Hero who romanced life

Dev Anand rarely watched his old hits, preferring instead to work on his next

The actor in song 'Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhaata' in film 'Hum Dono'.

Dev Anand was a style icon, perhaps India’s first fashion trendsetter. His arresting eyes, puffed nostrils, pouting lips and childlike smile were special.

People loved him and his distinctive walking and talking style. Audiences were awestruck by his checkered shirts, broad belts, big-dial watches, mufflers, jackets, trousers that were just a little short, caps that he wore tipped, and how he showed off his colourful scarves from his trouser pockets.  

Indians thought of him as their Gregory Peck, but that was just in the initial years. He eventually became our ‘Dev Anand’. 

In the first week of October 2007, he came to Bengaluru to launch his autobiography ‘Romancing with Life’. I was one of the privileged few to be invited to the event at a five-star hotel.

When I reached there, all seats were taken, so I sat on the ground. The organisers were apologetic. But being a student of cinema, I knew my place in the presence of the legendary superstar, writer, director and producer.

After the event, people came forward to greet me. That caught his attention. When he asked about me, I walked towards him and bent down to take his blessings.

In that split second, his charismatic roles, his songs, and his movies rolled in front of my eyes. Being the gentleman he was, he invited me to Anand Studio in Pali Hill, Mumbai. So when I was in Mumbai, I took an appointment and went to see him, on the dot.

I took this opportunity to show him glimpses of my movie ‘Neenello Naanalle’. I was overwhelmed when he praised me. He blessed me and asked me to stay in touch.

He also advised me amicably, “Anirudh! Kabhi mote mat hona.” (Do not put on weight ever). This has remained etched in my memory as it came from one who always remained fit.  Then 85, he had been waiting for me at his studio, dressed immaculately in a suit, with the script of his next film on his lap.

I remember reading somewhere that he rarely watched his old films and songs. Though the audiences were fond of his old films, he always looked forward, working in new films and with much younger heroines. 

I have seen so many old people feeling really old. But this hero remained evergreen and young. That was because he preferred to live in the present, worked efficiently towards the future, and truly romanced life. 

(The author is an actor, singer, writer and director)

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