He made others feel like Dev Anand

So much has already been written about Dev Anand that I felt a trifle diffident adding my bit to it. But as a diehard fan, I couldn’t resist the urge to pay homage to the man who entertained three generations of Indians.

Once upon a time, he was the heartthrob of grannies, mummies and babies in families across India.

I felt as if I lost the money each time his film bombed at the box office in recent years. I remember him not just for the cinema he created at his prime but for moments shared one-on-one and as part of crowds jostling to get within a handshake’s distance from the legend. Most memorable among these was the one at the Press Club of India in the 1980s.

The meet-the-press was among the liveliest we’ve had at the club, a shade livelier even than the one with that king of tragedy, Dilip Kumar. My question to Dev Saab about Chetan and Vijay Anand was in the context of their divergent approaches to film making.

“You come from the same social background, parentage and cultural milieu. Yet the films you’ve made are so different. What’s the reason,” I probed.

Dev Saab replied without a pause: “Because, weee arrre, threee different temperaments.” The drawl and the grin made him look so much younger than his years. He said to another question about Sunil Dutt’s peace padyatra to Punjab that was then in the grip of the Khalistan movement: “I’m glad he has gone there, I wish he had stayed there.”

The answer drew mirth from the audience. Never the one to be politically incorrect, Dev Saab repaired the first perception with a gem from history: “Gandhiji stayed in Noakhali after the march. Didn’t that help?”

The short point here is that Dev Saab wasn’t merely a style icon. He was cerebral to the core — as was so tellingly brought out in the themes he explored in Guide, Des Pardes, Hare Rama Hare Krishna or Vijay Anand’s Tere Mere Sapne.

I met him last at a dinner hosted by a common friend in Delhi some months ago. As I struggled to reintroduce myself, unsure as I was whether he remembered me by name, he made my day with the comment: “Good to see you again. I haven’t forgotten you for I watch you so often on television….”

Such was his charm and sophistication that meeting Dev Saab was like being Dev Saab. There isn’t another like him in Indian cinema.

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