Monday, December 05, 2011
En route, we decided to stop by for coffee and that's when I told my wife about Dev Saheb's death. He lived a great and respectable life and passed away in peace, she said. How many people get to lead that kind of life? Indeed. Dev Saheb was a lucky man. He enjoyed a lifetime of stardom, being showered with love from lovers of Hindi cinema. He died in his sleep. He was in London for medical check up. He was 88.
I awoke late to the chrisma of Dev Saheb. As a kid, I grew up worshiping the angry young man persona of Amitabh Bachchan. Those were the pre-television days and even to get to watch a Bachchan movie standing up in a hot, jam-packed, and dilapidated cinema hall was a ticket to the heaven. In those days, names like those of Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar and Raj Kumar sounded boring. For me, they were stars who had faded away. I had difficulty believing that young Indian women found them worthy of swooning over!
Once, one of my uncles took me to watch one of Dev Saheb's hit movies. It was Johny Mera Naam. Hmm, not bad, I thought. Later on, I watched Guide. I liked it, more so because it was based on R K Narayan's story. Narayan had many complaints against Dev Saheb but that is another story. I also liked Dev Saheb's work in Kala Bazaar and Taxi Driver. I saw many of these gems while researching for a documentary with my friend and mentor Amir Ullah Khan and Professor Bibek Debroy (Indian Economic Transition through Bollywood Eyes).
As I watched more of his movies, I realised what had happened with him. His performance in some of his earlier films were great because he had not developed his trade mark Dev Anand Style. Later on, he had become a caricature of himself. This happened to many other good actors of Hindi cinema--they got trapped in their trade mark styles: names like Raaj Kumar, Dharmendra, Shatrughan Sinha, even Bachchan Saheb, come to my mind.
Though I had great respect for him, Dev Saheb seemed to have wasted his talent on films unworthy of his attention. He could have been like Clint Eastwood. Eastwood, even at 81, directs excellent films (Gran Torino, Million Dollar Baby, Invictus, to name a few). In his later career, Dev Saheb produced and directed many films, but not a single one is memorable (such as Awwal Number, Main Solah Baras Ki, Love at Times Square). Someone should have stopped him.
However, this does not make him any less great. Long before, he had earned his place in people's heart. I love him for his energy, for his capacity to go on, no matter what. And I will always remember him for the song, Har fikr to dhuyen me udata chala gaya. This is one of my favorite songs, besides the one from Gurudutt Saheb's Pyaasa: Yeh Duniya agar mil bhi jaye toh kya hai.
Dev Saheb, whenever fikr and taraddud surround me, I reach out for that stick and take a drag and sing along with you: Maein Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya/Har Fikar Ko Dhuen Mein Udata Chala Gaya
Dev Saheb, wherever you are, rest in peace. We will always love you.