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Memories of Sada-Bahar star Dev Anand on his 100th birthday

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If that shining star of Bollywood was alive then today the whole world would be celebrating his 100th birthday together. An evergreen star with his distinctive style and adorable looks, Dev Anand was born on 26 September 1923 in Gurdaspur, Punjab. His full name was Dharamdev Anand. Father Pishorilal Anand was a moneylender by profession. His eldest brother Manmohan Anand was a lawyer among four brothers and two sisters. Chetan Anand and Vijay Anand went into the film industry. Shekhar Kapur, the son of one of the sisters, also made a name for himself in films.

He left his home in the early forties and came to Bombay in 1943. He got his first job in the Censor Department of the Military Postal at Churchgate. Then he worked in a private firm. Having good looks and personality, influenced by elder brother Chetan Anand, his focus was towards films. And one day he found his college classmate in Bombay who introduced him to PL Santoshi who was looking for an attractive young man for his film. After auditioning in Pune, he got his first break from the 1946 film Hum Ek Hain. Then the 1948 film Ziddi was released. The very next year he started his own production company Nav Chetan Films along with elder brother Chetan Anand. In his film career of over 6 decades, he acted in 113 films. He contributed to films as an actor as well as a writer, director and producer. Although his performances in all the films were liked, some of his films that impressed the audience were: Baazi (1951); Trap (1952); Taxi Driver (1954); CID (1956); Paying Guest (1957); Black Bazaar (1960); In front of Tere Ghar (1963); Jeul Thief (1964); Guide (1965); Johnny Mera Naam (1970); Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971); Heera Panna (1973); Warrant (1975); Des Pardes (1978); Tere Mere Sapne (1996) and Banarasi Babu (1997).

His love for Suraiya is well known. He explained this in detail on Simi Grewal’s famous show Rondevu with Simi Garewal. Because Suraiya was a Muslim, her family, especially her maternal grandmother, did not approve of this relationship. After this failure, he married Mona Singha Vs Kalpana Karthik with whom he had two children, a son Sunil and daughter Devina.

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Eighteen days older than Dev Anand, my father Om Prakash Sehgal, whom we called Daddy Ji, was an ardent admirer of him from the days when he was trying to establish himself in the film industry during his early forties. No wonder, Dev Anand later became so popular with audiences in India and abroad that he had an astonishing 65 years of association in the film industry. Father was crazy about films since childhood. Watch every movie first day first show. My maternal uncle Gurbachan Lal Khanna was a partner in a film company. Later, his films Sharafat and Samadhi were well received. When in December 1959, when we children had a holiday program, they thought of Bombay as Mamaji was making a drunken film with Dev Anand and Madhubala in those days. He took a long two-and-a-half-three months leave from office. We were very young then – I was five years old, my brother was six and a half years old. So there was no particular issue of loss of studies. While in the initial days he enjoyed the attractions of Bombay and its surroundings with the family members, his father would often be on the sets of Ranjit Studios where the shooting of the film ‘Sharaabi’ was going on to see the film stars. Heroine Madhu Bala was not shooting due to illness. That is why the film could be released only in late 1964.

On the sets of Sharabi, she found a partner of her choice in Dev Anand. Like him, Dev Anand was also fond of tea. The unit had a kerosene stove on which tea was made in a wide-mouthed pot. Such special tea sessions were usually for director Raj Rishi, protagonist Dev Anand and my father being the brother-in-law and guest of the filmmaker. Keeping these credentials in mind, my maternal uncle would have caught Dev Anand to hand over an envelope of Rs 5,001 to him at the end of the shooting day. Dev Anand invited his father for a job in Nav Ketan for Rs 1,000 per month. But the father found this offer of private job less as a government job.

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Sometimes, when Dev Anand could not taste the tea, he would say, ‘I did not enjoy it; Make ek vadhiya jai cha. After this ‘Calcutta’ was summoned. In the days when Bombay was not as popular as Bollywood and before it was established as the major seat of the Indian film industry, it was the former capital of India, Calcutta. The ‘Calcutta’ he used to call here was a multi-tasking office boy. He got this strange name because he had earlier tried his luck to become a hero in films in Calcutta. My father would voluntarily take the responsibility of getting that ‘good’ tea prepared under his supervision. As far as food was concerned, Dev Anand loved simple food and preferred the home tiffin box, which consisted of plain roti and mostly masala stuffed bitter gourd curry with onions.

My father noticed that Dev Anand used to pay special attention to continuity in films. Depicted as a drinker in the film Sharabi, during a continuation scene he tells assistant director Chander Sehgal that the glass bottle given to him in the studio was transparent, while the one given to him during the scene previously shot in the mines of Calcutta The bottle was a distinct yellowish-brown colour. The assistant director replied that it doesn’t matter, no one will notice as it is a black and white film.

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In terms of continuity, the father recalled an extra (in those days the usually crowded actor-class junior actors were known by this name) who used to get off a tram at Dadar station but only a few minutes from there. Far away Ranjit used to catch a taxi to the studio. This was probably to impress the people who mattered in the studio that she was not just a simple extra working ten buck shifts by Lal Chand but a class in her. Father had seen her on more than one occasion arguing with the Assistant Director, Chander Sehgal about her Continuity Dress. Whereas, Chander Sehgal was careful enough to cast only thin and slender women in the roles of malnourished laborers in coal mines in the film, Lal Chand randomly throws clothes at the extras to get ready for the shot. But this girl insisted on choosing the same dress which she had earlier worn for the sequence being shot continuously. Although my father couldn’t remember his name and had no idea how the artist carved out his future in the line of films, he was sure, given his passion for mastery and his style statement, She too must have progressed quite well in her life.

Although all the films of Dev Anand’s debut were not successful, but despite being quite old, showing himself young, the films he made towards the end of his film career were all flops. Some of the names are Aman Ke Farishtey, Sachche Ka Bol Bala, Charge Sheet, Return of Jeul Thief, Main Solan Baras Ki, Censored, Love at Times Scooter, Mr. Prime Minister and Anand Hi created to launch his son Sunil Anand. Anand is also included. Dev Anand also made the film Guide in English for the international market, but it was not very successful.

Dev Anand remained associated with films till the end of his life. In his interview to Simi Garewal, he told that he still feels twenty years old. When asked if he does not want to grow old, he said that it is the law of nature. But one does not grow old, only grows in age, matures and then dies. He recalled the famous words of Guide Raju from the film Guide that he is not afraid of death. In death, a person rises above the body, the world, the misery and happiness, only those who leave him feel the pain.

Dev Anand breathed his last on 3 December 2011 at the age of 88 in a London hotel. He went there for treatment. His funeral took place in London itself. His mortal remains were handed over to Agni along with music to the tunes of popular songs from his films “Abhi Na Jao Chhod Ke” and “Gata Rahe Mera Dil”.

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