Indo-Asian News Service
New Delhi, (IANS) Two birthday boys. Two journeys: one to the height of political glory and the other to the blazing firmament of showbiz stardom. As Dev Anand, the evergreen hero of Indian cinema, turned 84 Wednesday, he could not have asked for a better gift than lavish praises from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with whom he shares his birthday.
Flying high on dreams and "romancing with life" - the title of his memoirs - Dev Anand, dressed in a green jacket and holding a red rose in his hands, looked youthful and sprightly as ever - "a restless spirit in love with life", in his own words as Manmohan Singh launched his book at his 7 Race Course residence. True to his irrepressible spirit, Dev Anand chose to anchor the book launch event himself and walked across to Congress president Sonia Gandhi with a rose in his hands, praying and wishing that she will keep alive the legacy of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru - the man who loved to sport a red rose in the buttonhole of his jackets.
"This is a very very ordinary man, but perhaps in a certain extraordinary way," said the legendary actor, impresario, and star-maker known for romancing some of the most beautiful divas in Indian films.
Manmohan Singh was generous with his praise of the man he described as "one of the most enduring romantics in the last half-a-century" and "the tallest leader of the Hindi film industry".
"At 84, he is not only young at heart, but also youthful to look at. I am sure that for several generations of fans, he will always be remembered as a delightfully romantic and endearing artist," said the prime minister.
"Indian cinema discovered the immortal Dev Anand. He rose to be one of the trinity who ruled the heart of every Indian - Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand. He has possibly acted with every top heroine over five decades - from Suraiya and Waheeda Rahman to Madhubala and Zeenat Aman.
"Dev Anandji's life is a tribute to the world of opportunity and creativity that the Indian film industry has come to represent," said Manmohan Singh, who turned 75 Wednesday.
In his touching tribute, the prime minister alluded to the rags and riches story of the iconic film star, known for films like "Guide", "Hum Dono", "Hare Rama, Hare Krishna" and "Prem Pujari", who had to suffer deprivation and dislocation of the Partition before he migrated to India from Lahore.
The prime minister also showered praise on the Hindi film industry for "successfully achieving the emotional integration of this vast and diverse land of ours".
"This unique mix of conversational Hindi from across the country, popularised by the film industry, has become the thread that weaves us together," he said.
Saying that the emotive appeal of Indian films outstrip that of Hollywood, which is a bigger business, in the world, the prime minister said, "more people laugh and shed tears, more people sing and cheer watching an Indian film"
"From the islands of the Pacific to those of the Atlantic, from the southernmost tip of Africa to the icy deserts of Serbia, from the towns of West Africa to the cities of East Asia, from the suburbs of North America to villages across Asia - around the world, across the globe, the sun never sets on Indian films."
The prime minister couldn't resist quoting a popular song from Dev Anand's film "Hum Dono" - "Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya..." - as he held the actor's life as an inspiration for a stronger and more creative India.
"Dev Anand's life mirrors India's own progress. Over 60 years ago, when he started acting in films India was a poor and backward country. Today, India is among the world's front-ranking nations," he said.
"We still have to win the war against poverty, ignorance and disease. But today, we can say with a much greater degree of confidence and assurance that we will indeed win this war," he said.