Fear Was Scared Of Dev Anand
Ali Peter John
I was confident that I could ask some serious questions in our various evening sessions, as Dev Sahab had given me the freedom to ask him whatever I wanted to ask, even if it was anything to do with his personal life. The stories he told me about his struggling days, the story of his love story with Suraiya, his going into the past and remembering his mother and crying, the story about how Zeenat Aman kept him in the dark about her going to Raj Kapoor to try to get the leading role in Raj’s “Satyam Shivam Sundaram”and her opting to opt out of the Navketan banner which had made her a star and many other such stories were the stuff of our exclusive evenings we spent at his pent house over sandwiches from the nearby Candies which he loved, but only nibbled at them and kept saying,“achhe hai achhe hai”and the few sips of tea he had, which was the only“food”he had all through the day whether he was shooting or not. He had only one full meal and that was in the night, after which he watched BBC news, had a look at the papers he had not read in the morning and then went to bed….
I for the first time wanted to ask this amazing man so full of life what he thought of death and one evening I made a gallant attempt and asked him what he thought of death and without thinking for a moment, he said, “I will take it when it comes to me. Death has to come to all those who are living so one had to learn to be prepared for it anytime and it should not be something to be scared about, because as I say again, if there is life, there has to be death”.
He continued and said he was only scared about being handicapped, being a cripple or be paralysed and be forced to lie in bed and be dependent on others. It was the only time Dev talked about fear and I had seen him facing the most fearful moments without a trace of fear on his face….
I was shocked when he called me at six or six-thirty in the morning and said, “Ali, I have slipped and fallen in the bathroom and cannot move. The doctors are coming and if they say I will not be able to work even for a few days, I will commit suicide”. I went to his “Iris Park”bungalow within an hour and I saw him running on the ground behind his bungalow. He was fit before the doctors could and was getting ready to go to the office….
Going to office was an essential part of his life when he was not shooting and I have seen him going to office even during the Bombay Bandhs whether they were called by George Fernandes or by Bal Thackeray who he called ‘Bal’ as he knew as a cartoonist working with the Free Press Journal where he was paid a hundred and fifty rupees a month. There were times when the followers of Thackeray’s Bandh tried to stop his Fiat with him sitting in the front seat and he just gave them a smile and said, “kaam karo kaam karo, yeh bandh vandh see kuch nahi hota”and the people just smiled and let him go…
One morning a crowd of six or seven tough looking men entered his pent house. They told him they were from the Bhim Sena and Dev lost his cool and almost screamed, “aur kitne Sena hoge? Bharat mein sirf ek Sena honi chaahiye, aur woh hai desh ki Sena”. The men which included the then Mayor of Pune wanted Dev to attend one of their functions in Pune, but Dev refused to take their invitation seriously. The Mayor offered Dev six acres of land anywhere in Pune to attend the function and Dev was furious and said, “aap mujhe rishvat dena chaahte hai? Aapko pata hai aap kisse baat kar rahe hai”? And before he could think again, they offered to finance his entire next film and Dev called his security guards and asked them to throw out the men who had come from the Bhim Sena. The Mayor in anger said,“hum aapko dekh lenge aur aapki koi film Pune mein release nahi hone denge”. Dev was raving mad now and said he would call the police commissioner if they didn’t leave in five minutes and it was quite a sight to see the burly black Mayor and his goons scoot in silence and they were never seen or heard of again….
Dev was always a victim of the ruling party, especially the Congress Party. He was a firm believer in parliamentary democracy and was the first to speak against the Emergency declared by Mrs Indira Gandhi. There were many threats sent to him and he was also threatned of being jailed like all the other opposition leaders, but they apparently didn’t want to take a risk of taking a step against one of the most popular stars of the country. They tried to harass him in other ways. They heavily censored his big film,“Swami Dada”, but he refused to bow before their power and released the film in the censored version and the film was one of the last big hits of his career.
I have seen Dev facing any number of fears which were being instilled into him by people who were not even born when he was a star, but he faced them all in his own way, but refused to surrender to their ways.
Dev climbed hills in Ladakh during the making of “Hare Rama Hare Krishna”and “Ishq Ishq Ishq”and climbed hills in Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani when he was eighty-five while younger actors like Jackie Shroff kept watching him helplessly. I personally consider his extraordinary feat of walking up the twenty-five floors of the Express Towers to have a reccee of the Brabourne Stadium for a scene to be shot with Aamir Khan and Aaditya Pancholi for his film “Awwal Number”. I saw him running all around the twenty-sixth floor of the Express Towers which was the walking place of Ramnath Goenka who never gave permission to anyone to enter that space, but when he heard that Dev wanted it, he immediately agreed. At one moment Dev even tried to jump over the parapet and walk over it. One little mistake or mis-balance could have meant the end of the saga of Dev Anand, but he did what he wanted….
Dev believed in the freedom of expression and had to face a big trial for it. A journalist from the gossip magazine, “Stardust”,Troy Ribeiro had written a nasty piece on Anupam Kher who had just started his career. Anupam in his anger slapped Troy and a major scene was created which turned out to be like a fight between two gangs. Dev was approached for his opinion and he said something that went in favour of the freedom to expression. Anupam got all his fellow artistes together and they decided to ban Dev Anand’s best known sound recording studio in the country. They thought they could bring Dev on his feet but Dev faced the trial in a way only he could. The artistes had the temerity to call Dev to their office to offer an explanation. Dev, the forever brave and fearless man went to the meeting and when it was his turn to speak, he didn’t speak, he went to each of the stars, especially to Anupam and Mithun Chakraborty and reminded them about their past and how they used to come to him asking for work and other work-related problems and the way he spoke to them made them hang their heads in shame. The ban on Anand Recording Studios was lifted the next morning. Dev was an expert in facing such dicey situations in his own way and in a way where he did not have to lose his reputation and emerged as the fearless Dev he always was till the very end. He once told this writer that he rarely prayed but was a believer and three were times when he spoke to God and during one of such talks he asked the Dev above to give him a peaceful death whenever he had to die. I think the Dev above had no other way but to listen to the Dev below who had never done anything wrong to anyone in the industry or anywhere else. Dev died exactly like he wanted, “like a bubble that flows in a river and gradually vanishes from the face of the river”.
He had crossed wooden bridges. He had walked over rope bridges. He had traveled in the most ancient boats on most choppy waters, he had faced tribals who wanted to kill him for entering their village where people like him had never entered, but Dev had only one weapon with which he could fight all fear and all fear of any kind of danger to itself or his team and that was his winning smile and his ways to make free within minutes. Dev was not a very strong man, but Dev was blessed with a rare power that could over pere all kinds of fear and any kind of negative forces that tried to stop him from achieving what he wanted. There could be only one Dev like him who I always believed was specially created by the Dev above.
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