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Dev Anand gave Chennai a big pleasant smile – Ali Peter John

The memories of Dev anand's chennai visit, when every star welcomed him warmly

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Dev anand was not God (Dev). Dev was not a saint. Dev was not the Pope. Dev was not even a holy man or a Godman. Dev was just like any other man. Then what was that magic and that magnetic secret about him that attracted men, women and children of all ages, presidents, prime ministers, other politicians of different parties, generals, majors, captains and soldiers, doctors, engineers and scientists, swami’s, mullahs and agnostics and even stars of his own generation and other stars, both male and female and even those who did not know anything about him and his many – splendoured achivements. I was with him during different times and at different occasions, events and functions in different places and could never understand what the magic of being Dev Anand was all about.

 It was very difficult to make Dev Sahab agree to attend a public function

dev-anand-gave-chennai-a-big-pleasant-smileDev sahab a person who hard to agree to attend a public function and I knew about this side of him. But my Indian Express management wanted him to be the chief guest at the South Screen Awards and Dev wanted me to talk to him. I did and was elated when he agreed on the condition that I travel with him to Chennai.

He was one hour early at the airport as he always believed in following every rule. He always had a seat in the first row of any aircraft in any airlines where he sat with his face covered with one of his many caps. He as usual did not even ask for a glass of water during the entire flight.

We were checked into the Taj Connemara Hotel and he made it a point to see that I had a suite next to his. He asked me to take all the calls that came for him.

Few good memories of meeting with South Industry’ stars

dev-anand-gave-chennai-a-big-pleasant-smileThe first call was from Kamal Hassan who said he wanted to pay his respects to ” Mr Dev” Anand. I told Dev Sahab about kamal’s request and Dev Sahab said, ” call him over, he is a fine actor “.  And before I could have my tea, Kamal was in the hotel and in Dev Sahab,”s suite and I saw Kamal sitting on a stool next to Dev Sahab till Dev Sahab held him by his shoulders and asked him to sit with him. And before their conversation could proceed, Dev Sahab had already told him about his idea to make a film in Hindi with him and Kamal had said, ” any time you say Dev Sahab, it will be my great honour ”

dev-anand-gave-chennai-a-big-pleasant-smileI saw off Kamal at the lift and from the same lift emerged Rajinikant who had told me that he would be coming at eleven sharp. The two legends quickly greeted each other and Rajni reached Dev Sahab s suite with me following him. Rajini refused to get up from the floor where he was sitting at the feet of Dev Sahab even though Dev Sahab kept telling him that he didn’t like people sitting at his feet. I had never seen a star – fan like Rajini before..

At around noon, Dev Sahab told me that we were invited by Sivaji Ganesan to his house for lunch and I chuckled because I knew there was no chance of Dev Sahab having lunch with anyone. On our way down to the lobby of the hotel, Dev Sahab stopped and said, ” Ali, maine Kabhi masala dosa Nahi khaaya hai, chal thoda hojjaye.A huge masala dosa came to our table and Dev Sahab didn’t know what to do with it and before he could even touch the dosa, there was a huge crowd outside the restaurant, they had apparently heard stories about how Dev Sahab was a stickler who it came to food. He just nibbled at the dosa and said, ” it’s great it’s great” and he got into a Mercedes and left for the bungalow of Shivaji Ganesan where the stalwart and his entire family, mostly women were waiting to receive him.

dev-sahab-gave-chennai-a-big-pleasant-smileGanesan”s bungalow was as huge as an entire village and Ganesan took Dev Sahab around the whole house which had any number of halls and small and big rooms. Ganesan who was treated like God in Chennai kept walking behind Dev Sahab and calling him ” handsome young man “. There were any number of women in the house and Dev Sahab who was in a mischievous mood asked Ganesan ” how many of these women are your wives? ” And Ganesan laughed aloud and said,” naughty young man ” Ganesan enquired about “Yusuf ” (Dilip Kumar) and said ” great actor my friend Yusuf “. Ganesan also got personal and told. Dev Sahab how Khushboo, the girl from Bombay was ruining his family life. It was s time when the media was full of stories about Prabhu, Ganesan’s actor son was having an affair with Khushboo. It was only when Dev Sahab saw the number of dishes spread out on the dinning table that he looked almost peetrrfied and ran out of Ganesan”s house but not before thanking him profusely and promising to meet again. Outside Ganesan’s bungalow was a massive crowd which gave Dev Sahab the kind of applause he often said he could never forget. That promised meeting between two great friends however could not happen again and why did you not let it happen, Oh God:

Dev Sahab followed his normal schedule and did not have any siesta or break during the post lunch time and kept writing one of his scripts in those large notebooks writing with felt pens and in his own handwriting.

dev-anand-gave-chennai-a-big-pleasant-smileThe awards function was to start at 6 in the evening and Dev Sahab told me that we should not be late under any circumstances. We reached the venue at 5 30 and Dev Sahab was surprised seeing the huge crowd. He was taken to the stage by a number of young girls and made to sit on a chair which looked like a throne and knowing Dev Sahab, I knew he was feeling very uncomfortable.

I had a secret which I was not supposed to reveal. Rajini had called me to tell that he would “gate crash” into the function at around 6 30. At 6 15 (I could see the huge crowd growing restless. And then he entered, the one and only Thalaiva the darling of the masses, dressed in plain blue jeans, a matching tee shirt and Hawaii sandals on his feet. He had told me that there should be no announcements about his arrival or even his presence as he believed that he couldn’t disturb any place where Dev Sahab was around. But after all, he was Rajni and it seemed like the people could even feel his presence when he was somewhere near.

dev-gave-chennai-a-big-pleasant-smileThe crowd was silent till many of the other stars from the south had arrived and taken their places on the dais next to where Dev Sahab was sitting but there was some kind of an explosion when Rajni finally entered and I could see a benevolent smile on Dev Sahab s face. The most dramatic moment that evening was when Rajni went up to Dev Sahab and bent down and touched Dev Sahab s feet and the crowd went crazy. Rajni then spoke and I could see hundreds of people openly crying. I couldn’t follow a word of what Rajni said and when I asked a colleague, he said ” Rajni has said that he was not fit to sit with a God -like man like Dev Anand Sahab.” The crowd who were all staunch fans of Rajni had wondered if their God could touch another man’s feet, he would have been a greater God. There could have been a chaos when the function was over, but Rajni had to just raise his hand and there was complete peace all around and people left the venue without any signs of breaking any rules because that is what Rajni had asked them to do in honour of a rare guest like Dev Anand Sahab.

dev-gave-chennai-a-big-pleasant-smileWe (my editor, her daughter, me and Dev Sahab) were to leave for Bombay at 2 pm the next day Dev Sahab kept asking me to request the ladies to leave in time to catch the flight in time. The ladies being ladies kept getting late and we had just one hour to reach the airport. Dev Sahab was annoyed but he didn’t show it. When we reached the airport, the flight was announced. And it was like a believe it or not sight to see Dev Sahab carrying the luggage of four people and running towards the aircraft with hundreds of people watching him in sheer admiration. That was magic of the eternal Anand working full blast in Chennai and when Dev Sahab got on to the flight and waved out, I could see the whole of Chennai waving back to him and saying ” poito Vango” (go and come back again)