Sunday, December 18, 2011
Dev Anand - The Hero
By Manuwant Choudhary
Dev Anand is a timeless hero.
He passed away in London aged 88 and my heart is at Mehboob studios where tributes are being paid to a legend.
For the past week or so I have been reading obituaries by eminent film journalists and editors and why even Jug Suraiya wrote a wonderful piece in the Times of India on how he covered the Hare Rama Hare Krishna film shoot in Kathmandu as a cub reporter with The Junior Statesmen.
I am not a film journalist and during my stint as a journalist in Bombay covering filmstars was not on my agenda.
But some meetings are destined.
So one morning after doing an early morning shift I took this train to meet Dev Anand.
In Bandra we were taken up to his penthouse.
I really did not know what to ask him.
I think I was terrible at interviewing filmstars. I had not watched their films.
But as soon as we entered Dev Anand greeted us with a warm smile and a firm handshake requesting our photographer with loving kindness if they liked tea or coffee.
I recall in Bombay's humid summer Dev Anand had a yellow sweater slung around his shoulders and that unmistakable glint in his eyes.
But it was an unusual interview. There was so much going on.
Dev Anand seemed not busy but active...as he would move from one end of the penthouse to the other..issuing instructions as people came in and out.
And then suddenly like without even a thought he would put his legs on a low table and tie his shoe laces firm.
Only then was he ready to be interviewed.
As he sat on a sofa alongside I could sense an energy around Dev Anand.
Just like it was yesterday and with great style he told me how he graduated from Lahore Law College and then took the Frontier Mail and arrived at Bombay Central with just a suitcase.
He stayed with Raja Rao the famous novelist and how he was in awe of Motilal - the actor in those days.
Dev Anand said they would all read film magazines in college at Lahore.
"I came to Bombay to be a hero."
But before he got his breaks he did odd jobs and he even took up a job as a censor during the War days and he would travel by local train to Churchgate and read letters written by soldiers to their wives and to film stars.
Dev Anand enjoyed the odd jobs but he knew he had come to Bombay not to find a job but to be a hero.
His big break came with Hum Ek Hain - a film on Hindu-Muslim unity which bombed.
But his later films like Guide took him to great heights.
And as he told me all this...suddenly he got up from his sofa and pointed outside his penthouse glass ..."There down there was the garage I first stayed in...and you know even then I knew I would build a big film studio one day. And I built it right here itself!"
There was a spring in his steps!
Suddenly, large albums would be brought to him...Dev Saab was very busy and excited with the World Premier of his latest film.
"You know ..its being launched in New York and then London and the all over the world, " he would tell me....
We all knew that he put in so much effort and his own money to make those films which all bombed.
He did discover many of Bollywood bombshells though....and girls would hang around his studio all day to be noticed by Dev Saab.
But right now Dev Saab was interested in some Pakistani starlet..and large photos would be placed in fron of him and Dev Saab would instruct his photo editor.."Can you remove the hero from this photo and put my photo instead and yes do it properly...my arms should be around her..."
It all looked another world to me and I could not help ask him why he makes so many films and they don't do well...he loses his money.
He suddenly looked at me intently, "You know actually I don't lose that much money. I direct my own films. I am the hero...I hire new actresses...and I even edit my own films...I produce it also....I write the scripts....and I prefer not to shoot in India..I take the team abroad..get them to commit a few months and thats it..I am done..I have told what is to be told...."
And then I asked him what about ideas..what motivates him?
Without a pause he replied, "You."
Then taking the newspaper from my hands..he asked me so what is the news story that you have covered today.
I replied, "Bomb blasts!"
Yes, yes, thats it..Bomb Blast will be my next venture.
Every day its on the front pages, people getting killed senselessly.
As we finished, suddenly our photographer Sudharak Olwe politely asked Dev Saab that could we all take a photo together.
Dev Saab smilingly obliged.
News photograpahers generally don't do that...but I know Sudharak Olwe did that twice with me...once when I briefly walked the talk with India's finance minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.
I had asked Sudharak why he took my photo with Manmohan Singh. "One day you will know."
Id like the photo with Dev Saab.
Dev Anand few know but he actually launched a political party in the seventies.
But he told me as we left..."You know I am not a politician..thats not my job..but I will make a film called Prime Minister and show then what I can do.
You can't mourn a person like Dev Anand.
I am not going to shave my hair either.
I'd just colour my hair and sling my yellow sweater around my shoulders and tell the world my stories.
Even you can be Dev Anand.