By Hindustan Times
Decades ago, when Dev Anand was touring the US and Canada, he noticed a 16 year old at every felicitation function, trying desperately to catch his eye. Intrigued, he called her over one evening and learnt that the teenager had left home to trail him from one city to the next in the hope that he would make her Bollywood dreams come true. He didn’t see the spark in her but her story inspired Main Solah Baras Ki in 1998 and launched another starry-eyed aspirant Sabrina.
The film was shot in the Scottish Highlands. During an interview, Sabrina recalled how for a song they had to trudge up a steep hill. Puffing and panting they straggled to the top to be greeted by 75-year-old Dev Anand, who had sprinted up without once pausing for breath. I’ve always visualised Devsaab racing against time.
He even landed his first big break during a mad dash down Churchgate station. Running to catch the train that was just pulling out, he heard someone call out his name.
Director Shahid Lateef, who with his writer- wife Ismat Chugtai, was sitting in a waiting train and beckoned him over to ask what he was doing. The young actor had just wrapped up three films with Prabhat and admitted that he was now looking around. After a pointed nudge from his begum, Shaheed Lateef told him to drop by at Bombay Talkies the next day. He did and was taken to meet the boss, Ashok Kumar, who was on the lookout for someone to cast across opposite Kamini Kaushal in Ziddi. The small budget, black and white film, released a year after Independence, was a surprise hit and he was a star.
It’s been 65 years and he’s still shining bright. Once I’d wondered aloud about his tandrusti ki raaz (fitness secret) and he’d chuckled, “I’ve grown with this country…Grown in confidence with every decade. The mind never grows old but always urges you to surge ahead.” Tomorrow, he turns 88 and he’s still surging ahead.
Earlier this year, Hum Dono returned to the theatres in colour after five decades. He’d told me with a smile that Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya, Har Fikr Ko Dhuan Mein Udata Chala Gaya… reflected his life’s philosophy. I don’t smoke but even I believe in shrugging off all cares instead off letting them settle heavily on my shoulders as I go tripping down life’s lanes.
At the film’s premiere, I sat alone, and hummed along with the debonair charmer a song that had been written before I was born. Suddenly, I felt a pair of eyes on me. My neighbour was giving me the look. Convinced I’d been certified a pagal (mad person), I reluctantly put a full stop to my musical meandering. When the next song started playing, I head an echo closer to me. My neighbour was singing… Smiling, I joined him.
That’s the magic of Dev Anand, he makes you want to break free from rules and romance life. Six decades ago, he’d launched Navketan. The banner lives on, and is all set for a 37th release. Chargesheet, a story about police corruption, has Devsaab playing a CBI officer. And a track by Asha Bhosle, who returned to the studio 28 years after Lootmaar’s Jab Chaahe Mera Jadoo… to sing for Dev saab.
“While working on Dum Maro Dum…, Dada (S D Burman), Pancham (R D Burman), Asha and I would squat on the studio floor,” he’d reminisced, telling me that Hare Rama Hare Krishna was born during a trip to Nepal for the wedding of the crown prince. It was there that he spotted a group of hippies smoking marijuana. “A quarter of a century later, so many Jasbirs have come and gone. Yet so many feeble minds still continue to be hooked on hashish in the hope that it’ll give them the strength to face the world.”
Even though Deepika Padukone gyrated to its remixed tune recently, for me, Zeenat Aman will always be the Dum Maro Dum… girl. Devsaab was introduced to Miss Asia at a party. She offered him a cigarette and as she lit it, her eyes lit up. And he knew he’d found his Jasbir. Devsaab plans to return to Nepal to shoot the sequel and is looking for another Zeenat to carry Jasbir’s story forward. For the star maker, the show goes on…