Of course, we are all mortal but if there’s one person whose passing away one is actually unable to take at all, it is Dev Anand. He was so full of living life to its fullest – the man was life itself.
Part of the famed Trimurti of heroes who ruled the Hindi film Industry through the 1950s and 60s (the other two being Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor), Dev Saab continued to be hyperactive with his unbridled energy and infectious enthusiasm right through to the end, making his films. When he finished one, he simply moved on to the next not caring about their critical or commercial fate. Even at the time of his death in London, he was full of plans for his next film.
I was fortunate to meet the perennially young and legendary hero not once but twice. The first time during a typical rainy monsoon day in Mumbai, I banged into him (literally!) on the steps of the Navketan office causing his umbrella to go tumbling down the wooden stairs! I was an assistant director then, waiting to meet him to get his signature on the Navketan letterhead granting permission to use an extract of Dum Maro Dum from Hare Rama Hare Krishna (incidentally the first film I ever ‘saw’ in the theatre) for a show on the History of Hindi Film Music, I was assisting on. Having waited a bit for him as he had not yet arrived in office, I told his man in the office that I would come back the following day as I had a huge list of jobs to do for the show that day. And as I left the office, I banged into the great man himself climbing up the stairs. Dev Saab met me pronto then, apologized for keeping me waiting (I was embarrassed at the apology) and immediately gave me the required signature. Needless to say, this raw, naive young assistant director was floored. I met Dev Saab again a couple of years ago, as part of a project on the Golden age of Indian cinema – the 1950s and early 60s – wherein I’ve met many of the people who worked in that era. Listening to the all time greats talking about their experiences, each such meeting has ended with regret – why was one not born at a time when one could have been part of this era?
Anyway moving on, the meeting was fixed by Mr Raj Singh Dungarpur, a good friend of Dev Saab and sadly, also no more. Along with Mr Dungarpur, us usual suspects – Shivi, Arwa and me – met Dev Saab at his office. The meeting was more on recollecting his friendship and interactions with Guru Dutt down the years right from the time they met at Prabhat (now FTII) in Pune in the 1940s when the dhobi mixed up their shirts. He spoke of his pact with Guru Dutt that they would work together once he turned producer and his keeping his promise to Guru Dutt by giving him his directorial debut, Baazi (1951), his production house Navketan’s second production. As I mentioned earlier, a bundle of unbridled energy and infectious enthusiasm, his memory was intact and he remembered tiny, tiny details from various anecdotes and patiently answered whatever we asked him even if he occasionally lapsed into reaffirming repeatedly that he was Dev Anand – a self made man who had made it on his own. Among other incidents, he recalled with a naughty glint in his eyes that he used to lend his shack on the beach to Guru Dutt to use to spend ‘quality’ time with Geeta Dutt when the two were courting each other!
As the media broke the news of Dev Saab’s death and the TV channels began taking bytes from various personalities, more than the others, I couldn’t help but be moved by Waheeda Rehman his co-star of CID (1956), Solva Saal (1958), Kala Bazar (1960), Roop ki Rani Choron ka Raja (1961), Baat Ek Raat Ki (1962), Guide (1965) and Prem Pujari (1970), who was crying even as she spoke glowingly about Dev Saab straight from the heart…
Looking at all the reactions pouring in at Dev Saab’s death, the one common factor is that no one can believe he’s really gone. Everyone just felt that like Alfred Lord Tennyson’s brook, men may come and men may go but Dev Saab would go on forever! In fact, it was almost as if the word evergreen was coined keeping Dev Saab in mind. But coming back full circle from the beginning, mortal we all are, yes even Dev Anand…
Taking a cue from Time Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita,
You let down your people Dev Saab
You were supposed to have been immortal
That’s all they wanted
Not much to ask for
But in the end you could not deliver…
RIP Dev Anand. There’ll never be one like you again!