Sahib Memories of Dev Anand

Dubby Bhagat


Besides writing about pop music and inventing the Indian Teenager in the Junior Statesman (JS) in the 60’s and 70’s, I was helping with the JS design studio and Dev Anand was amongst

our first clients. Dev Sahib was far ahead of his time, a sophisticate in an age when Bombay

was run by runaways from the Punjab who would insist on calling bedrooms, “badrooms”.

Dev Sahib was doing a movie called ‘Heera Panna’ and wanted ads and poster designs. But he thought ‘Heera Panna’ required elegance and simplicity in its publicity. Despite Heera Panna being in eloquent Technicolor, the JS studio, came up with a black and white design with red on Zeenat Aman’s lips and Dev Sahib’s cap. The campaign was awardwinning, the picture a hit. Dev Sahib is an enthusiast and his moods infected those around him. But he tended to make a movie singlehandedly, not easy when you’ve got a huge cast and Nepal as the set.

At some visceral level Dev Sahib associated Nepal with music and laughter and fun from his Hare Ram, Hare Krishna days. So a cast of hundreds flew to Pokhara for ‘Ishq Ishq Ishq.’

For months Dev Sahib had worked with RD Burman on the music of ‘Ishq Ishq Ishq,’ coaxing the very best from the brilliant composer who freely admitted to being inspired by Nepal.

The ‘Ishq’ music is still considered classic, but the movie for which JS designed a psychedelic campaign, didn’t live up to its music. I was posted from Calcutta to Bombay as JS Res Rep. Dev Sahib mentored me. He took me to private screenings and fed me in the best restaurants and hammered into me the Great Movie Secret. “We go to the river and put our finger in it. And we feel we know what movie this fast flowing river wants. Than we take a year to make the movie. And in that time the course of the river has changed…”

For me Dev Sahib epitomised tinsel town. He has the style, flair and panache to cut a wide swathe but he somehow remained above it. He spent his time helping people because he liked them. When Zeenat Aman left Dev Sahib’s Navketan fold he cheered himself and all of us by saying she’d do well. And he made sure she did with discreet phone calls and unrecorded meetings with movers and shakers. Much to his own personal discomfort he helped his personal Assistance Amit Khanna to become a producer, and he told me the other day that Amit was big with the Ambanis now. Dev Sahib seemed genuinely prod. When his nephew from England(who got a walk on part in ‘Ishq’) couldn’t hack the Bombay scene (he lived in his car because he couldn’t afford a flat) Dev Sahib sent him back to England with letters of introduction and persuasive long distance phone calls, and Shekhar Kapoor’s star ascended.

There are hundreds of examples of his mentoring and when they say Dev Sahib in Bombay the accent is on the Sahib and the tone is reverential. We met at the Hyatt the other day and we took up from where we left off 25 years ago when I went to tell him I was settling in Nepal. He looked wistful and then he said, “It’s wonderful there….”He gave me a suede jacket he wore in Amir Garib (I think) talking about crisp winter days. When he walked into the Banquet room at the Hyatt the other day he said, “Its still great, in Nepal.” And time had the grace and sense to stand still as Dev Sahib’s memory, sharp as a kindly knife, cut to reminisces of another time, another place and of Nepal his comfort zone.