- Oct 03, 2016
- 4:50 PM
(ON HIS 93RD BIRTHDAY)
It seems like I have been writing about Dev Anand for hundreds of years and I still feel there is so much more to know about the man who was a legend during his life time and will be a legend for all time. It was not only all his countless and major achievements that made him the legend he was and will be known as for generations to come and if there comes a time when people tend to forget this immortal and evergreen star, studio owner, filmmaker and star-maker it would only mean that people have lost their basic human feelings, values, sensibilities and sensitivities.
On his ninety-third birthday (September 26) I as someone who was given the privilege of knowing him very closely for more than thirty-five years come out with some truths about him which I don't think many have been fortunate enough to know, so here goes a man who no power can try to make him forget the man who made life memorable for him...
Dev was fascinated by the veteran actor Ashok Kumar who was a very important man and the right hand man and hero at Bombay Talkies owned by Devika Rani and Himanshu Rai. It was Dadamoni as Ashok Kumar was called even when he was a dashing young man who noticed the sparks in Dev Anand who was called to Bombay Talkies by the husband and wife team of writer Ismat Chugtai and director Shahid Lateef who had seen him walking on the railway platform at Churchgate station even after he had done his first film as a hero for Prabhat's "Hum Ek Hai". Ashok Kumar had one look at the gangling young man walking around the compound of Bombay Talkies and predicted that he would be a very big hero and a star one day. It was on his recommendation that Devika Rani selected Dev to be the hero of Bombay Talkies' "Ziddi" after which there was no looking back for the dashing young English Literature graduate from Gurdaspur who went on growing from success to more success...
Dev was not the kind of hero who was known for their strong physiques and their rippling muscles, but he made up by his charm and his toothless smile which won him millions of hearts within a matter of years.
Dev was known to have had the unique hairstyle which came to be known as the "Dev Anand puff" which was followed by thousands of young men all over the country.
Right from the beginning of his career, he made sure that he wore the most modern clothes both on screen and off it. He is said to have never worn the same clothes more than once and is supposed to have hundreds of pairs of trousers, shirts and scarves and after the success of "Jewel Thief", the caps he wore in different films became a craze among young men. He also wore some of the best caps in his everyday life. Besides having several wardrobes in his Iris Park bungalow, he had a room at the Mehboob Studios which was gifted to him by Sardar Akhtar, the wife of Mehboob Khan who had a soft corner for him and he had all the costumes he had worn in different films stacked in that room which he once took me to and I was fascinated by the number of clothes and shoes and caps that were kept in perfect order in that room. He had all his clothes and shoes bought from London, New York and other places he kept visiting a from time to time.
Dev had always maintained a very strict regimen when it came to his eating habits. He had a heavy breakfast and then did not have anything to eat or drink all through the day whether he was shooting or working on his scripts or working in office. His lunch was usually just one apple or just a handful of dry chanaas (grams), he sometimes ordered for some tea and sandwiches, especially if he had guests around tea time. He had a few sips of tea and left the rest, he also just nibbled a sandwich and said, "sandwich bahot achche hai, chai usse bhi achchi hai". He rarely drank any hard liquor and when he had to, he nursed one drink for several hours and if someone forced him to, he took another drink and found a place near the closest flower pot and when he found a chance, he poured the drink into the flower pot. This writer had the courage to make him drink five pegs of whisky at a party at the Oberoi Hotel (now known as the Trident).
He once created a scene at the Taj Coromandel in Chennai when he asked for a masala dosa and he struggled with it as he had never tasted a masala dosa in his life and people knew about his eating habits and there was a crowd to watch him relishing the dosa making sure that he separated the potatoes from the dosa with a fork and spoon.
He always made sure that he had a complete dinner at night and then read the newspapers he couldn't read in the morning and caught up with any other reading he had to do. He then watched his favourite news channel, BBC before going to bed around midnight only to wake up at five in the morning to have a brisk walk in the large garden outside his bungalow.
He was always careful about his health and took all the precautions to keep fit. He once fell in his bathroom and I don't know why he called me and said, "Ali, I have fallen in my bathroom and am in acute pain. The doctor is about to come and if he says I will not be able to walk or work, I will commit suicide". This had happened at around nine in the morning and by noon he was dressed in his best clothes and had reached his office at his Pent House which was the kind of office kings and emperors would envy. The only odd things in that grand office were a large bottle of dry grams which was his only way to keep hunger away.
He was always restless to finish work as soon as possible. He wrote his own scripts with dialogues and even the songs written in English and then asking his writers and lyricists to translate them in Hindi, the only poets he allowed to have their own words after he had explained the situation to them were Shailendra and Sahir Ludhianvi.
He wrote his autobiography, "Romancing Life" within a month, the entire manuscript written in his own hand and in several notebooks. He said he had not written about any of the women and actresses in his life as he did not want to embarrass them" in their old age and after some of them had died and gone away".
He was always very emotional when he sometimes talked about his first love, Suraiya and even cried when he remembered her. On the day she died, he rushed to his office at Anand and asked his men to build a tent for him on the terrace of Anand with all his essential belongings and a private telephone line set up for him. He wanted to keep away from the media which he knew would keep "hounding" him to know all about his affair with Suraiya and he did not want to talk about it.
He had some misunderstanding with his wife, Mona (his one-time heroine, Kalpana Kartik) for more than twenty years, some say it was because of Zeenat Aman, a time during which he lived at the nearby Sun-N -Sand Hotel in suite number 339 which to this day is known as "the Dev Anand suite".
He was not very happy with the way his son Suneil went about his career. He made "Anand Aur Anand" to launch Suneil but Suneil wanted to direct his own films and when he failed miserably, Dev told him that filmmaking was not for him and asked him to concentrate on looking after Anand Recording Studios which was said to be the best recording studios in Asia. He was also not happy with the divorce of his daughter, Devina who was married in the well-known Narang family and gave her a bungalow in Bangalore where she set up a school for little children.
He was very close to his younger brother, Vijay Anand who he had given him the name Goldie. When Goldie suddenly died, Dev said he would not cry because death was a part of life. But two days later at the condolence meeting for Goldie, he broke down and cried like a child in public.
He had six scripts ready with him and more than half of his autobiography left with him which he hoped to complete, but all that was not to be and now will never be....
BY ALI PETER JOHN