More Anand for Dev

Indo-Asian News Service


He creates expansive celluloid dreams, never mind that his box office duds have stopped creating even a ripple for over 20 years. But Dev Anand is Dev Anand. And even if not for the vast repertoire of popular Hindi films spanning five decades, eternal hero Anand deserves India’s top film honour — the Dadasaheb Phalke award 2002 — for his relentless spirit.

He is happy but nonchalant at being awarded India’s highest honour for lifetime achievement in cinema. Never mind if fans say the octogenarian Dev Anand has had to wait too long for the Indian government’s Dada Saheb Phalke award. For the evergreen actor, cinema itself is the biggest reward.

“When you speak about the government, you mean a handful of jury members. Individuals will invariably come with their inbuilt prejudices. Everyone has favourites. And I’m the last man to lobby for any award.”

Did the honour come later than he expected? “I have never waited for it, I never asked for it. Of course, not that I did not want it but I am happy it has come to me now.” During award function, as he strode up to the dias to receive the medal and citation, he cocked an eyebrow at the cheering audience, stood with his hands on his hips for a few moments before approaching President APJ Abdul Kalam, right hand raised.

“I am in my own world of films and dreams... I enjoy making every film and every film gives something beautiful to me,” says the 80-year-old legend.

Anand’s films have won five national awards and various other honours. He has received recognition and honour both in India and abroad for his contributions.

That exaggerated Dev Anand swagger remains the same, be it to romance a peevish co-star or to receive the country’s top film award from the president.

Now he is busy with his two projects, a Hindi film called ‘Beauty Queen’ in which he’ll introduce another new female face and the controversial international project, ‘The Song Of Life’, which he insists isn’t about Pt Ravi Shankar and his daughter Norah Jones.

“‘The Song Of Life’ is my own creation. It’s about music and musicians. There have been great musicians all over the world. This will be my tribute to all of them. Cinema is about letting a thought erupt into a whole vista. We’re famous for our musicals. Now I want to make a musical with American actors and musicians. What’s wrong with that?”

Born Devdutt Pishorimal on September 26, 1923, at Gurdaspur in Punjab, Anand was an arts graduate from Panjab University when the acting bug bit him and spurred him to join elder brother Chetan in Mumbai.

His first screen appearance was in ‘Prabhat’ (1945), during the filming of which he met Guru Dutt who would later give him many plum roles like in ‘CID’ and ‘Jaal’. After ‘Ziddi’, his first hit, the lean and handsome Anand became a sensation across the country.

Anand does not want to believe life cannot imitate art when he talks about the “reunion” of India and Pakistan. He was one of the first passengers in the Delhi-Lahore bus that Indian prime minister Vajpayee took to the other side of the border in 1999.

“The partition of 1947 was the biggest mistake ever. We are the same in every way — similar music, similar people, similar abuses, similar songs. When Germans could unite, two Berlins could meet, European currency could be made one... Why can’t it happen now?”

He calls himself a restless soul. When will he retire? “I will retire only when my eyes close eternally. I want to achieve more and more, and more and more...I never sit on my laurels. My achievements are not for me to discuss. It’s for critics and film historians. I need to go on making films as long as I can.”