Free Press Journal

Dev Saab: A Journey with the legend Dev Anand by Vijay Kumar- Review


Title: Dev Saab: A journey with the legend Dev Anand
Author: Vijay Kumar
Publisher: Notion Press
Pages: 211
Cost: Rs 499


The book about iconic actor Dev Anand, as seen through the eyes of a fan, is divided into 17 chapters. In the first chapter, we get an insight into the author’s life, beginning from his childhood days. Speaking of his fascination for the actor during his days in Delhi he says, “Actors were idols to people. A new star on the horizon at that time was Rajesh Khanna and another popular actor was Dharmendra, but I was a big fan of Dev Anand. I tried not to miss any of his movies and would even borrow money from friends to buy tickets to see his films. Every Friday, when a new film was screened, we made it a point to watch the first show. Sometimes we could only afford the cheapest seats under the noisy fans in the front row, instead of in the quieter air-conditioned part of the theatre. My brother and I would always bunk school and go to the 12-noon screening. Those were the days of Johny Mera Naam (1970), Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971) and Gambler (1971). Johny Mera Naam was such a hit; it was screened for 50 consecutive weeks and became one of the highest-grossing films of the decade. I was fascinated by the belt buckle Dev Anand wore in it and had to scour Delhi’s most famous shops to find it.”

The author speaks of an era sans computer games, mobiles or ipads and when TV was rare. About his icons’ style he says, “Dev Anand to me was the evergreen hero, the only one who had his own style of dressing. I loved his colourful shirts, scarf, hats and colourful jackets. Most of all, I loved his characteristic gait and dialogue delivery.”

The author also reveals knowledge of the fact that “Dev Anand made 115 films, directed 19 and wrote 13 scripts. In fact, he used to sit with the editor and do almost all the editing of his films and gave many actors (Waheeda Rehman, Zeenat Aman, Tabu, Zarina Wahab, Tina Munim, Shekhar Kapur, Kabir Bedi, Guru Dutt, Shatrughan Sinha, Jackie Shroff, etc), composers, lyricists and directors their first break.”

In the next chapter, he says, “Although I came from a humble, non-cinema background, there was a perennial desire to meet my favourite star in real life.” After a shift to UK and a nearly 150 km drive from his home in Liverpool to Bradford to see Heera Panna, he realised that “For the first time, I felt the desire to become an actor.” His endeavour in this regard involved commuting nearly 200 miles to attend acting classes thrice a week. After saving some money, he made the trip to Mumbai and met actor Sanjeev Kumar, on the sets of Angoor, who encouraged him not to give up his struggle at any point of time.

The author mentions how difficult it was to keep in touch with family and friends in the absence of mobiles, messaging apps or social media and how he had cried on many occasions, wondering if he had chosen the right profession since it kept him away from his loved ones. He even imported his car from UK and sold it in India to finance his goal, but got embroiled in the mandatory paperwork and import duties.

In 1988, he finally met his dream star on the sets of  Sachche  Ka  Bol  Bala at Mehboob studio. Director Sooraj Barjatya’s film Maine Pyar Kiya (1989), which turned out to be a milestone in the history of Indian cinema and made Salman Khan the biggest star of Bollywood, could have launched his career but unfortunately, he couldn’t get a role in the film. During the making of the film Sau Crore in Switzerland, after receiving a call out of the blue from his icon, he speaks of Dev’s workaholicism, how he (Dev) was always excited about the film, that there were no fixed eating hours, and when he remembered he would say, “Let’s have a packet of biscuits.”

The author worked in TV sitcom ‘Dekh Bhai Dekh’, which became very popular. Setbacks to his acting career came in the form of his scenes in Sau Crore getting axed, the demise of director Yash Chopra, and scenes from another film, ‘Gangster’, too got axed.

About why he used to cast newcomers in his films, Dev Anand once told the author that unless people are given a chance, they cannot prove their talent and that anyone can make a film with known faces, but you need courage and creativity to make one with newbies. Here Dev recounted how Dadamoni (Ashok Kumar), a superstar at that time, offered him, a newcomer, a movie role straight-away and that since that day he too chose to help other actors by giving them a break in the film industry. He even spoke of how he had come to Mumbai with only Rs 30 in his pocket, how he had left the film Zanjeer because there was no song for him but on the flip-side, he was happy that the film went to Amitabh Bachchan who became a star. He never spoke negatively about anybody and even though SD Burman refused to work in Hare Rama Hare Krishna, he gave his son RD Burman a break in the industry.

Queried about his love for Suraiyya, Dev fondly revealed how they would speak every day and that he would walk all the way to Marine Drive to meet her at her Krishna Mahal flat.

Dev, who was such a big star, kept his promise made in Switzerland, to go to the author’s home in Liverpool which was quite a distance from Surrey (where his sister used to live), revealing another facet of the star. A final setback for the author was when a Hare Rama Hare Krishna remake was planned with a meaty role for him in the film, but Dev Anand passed away.

The book is unique in the sense that it looks at an icon through the eyes of a fan who followed his idol, right from his childhood days in Delhi. And then again, how many fans choose to become an actor based on this fan following and then get to meet them and become life-long friends? This admiration bears fruit when he not only meets his idol, but spends a considerable amount of time with him, and has a lot of fond memories till his demise. This entire journey of a fan is what adds to the allure of this book.