but his memories remain like him – evergreen!