September 24, 2007 1:13:24 pm
Actor and film maker Dev Anand has often been described as the eternal romantic. In keeping with the zest for life for which he is famous,Dev Anand is bringing out his autobiography,Romancing with Life,on September 26,his 85th birthday. It will be released by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In an interview with The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta on NDTV 24×7’s Walk the Talk,Dev Anand talks about his films,his famed devotion to his leading women,and the philosophy he’s lived by
On the record-Dev Anand,Actor,Director
My guest this week is perhaps one of the most durable romantics of our time,in fact,of five generations the most cheerful,the eternal and really wonderful Dev Anand.
Thanks for the compliment,Shekhar.
You are used to getting compliments.
Well,I’m used to compliments. But some people tell lies and some people tell the truth. It is for me to analyse whether what they say is a lie or the truth. But you are a fine and honest man. I believe you.
But you have also said in your autobiography (Romancing with Life) that life is all truth and nothing but the truth.
The very word ‘auto in autobiography means that I’m speaking and talking and writing about myself and that I’m sworn to myself and committed to my conscience to tell the truth. I have tried my best to tell the truth that’s all I can say.
You have a very sharp memory.
I think so.
Politicians are sharp forever,but I don’t think many politicians at age 84 would be as sharp as you.
I don’t know. I can’t compare myself. But they are great people. I’m okay,I’m fine,I can remember things because when I started working (on the autobiography) I took a pause,which meant I’d go backwards to the earliest moment my memory was sharp enough to remember.
Devsaab,how do you deal with age and years? Your fame is about your youth and your romance.
I don’t think about it,because when I’m working,I’m totally involved with my work. When I’m making a film,I think of an idea,develop the plot,work 24 hours a day on it.
Like M.F. Hussain,he’s still working.
Like you,for instance. When you’re writing an article,you’re not in this world. In the back of the mind,though,it’s there that it has to be the best article in the world.
Shekhar Gupta writing on politics,a man known to the world. So you lose yourself in the work. We are lost for months on end when we’re making a movie. You are in control of the medium,writing,acting,being behind the camera,in front of it there are huge stars,sometimes newcomers whom you have to teach and train.
Devsaab,we could have chosen a very romantic setting in Bombay,maybe the sets of one of your films,but we chose this studio,because a studio is a journey in time. Look at these posters (points to posters of Baazi and Hum Dono). Each one is of a favourite movie of yours.
I must tell you,I haven’t put them up. I have no such ego that people should see my posters. It’s my staff who have insisted that we put up these posters so that people will know. The posters remind me of a time when I was struggling to become an actor,then I became a small actor,a big actor,then a superstar.
My first memory of you is Hum Dono.
Hum Dono was the last of black & white era. Then we made Guide and then it was the colour era. (Hum Dono had) Wonderful music. It was entered for a festival and there I met the American director of Guide and we negotiated.
You also started this whole trend of the tragic hero ‘ tragic but romantic,and a nice guy.
When you talk of heroes,they are not tragic. Heroes can never be tragic. They pass through that moment to emerge as a hero. So a hero is never tragic,he is triumphant,and he has glory all the time.
I believe you’re doing Hum Dono in colour now.
I’m not doing it. People who wanted to see it in colour came to me. I asked if I could see a sample. They brought me a sample and I saw it. The pictures were so beautifully done.
Do you see the colouring as reviving the magic of Hum Dono,the way the magic of Mughal-e-Azam was revived?
Let’s not compare them.
In terms of colour
I’ve not seen Mughal-e-Azam in colour except on TV. But this (the colourisation of Hum Dono) is good work. I got the feeling that the movie had been shot in colour.
Which is your favourite song from that movie?
Kabhi khud pey,kabhi halaat pey rona aaye,baat nikley to har baat pey rona aaye. There’s this juxtaposition of emotions.
Now,everybody’s favourite is ‘Abhi naa jao chhod kar’.
In terms of romance,it’s wonderful. Could a boy say anything better to a girl when they are together? And the ultimate one,again,is ‘Main zindagi ka saath nibhayta chala gaya’,which is about romance in your life,and that’s my book.
Tell us about your first film with the lady who eventually became your wife.
That was in Baazi. She was from Shimla. We’d made a film,a satire,a comedy. My brother and I set up a company called Nav Ketan. It made box-office. And then we brought on Kalpana Kartik.
How did you discover her?
My brother brought her from Shimla,and I think he knew the family. She was unfamiliar with the cinema world. She worked in the movie and it became a hit.
How did you romance her? I believe you got married over lunch break while shooting for a movie.
We had fallen in love and we decided we could make a few commitments. We didn’t believe in a big noise after marriage. It was a very personal affair.
It happened at lunchtime?
It was at lunchtime. We had the registrar of marriages and he was waiting in the arts department. I got a signal from one of my men. I signalled to her. I had the ring in my pocket. She walked out,and after a few seconds I walked out. We went to the room,and there he got a register,we signed,and I put the ring on her finger. We were husband and wife.
That was revolutionary for those days.
Nobody knew except two witnesses. Then the cameraman got there. He must have guessed what had happened. But I said,’Don’t let the cat out of the bag. It has happened,but keep quiet. Hold on for a moment.’
That was revolutionary at that time.
No,it can happen any time. If I had had invitations sent,had trumpets blowing . . .
half the city would have committed suicide. But that was not your only romance. Tell us about the earlier one. Now is the time to tell the truth. Tell us about Suraiya.
Beautiful lady,great star,great singer as well. We liked each other,and the more we liked each other,the more we learnt about each other. Romance was in the air,romance was in the newspapers.
And I believe there was a drowning incident. You saved her from drowning,or is that just a story?
She was about to drown and I just helped bring her out of the water. But it just happened. When a boy falls in love with a girl,something happens.
Why didn’t it work out?
The romance took a communal colour. Her family opposed it. Suraiya was a feeble girl,she was weak-minded. She said she couldn’t go against the wishes of her parents. She got scared then. And we could never meet. You read my book,you’ll get it. I was desperate to a point,but then I composed myself.
And tell us about the Gregory Peck story? Is it true she taunted you and you developed this style that many people say resembles Gregory Peck’s?
I’m not sure whether I look like Gregory Peck or whether Gregory Peck looks like me. Suraiya was a great fan of Gregory Peck and when Gregory Peck came to Bombay,he was entertained at a club. Suraiya was there,and I was there,and she must have discovered something of me in him. ‘You know how you look?’ she asked me. ‘You look like Gregory Peck.’ I said,’That’s not a compliment. I look better than him. I want to look better than him because I want you to like me more than you like him.’ He was a big star then. It was a great thing (to be compared to him). But my ego . . . I didn’t want to be compared to anyone else.
Is ego important in life?
Ego shouldn’t be visible in the world. If it’s visible,you are called selfish and it is not right. Ego should be in your own work. I am working,I am making a film,and I am composing. I want to be the best in the world because I want to be the best. It is important to work that way because you feel nothing. So ego is very important. That’s how I became a leader and a star.
We come to another of your favorites. Waheeda Rehman in Kaala Pani,one of your first films with her.
When she first came to films,she was very raw.
I believe she’s a tough cookie.
She was gentle and she followed the instructions of the director all the time. When Guide was being planned,there was a discussion for a co-star and she was on the mind of the American director. She’s a great dancer. It was her best performance.
We’ll come to Guide later. We’ll look at Madhubala now.
Beautiful girl,very natural,and no artificial make-up. And very young. Not very educated,but she was appealing and she was innocent.
Did you fall in love with her?
No,no,we were good friends.
There’s another young,beautiful girl you talk about a bit more fondly in your book. That’s Zeenat Aman. Compare Zeenat Aman and Madhubala?
Zeenat Aman got a role that was true to her life in Hare Rama,Hare Krishna. It took six months to discover a girl like Zeenat Aman,who was Western in upbringing and education,but Indian in terms of culture. She was dark,tall,she’d just become Miss Asia. I met her for the first time and she was smoking. She took a cigarette from her pack and she was going to light it,and I was watching her for the possibility of casting her. Her eyes fell upon me and she offered me a cigarette. She took a cigarette and put the lighter to it,and the light from the lighter lit up her eyes. Those eyes are ingrained in my mind. I decided,’This is the girl I was looking for.’
I read in your autobiography that you were taken up by her bindaas character,you were in love with her.
No,I was in love with the character. I needed a girl who suited the character. And if a girl suits the character,she becomes the most beautiful girl for me.
But talk about the fact that you actually called her to tell her how much you loved her. You were taken up with her.
I am taken up with all the marvellous things around me.
Devsaab don’t be shy now. Talk about the story you have written of you inviting her.
Don’t come up with the facts in the book. Let people read the book first.
People will read the book. So what happened? Did Raj Kapoor steal her from you?
No,nobody can steal a girl who is being cast in Dev Anand’s film. She can only be stolen for a film. If you ask her now about Dev Anand,she will have great praise for me.
Raj Kapoor stole her for Satyam,Shivam,Sundaram. You were unhappy.
He took her for Satyam,Shivam,Sundaram and I didn’t know. I was upset temporarily because Zeenat did not take me into confidence.
You talked about ego just now. Did your ego get hurt?
I got over it in no time. When reality dawns,the ego is gone. You ask,’Why did it happen? Why the hell did it happen?’ But this is what life is,and it refines you,gives you great reasons for living better all the time.
The modern times begin with Guide,also a revolutionary theme.
Very bold theme. Nobody had done it in the world: you shot the same movie twice. Once the English version,and then the Hindi version,which was not the same. It was totally different,had a new script. People called me mad,said the film wasn’t going to sell. But we were convinced it would succeed.
The last meeting the three of us had with Pandit Nehru was in Delhi. He had had a stroke and we spent two hours with him. He was like a child. We were like his grandchildren.
I believe all of you talked about his romantic personality.
We were talking like fans.
Tell us a little about what happened.
I think we were all joking. Word was going around that he and Lady Mountbatten had friendly relations,and that he has a romantic image. I mentioned to him that all the photographers in the world say he has a very photogenic face.
What did he say about it?
He blushed. He was like a child at those moments.
You talked about Raj Kapoor stealing Zeenat Aman for Satyam Shivam Sundaram. What was Raj Kapoor like with his woman leads? Very possessive? Very aggressive?
No,I don’t know.
Did he spread rumours about his relationships with them?
No,I don’t know,but people talk about it. I don’t indulge in gossip. I read about it and forget it. I’m not concerned at all.
Tell us a little bit about the Dev Anand style. How did you develop the style ‘ the cap,the gait,the manner of speaking,the full-sleeved shirts always? How did it come about?
There’s no Dev Anand style. I have longer arms than my coats so I pull them up and I like it. If you love yourself,when you are going to a party and you meet a lot of wonderful people there,you look at yourself in a mirror and ask yourself what sort of shirt and suit you are wearing. If you like yourself,you are going to conquer. That’s self-confidence.
So the style was self-discovered?
Nobody told me (what to do). This is Dev Anand. I was like this,and people took to me. Look at these two gaps in my front teeth. When I was auditioning in Pune,Santoshi said,’You are wonderful,your eyes are beautiful,your smile is devastating. But those two gaps in your front teeth. We may have to use fillers.’ I was a bit nervous,but I agreed. Because it was a good break. They gave me fillers,and I couldn’t speak properly. So I took Santoshi into confidence. I told him my speech is getting slurred (because of the fillers). He said,’Forget it.’ I threw the fillers in the dustbin. And yet people started liking me. Ultimately,it boils down to presentability. There’s no such thing as perfect.
What does the janata like? The janata likes the cap,the feather in it,the full-sleeved shirt.
I was at the premiere of Baazi and I was wearing the cap. I deliberately wore it so that when I walked in,people would recognise me. People recognised my way of walking and they picked it up.
Devsaab,in your movies there are many scenes one remembers. But the scene imprinted in my mind is from Prem Pujari,the reluctant soldier.
Yes,a soldier who runs from the army. His father is a great soldier who wins many medals. But the son is against war,loves butterflies,is gentle. His father insists he joins the army,and he joins but is not a good soldier. He’s sent to the border and the guns are booming,and he cries when a dog dies. He is court-martialled. He comes home and sees his home is burnt down. Then he picks himself up and fights till the battle is won. This was Prem Pujari,based on the 1965 conflict.
What is your favorite of all time? I know your favourite is not ‘Main phikr ko dhuen mein udata chala gaya’ but ‘Shokhiyon mein ghola jaaye.’
You have picked your life’s philosophy from Guide,how Raju Guide becomes a learned man.
I matured as a movie-man,matured as an actor,as a thinker (in that movie). The climax is fantastic. Because I lived it. I have repeated it many times in my life. The idea is to reach that place where na sukh hai na dukh hai na duniya na insaan na bhagwan,sirf main,main,main. That’s why I have this book here.
I do hope this book is just a milestone,and that your journey continues. To share your philosophy,it’s the same thing as romancing life,is it not? ‘Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya.’
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