The Bond Between Dev Sahab And Amitabh
I DON’T THINK I CAN BEGIN THE NEW YEAR WITHOUT COMING UP WITH ANOTHER STORY ABOUT MY FAVOURITE MAN, DEV ANAND.
BY ALI PETER JOHN
Dev Sahab was difficult when asked to say something about an actor or a star who was showing all the signs of growing big. It was this feeling in him that made him react to a question asked by a journalist about the new superstar Rajesh Khanna. He did not think twice before saying, “Talk to me after twenty-five years “.
He however had a soft corner for Amitabh Bachchan whose first film “Saath Hindustani” he had seen because of K. A Abbas who was among his first mentors and who had given him a place to live in his flat at Shivaji Park when Dev had no hope and no hope of making it in films. He had however made a prediction that Ambitab could be an actor in the class of his close friend, Balraj Sahni…
Years passed and Amitabh became the superstar he had worked hard to become. It was in 1984 that he was forced by circumstances to enter politics and he fought the elections from Allahabad and had trounced a political giant like H. N Bahuguna who lost his deposit and was so shocked that he died a few months later.
A film and cultural organisations in Bombay called Cinegoers Club headed by one Shyam Kajaria organised a unique meeting with Amitabh, the newly elected MP and Dev Anand who was always known to be the face of the opposition. The meeting was scheduled for 7.30 in the morning at the Sun N Sand hotel. There were many who believed that the meeting would never happen and was only a publicity stunt. But both Dev Anand and Amitabh arrived at the Hotel 15 minutes before time to see the entire lawns of the hotel packed with the media which was expecting fireworks. But both the men were gentleman and they made it a point not to talk or even mention anything about politics. They just praised each other and Amitabh touched Dev Anand’s feet , they embraced each other and the “sensational” meeting called at 7.30 in the morning ended and Dev Anand ran up to his room at the Sun N Sand where he had a permanent suite (339) for several months and Amitabh got into his white Ambassador car which was allotted to him as a MP of the Congress Party and drove away with his security men trying their best to catch up with Amitabh who was at the wheel, driving his own car with his chauffer sitting in the back seat…
Some years passed. Amitabh had quit politics calling it a “cesspool” and Dev said ,” I knew he would not fit into the dirty scene of politics”.
It was time to release the music of one of Dev Anand’s new films and he asked me if Amitabh would be willing to be the chief quest and release the music. I asked him to make a call to Amitabh and make his request and Amitabh did not take a second to agree.
However on the morning of Dev’s event, Amitabh and Jaya called Dev Anand and said he would have to come to their house before the function as he had never been to their house. Dev agreed and reached “Prateeksha”. He was wearing corduroy jeans and a flowery shirt. Tea was served to Dev, but he hardly had a sip which was his normal way of having his eat outside his house. Amitabh’s excused himself and told Dev that he would be back in a minute and he was back in exactly a minute, but their was a big change. He was wearing the same coloured corduroy jeans and the same kind of flowery shirt. At the function, he only spoke about how he saw all the films of Dev both when he was in school in Allahabad and when he was working in Calcutta. He had seen ‘Guide” several times and would still like to see it if he had the time. The function was the media’s delight and the photographs of the two in the same outfits were splashed in every newspaper and magazine in the country.
It was time to release Dev’s autobiography, “Romancing Life”. I was fortunate to be asked by the legend if Amitabh would agree to release his book as he did not considered anyone else to do him the honour. Amitabh again came within minutes and their coming together created quite a scene at the Leela Hotel which was Dev’s favourite hotel after he found the Taj Mahal too far. The book was released by the then PM Manmohan Singh who agreed to do it only if Dev had the function in his own house and be a part of the celebrations of his birthday party which coincided with Dev’s birthday on September 26.
There were many other occasions when the two great men met and Amitabh was always full of respect and Dev was the thorough gentleman more than the legend he was. The day the news about Dev’s death spread all over, Amitabh ordered his office to close down as a tribute to Dev and Amitabh kept asking why the body of one of the greatest legends of Indian cinema was not brought home where he ruled the hearts of millions for six generations.
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