Probably ours is the last radio generation and I am not talking about radio Mirchi and other such FM channels with RJs. I grew up listening to Vividh Bharti and its programmes, Aap ki pasand, Man Chahe Geet, Ek Fankar, Chhaya geet and ending the day with Bela ke phool. Automatically the radio artists like Amin Sayani, singers, music composers were part of my life. I remember vividly whenever a song used to play on the radio, subconsciously the images of that song would be seen by mind’s eye. Well, we could visualise our favourite actors in their trademark moves. No wonder when on a sleepy Sunday morning I received the sms from a friend informing of Dev Anand’s death, myriad images came alive.
Dev Anand was the original style icon.( I refuse to put a ji or saab in front of Dev Anand and for that matter all the bollywood actors, actresses, singers etc. They will always remain Rafi, Kishor, Mukesh, Asha, Dilip Kumar. Adding any suffix seems so phoney) His was a carefully crafted image... the signature puff, which was copied by many young men of that generation including my father, coquettish tilt of head, his semi run or walk, the breathless, gasping way of delivering a dialogue and unique style of dressing up. He was always seen in layers of clothes no matter how warm it was outside. Considering he lived in Mumbai where it gets hot and hotter it was ridiculous to see someone wearing a shirt with a high collar, coat, a cap and a muffler or a scarf carefully knotted and hanging on his chest , but the person wearing all this paraphernalia was no ordinary mortal. It was Dev Anand and no reporter had guts or rather heart to ask him why? He was trapped in his own persona on and off screen. It can be any character in the movie, he was always Dev Anand. His fans used to go to watch Dev Anand’s movies and they would get just that.
We can easily divide Dev Anand’s career into two parts.....before Guide and after Guide. Although some of the films after Guide such as Jewel Thief, Prem Pujari, Hare Krishna Hare Ram, Des Pardes, Tere Mere Sapane were hits and they had some chartbuster numbers, yet his most remarkable work as an actor lies in the Black and white era. Just take a look at the songs posted on social networking sites after people learnt of his death...Main zindagi ka sath nibhata, hum bekhudi mein tumko pukare, achchaji mein Hari, Jeevan ke safar mein raahi...most of them black and white. They were the movies we will always remember him for. The unforgettable Paying Guest, Asali Naqli, Maya, Kala Bazar, Kala Pani and so on. That was the time he was at the peak of his career. The young generation was drooling over his photos, men and women alike, his songs were hummed everywhere. He had entire nation’s love, adulation and he was the original chocolate hero.
This was the time when Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand was the trio ruling the roost. They had their own defined audience and their individual style that appealed to their fans. Dilip Kumar’s was that of a rustic Indian mostly idolised by the then majority rural India, Raj Kapoor’s was that of a Desi Socialist tramp portraying the dreams of a young idealist nation..honest, innocent, lovable and Dev Anand’s was that of an educated, sophisticated, urbane Indian, more appealing to the city dwellers. His hero was fashionable, rakish but in a gentlemanly way. He could be anything from an architect, a journalist, a rich playboy to an army officer or even a misguided youth indulging in black marketing, his aura of a cultured, well groomed young man always reflected through his characters. I, somehow, cannot imagine him essaying a character of a dacoit from Chambal region or a poor destitute farmer. No sir, not Dev Anand. He also knew that very well and adhered to the similar type of roles without bothering to experiment. Why disappoint your fans?
Then came Guide and proved that he was also a good actor apart from being a hero. Guide swept all the Film Fare awards in five distinguished categories that year. It was a path breaking film which went international. People started feeling Dev Anand has much more to offer than walking sideways. This was the time his contemporaries, Raj Kappor and Dilip Kumar were slowly slipping into the roles of a director and a character artist respectively. Dev Anand refused to give up his position as a lead artist in his movies. Year after year his banner Nav Ketan films kept on churning movies which he regarded as motion pictures, regardless whether they made any business at the box office or not. His camp consisting of Vijay Anand, his younger brother and perhaps the best directors of his times especially for the picturisation of songs, S D Burman who was replaced by his equally extra ordinary son R D Burman and his voice on screen Kishor Kumar, did give some hits such as Hare Krishna Hare Rama and some memorable songs like Phoolon ke rang se, but slowly the pillars of this camp started crumbling down and Nav Ketan’s graph went spiralling down with each new movie. Any lesser man would have given up and started living life of a retired star sharing his days of glory with his grandchildren and occasionally gracing the social functions where people would have sang accolades and asked him to guide the younger generation, but Dev Anand with his never say die attitude refused to call it quits. His was a one man show from then on... and a series of flops. His fans also did not realise when the movies such as Love at Times Square, Censor, Chargesheet released and bombed on the first day. I guess more than the outcome, he loved the process of film making. He kept on announcing new movies, penning down scripts and living in a make belief world where he was still a shining star.
Not long ago, while on a flight, there was an option of Tere ghar ke Samne among other in flight movies. I don’t know why I felt the need to persuade my children aged 13 and 10, who were keen on watching some recent release, to watch this movie instead, and they obliged. They hate Black and White films and I was keeping my fingers crossed for them to like this one. And did they like it? Oh yes, they loved it and they also kept asking me about the life then , simple, uncomplicated, the empty roads, the cities...unbelievably clean, unpolluted and much much less populated. I could not help asking them how did they find Dev Anand? The answer was ...a bit funny but handsome in his own way.
That is how I would like to remember Dev Anand as. He may be a bit funny because of his cultivated habit of keeping his limbs loose, still so charming. The man who was ahead of his times, a trend setter, but more than all this a real star, larger than life, who lived, breathed cinema and looked only forward and never dwelt in past. His was the zest to keep abreast with the times, no matter what the world thought of him. What can be a more befitting epitaph for this evergreen soul, who died with his boots on, than his own equally timeless song...Main zindagi ka sath nibhata chala gaya... har fikr ko Dhuwe mein udata chala gaya.