07 December, 2011

Memory Vignettes - Dev Anand - Adieu

Working keeps me young & maybe that’s why they call me evergreen - Dharam Dev Pishorimal  Anand

Circa 3rd December 2011, London , Dev Anand passes away. It took time to sink in and hence the delay in writing this piece. I believed truly so that this man was immortal. What else can be a testimony to it but the fact that he was acting and directing a film at a young age of 88 years; A working career spanning 65 years, Unbelievable.

In the decades of the fifties and sixties Indian Cinema was dominated by a Troika. Dilip Kumar who re-invented acting had laid claim to the title of the Thespian, Raj Kapoor who captured the common man in his Chaplinisque portrayals of a socialist India was the Great showman, and then there was Dev Anand. Unabashedly I  say he was my favorite.

Dev Anand was not quite as easy to slot neatly as the other two. Maybe because he was arguably not as talented an actor like Dilip Kumar nor did his movies have the depth of a Raj Kapoor's did but when Dev Anand smiled on screen with that twinkle in his eyes the silver screen lit up. He defined and symbolized a rakish romance. He was the handsomest of the three and while the other two ( Raj & Dilip) conveyed an image of pathos , Dev was Mr. Cool even before Cool was a word in spoken parlance.His image ethos was urban through and through. The reason he was difficult to slot is also because he played apart from the lily white hero roles, all kinds of characters with shades of grey and he played them fearlessly and effortlessly.There was no concern for the prototype hero image which seemingly restricted his contemporaries. He  even got clobbered in his films unlike the typical Hindi film hero who was always dishing out more than was served to him and even then one still loved him.

Enough and more has been written about his films the great ones that he acted in , some brilliant ones that he produced under the Navketan banner and directed and even those haphazard narratives that masqueraded as films beyond the 80’s. We are not treading that path. The onscreen avatar of Dev Anand for me stops at “Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ this was the last great film that Dev Anand made and all that which came after was pure indulgence.

My memories of this stylish actor reside in the manner in which he romanced his ladies on screen. A romance in which there is a playful mischief yet one that maintains a genteel elegance. It was tilted at an angle like he was. Dev Anand never grabbed a lady onscreen, quite the contrary he maintained a distance. His  almost casual embrace too didn’t make his heroines uncomfortable in fact they felt cherished in his arms and company and that came across beautifully in his songs and scenes. Watch a Nutan run down the steps in Dil Ka Bhanwar Karey Pukaar ( Tere Ghar Ke Saamney) or a Madhubala (Kaala Pani ), she is the one who approaches & initiates a physical contact in "Accha ji main haari chalo maan jao na" or the way Hema Malini in a huff is closing those endless windows and curtains (Johnny Mera Naam). The twinkling mischievous demeanour clearly stating that " I shall be a gentleman till you stop being a lady". A thorough gentleman he was both on and off screen and this is the elegance in etiquette that one shall always miss with his passing away.

Another abiding memory was at a recent award ceremony that he attended. Film award ceremonies and their presenters can get personal and some even downright nasty in their attempt to being funny, none more so than the current so called King of Bollywood, Shahrukh Khan. Khan was taking pot shots at every one sitting in the audience and the recipients of his hammering were too junior to object or did not have the command over the English language that Shahrukh constantly uses during his baiting. He acts falsely humble for a few actors like Amitabh Bacchhan for the others he is downright arrogant. Even seniority is not respected as was seen in the Manoj Kumar episode when he mimicked the star in one of his movies. In this function wading through a crowd he came across a quiet Dev Anand sitting in the audience without any hangers on; the common manner in which the film stars group themselves. The Khan with a catty gleam in his eye that said "lets have some fun with this old man" approached with pseudo humility and said "Here I have with me Mr Dev Anand who even I am scared to ask questions as his are the films that I have grown up watching". He would forever live to regret this baiting.

Dev Anand stood up at an angle , a frail figure and tossed back his scarf and with flashing eyes challenged Shahrukh, "Why son ask me anything." The language was the idiomatic Queens English that the Khan could not even hope to imitate. “I think Shahrukh, you are not conveying the picture like it is, if Mr.Bacchhan sitting over there had said he grew up watching my films, he would have been partially right, as for you I don’t think you were even born then”.  Like a whipped cur Khan fled .

The signals were all there but not read correctly. Dev Anand was sitting alone because he chose to, he had always marched to the beat of his own drummer, he neither needed the divided or bunched up camps of the current day Bollywood to define his being. Age may have made his body frail but his thrust & parrying was rapier sharp as ever. It may not have translated into great movies off late but the number of movies he kept on churning out with wannabe actors who were better off undiscovered was a statement of an obsessive, self absorbed cinematic giant who refuses to stop and stop he didn’t. He like the shining star that he was simply moved on to the next realm.

It was indeed a pleasure and privilege to breathe the same air and share some time in this Universe with you, Dev Saab. 

He had remarked that when I die, cremate me or if you choose to bury me and put a stone on it, don’t carve the word “Rest In Peace”…I don’t like that word Rest…instead carve  “Work In Peace”.  WIP Dev Anand. 


Gauri said...

Beautifully written.... enjoyed it Kau!

Kau Kau goes the Crow said...