Ali Peter John
If I Knew one thing about Dev Anand (who like many of his admirers I to called Dev Sahab) it was his ability to speak out his mind and say what he wanted to say without thinking or worrying about the consequences. He was known for speaking out his mind on politics and politicians and sometimes had to pay a very heavy price for it ,but he never could be cowed down, coerced or forced to change his opinion. He was perhaps the only film personality who could make politicians, journalists and other opinion makers listen to him and take him seriously. I had seen and heard him talk to some of the most powerful politicians and editors of newspapers and convinced them about his point of view and I had also seen him turning down some of the most tempting offers made by politicians and those in power to get him on their side and how he remained to be his own man and his own opinion maker.
What does one say about a man like Dev Sahab who could turn down offers of several acres of land, bungalows and offers to set up industries and his own business according to his own preferences and choices ? What does one say about a man who could take the “punishment “of the powers that be for opposing them or even making a comment about them in one of his films or give an interview to a leading daily airing his strong opinions about an issue or a subject that was important for the nation and its people who he always held in high esteem because he always believed that it was the people who ultimately mattered in a democracy ?what does one say about a daring man who could face the slaughter of his films by the censors and still not give up his fight against
whatever and whoever was wrong and worked against the interests of the country and its people, the people who he was concerned about and talked about till the end of his life ?
And like Dev Sahab had his opinions about politics and politicians and the government and the opposition, he also had his own opinions about actors which he also gave expression to without mincing his words without worrying about what impact his words would have on others .He believed in coming up with the truth because he said “only when the truth is told and faced can we think of going ahead and taking this country forward “.
He held Ashok Kumar in great respect and called him “a father figure who guided me and other actors of my time “.He had his own way of looking at what people called the competition or rivalry between him, Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar. In one of his talks with me ,he said ,”we never thought of competition, rivalry and other such petty matters .We knew where we stood and what our limitations were. Yusuf (Dilip Kumar)was a very serious actor and excelled in playing tragic roles and had to change to playing light roles and comic characters in his later films on the advice of doctors . The fact however remains that Yusuf is a complete actor .
Raj had groomed himself into playing the tramp with a golden heart and had a very strong influence of Charlie Chaplin in his acting .He however kept growing and became one of the leading filmmakers of the country .He could have been a greater actor and a much better filmmaker if he had not lived his own life recklessly, which is the truth about him . I was in a class of my own. I was branded as a romantic hero and was doing very well for myself but gradually I realised the need to grow out of the image and try doing other roles and I must say I succeeded. I also took to having my own banner and company under which I could make the films I wanted to. Believe me, Ali if I had done all the films that were offered to me, I would have been one of the richest men in Bombay, but I did only five films in a year, a number which I further cut down to three and even two when I became a filmmaker. Yusuf, Raj and me could have ruled the industry, but we had our own principles and priorities and that is why we are what we are and will be remembered for . ”
Dev Sahab didn’t speak very highly about Rajendra Kumar and called him “a limited but very lucky actor “.He once told me about how Sadhana who had worked with him in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s “Asli Naqli “when she was still very new, had come to him seeking his advice on whether she should sign “Mere Mehboob”,a film being directed by H.S.Rawail. Dev Sahab had only asked her who the hero was and when she said it was Rajendra Kumar ,he didn’t hesitate before he said, “Sadhana, go ahead and sign the film. Rajendra Kumar is a very lucky actor and like all his other films, this film too will be a big hit and you will benefit from it “Sadhana signed the film,which was a golden jubilee hit all over the country and Sadhana was a star. Like Sadhana, Dev Sahab had also advised other actresses about their career and all of them became big stars and fans and well-wishers of Dev Sahab.
Dharmendra was another man who was first noticed by Dev Sahab when he was a struggler walking around studios looking for work. Dev Sahab had seen him in a crowd and had called out to him and told him that his place was not in a crowd because he was destined to be a star. His prediction for Dharmendra came true and how !
The other actor who Dev Sahab had made a similar prediction for was Sunil Dutt.Dutt had met Dev Sahab when he was an announcer with Radio Ceylon and was also doing interviews with Hindi film stars. Dev Sahab had told Dutt that his place was before the camera and not just going around interviewing stars. A few years after Dev Sahab had told Sunil Dutt what he felt about his future, Sunil Dutt was a star and he had never forgotten what Dev Sahab had told him during his first meeting with him.
The seventies saw the sudden rise of a superstar called Rajesh Khanna, who shook up the industry and especially the ruling make stars who were sitting smugly on their established thrones. Every male star felt insecure by his rise to unparalleled success, but the only star and legend who did not feel threatened by him was Dev Sahab.In fact ,when the editor of a leading film magazine asked him what he felt about the phenomenon, he didn’t blink twice before he said, “talk to me about him after twenty five-years “and did not say anything further. Twenty five years passed, Dev Sahab was still the legend he was and Rajesh Khanna had fallen from grace and the same people who made him a superstar were all set to forget him….
Dev Sahab was an admirer of Shatrughan Sinha who had shot to fame with a small role he had played in “Gambler “with Dev Sahab in the title role.Dev Sahab was always of the opinion that Shatru would have been one of the best villains after Pran Sahab and was disappointed when Shatru became a hero. They had the same kind of political views and Shatru continued to be one of the greatest admirers of Dev Sahab and said that he even prayed for Dev Sahab….
If there was one actor of the new generation Dev Sahab was all admiration for, it was Amitabh Bachchan. He considered Amitabh to be the best intense actor after Dilip Kumar and had all the respect for Amitabh .When he wanted Amitabh to release the music of one of his films, Amitabh agreed within minutes. Dev Sahab also wanted Amitabh to release his autobiography, “Romancing Life”and Amitabh again was only too happy to have the honour ,as he said at the launch of the book. Dev Sahab played with the idea of casting Amitabh in a film, but the idea did not materialize…..
Dev Sahab also liked, Kamal Haasan and Rajnikant and was moved when the two actors called on him at the same time at The Taj Coramandel in Chennai where Dev Sahab had gone with me to be the chief guest at an awards function organized by”Screen”…He even told the actors that he would like to work with them and they were both willing to work free for him,but….
And the one actor Dev Sahab loved the most was Rishi Kapoor. He called him one of the best romantic actors he had seen and he even said that he had all the potential to be a great actor one day. He called him “my son “.Rishi held Dev Sahab in the highest esteem and called him “my father’s best friend, a legend and a great human being” .Rishi proved that he meant what he said and believed about Dev Sahab when he made a special appearance in one of Dev Sahab’s last films.He went out of his way to call off all his work when Dev Sahab was shooting at RK Studios and made sure that he together with his brothers, Randhir and Rajiv were with him to see that Dev Sahab didn’t have any problems while shooting at RK…
It breaks my heart to believe that both Dev Sahab and Rishi are now no longer a part of this world, but I have a very strange feeling even though I don’t believe in heaven, that they are in some place where there is a lot of love and romance. Dev Sahab didn’t like death and once told me, “Why are people so scared of death ? Why can’t we believe that death is the beginning of a new life and that there could be a much better life after death ?”
I am still struggling to know what awaits us after death but I love what Dev Sahab said about a better life after death. And if Dev Sahab and Rishi have found that life, I would like to believe that they are working together in a film called “Aisa Pyaar Phir Kaha “with Dev Sahab playing the father and Rishi playing his son and with both of them playing romantics who are in love with the same girl, who would be played by Sridevi and the film would be directed by the high priest of love and romance in Hindi films, Yash Chopra.
Have I gone mad ? When a man spends almost half his life with great lovers like Yash Chopra, Dev Sahab and Rishi Kapoor, what else do you expect me,another lover and romantic like them to be ?