On Sunday the whole country stood paralysed at the news about Dev Anand’s passing!!! Suave, polished, urbane and stylish with that trademark puff of hair always in place and a dreamy voice, he was Bollywood’s answer to Gregory Peck!!! So charming was he that he would make even the claustrophobic, dull and colourless interiors of Qutub Minar seem the most romantic place in the world.
Impish without being intense; sexy without ever hinting sex, well dressed and a thorough gentleman he not only typified the male cool of his era; he also helped define it. So many times I have (as have many others I’m sure) secretly fantasized swapping places with heroine Sadhna in that song, Abhi na jao chodkar! Rumour has it that in the 1960s small-town north India he had been banned from wearing black suits because his female fans would faint with delight. For me, of course, it was all about English!!! Yup I was his fan from the moment I found out that this man whose dialogue delivery in Hindi was…. mmmmmm delicious, was actually an English Literature Graduate! Impeccable English, lined with style (I believe if you called him and ask to speak to Dev Anand and he’d say “this is he”…. Haaaai, I bet you could even hear his trademark shaking of the head on the phone) he made the “Gentleman look” look so genuine!!!!
But oodles of charm was not his only asset. An intelligent mind and a sensitive heart, he was a consummate “fankaar”. He produced and directed movies that were ahead of his times gently testing conservative boundaries. ‘Prem Pujari’ had anti-war content, ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ which addressed India’s bourgeoning hippie scene and the sex, drugs and rock-and-roll that came with it and ‘Des Pardes’ spoke about the life of immigrants. Not only that, he also provided the launch pad for some of tinsel town’s most remembered head-turners such as Zeenat Aman and Tina Munim. He was a man with a “Can-do” attitude and a “Keep moving” pace. As he sang in what he proclaimed as his life’s philosophy, “Mai zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya; har fiqr ko dhueiyn mein udata chala gaya…”
A couple of months ago I had written that with the passing of Shammi Kapoor has ended an era. What then would we call the passing of Dev Saab?????? Can men with so much zest for life and joie de vivre really die? As I was flitting through You Tube videos of his songs I heard “Gaata rahe mera dil” … Now that’s so much more appropriate for a man like him than R.I.P (Rest in Peace)!!!!! Men like Dev Anand, (as I said on his birthday when he turned 88, he is not 88, he is celebrating his 22nd birthday for the fourth time) don’t die. They turn mortality into a fashion statement!!!!!