“I’d Love To Die With My Boots On”
To commemorate the 91st birth anniversary of DEV ANAND today on September 26 this year, we are reproducing an interview by JYOTHI VENKATESH that appeared for the first time 40 years ago in Free Press Bulletin dated August 4, 1979.
The venue was the posh discotheque cellar at the Oberoi Towers. The day was last Tuesday. It was a normal working shift for the unit of Dev Anand’s LOOT MAAR. Dev was seen briskly pacing up and down the floors when I peeped in to have a chat with him. Dev was supervising the lighting arrangements and at the same time waiting for Tina Munim to report for the shooting with her make up on. A unit hand told me that Tina was doing her make up in a suite Dev had booked upstairs in the hotel and the moment Dev was ready for the shoot, she would breeze in.
It is indeed difficult to keep pace with the energetic Dev. It was a treat to watch him in action as a director without the grease paint on his face. The moment he noticed me sneaking into a corner of the Cellar to have a dekho at him in action, Dev was all smiles and asked me to be seated beside him. Shakti Kapoor was sitting in front of Dev awaiting instructions from the director. Shakti told me that he is playing an air force commander in the film. I wondered since when our air force started tolerating men with long hair and side burns.
Talking about the film, Dev said that he was confident that LOOT MAAR would turn out to be one of the biggest money spinners of the year 1980. “It is almost complete. By the end of this year, I plan to complete the film and release it early next year.”
Even though Dev had shot the film earlier at Simla with Tina and even had a few schedules at the Mehboob Studios and then Film City with Simple, Mehmood etc, he had booked the Cellar for two days. I asked him whether there was any necessity to shoot the film at a five star hotel disco like The Cellar at immense cost.
“I needed a disco where I can shoot the scene in which Tina is dancing with her friends and Shakti Kapoor is eyeing at her on the floor. I went and saw for myself each and every disco in Bombay but ultimately found only this one the ideal one for my film because there are secluded corners where Amjad Khan can sit and observe Tina without Tina knowing that she is being watched.”
“Aren’t you afraid of the Censors clamping down on violence since your film boasts of not one but as many as seven villains- Amjad Khan, Prem Chopra, Shakti Kapoor, Sudhir, Ranjeet, Ajit and Narendranath?”, I asked Dev.Dev almost blew his top when the word Censors was mentioned in his presence. He is naturally sore that the Censors had certified his DES PARDES for Adults Only just because he showed the bar as the back drop of the film.
“LOOT MAAR will deal with violence. I want to show that as long as there are positives in the world; negatives also will continue to exist. Raakhee plays my wife in the film. She gets killed and the track of revenge starts. Violence is the mainstream of life. If violence does not exist, how can one glorify non violence? Nobody can prevent a filmmaker from making what he has conceived. Governments may come and go but filmmaking will continue to remain an obsession with me.”
Why do you not work for outside producers these days? Is it because the offers have stopped coming your way?
As an actor, ab mazaa nahin aata hain. Aaj kal scripts are never ready and money arrangements are not good. If some worthwhile offer is coming my way, I do not rule out the possibility fo my taking up an acting assignment. I acted in LASHKAR because I knew the producers Jagdish and Kadar Kashmiri then. Though I am acting in AMAN KE FARISHTEY, the film has been plodding on for the past five years and I do not know when it will see the light of the day.
Looking back at your illustrious career as an actor and filmmaker how do you assess yourself in these last four decades?
Look here. I have grown in films. I am still a child of cinema. I enjoy what I do. Others think in terms of dus lagaya magar bees nikala. I cannot think of any profession other than films. How can I go out of it? I cannot sell meat or potatoes. Can I? By and large, I work in my own pictures. I do not seek roles as an actor or films as a director outside. I do not have the time to look back. I am concerned about what I am doing as an actor in my current pictures, whether the critics or for that matter, the audiences accept it or not, because their norms of judgment is quite different from that of mine.
What do you think of the audience?
Unpredictability is the name of the audience. A wave of raves comes all of a sudden. I am used to what people say. I take it philosophically. I think I have mellowed down. Temperamentally today I am the same as I was say 40 years ago. Over the years I have slowed down my pace. In my entire career as an actor, I think I must have acted in only around 100 films. In the last 20 years, I did very few films either as an actor or as a filmmaker. If I wanted to, I could have owned the entire city of Bombay by signing on films left right and centre indiscriminatingly.
What do you have to say to the criticism that you are a non actor?
It is after all very easy to destroy something which has taken years to build but very difficult to construct. The so called criticism is after all just a one man’s point of view. As long as my fans continue to look forward to a film of mine and ask me why I am not acting in my own films, why should I pay cognizance to such hollow criticism?
In spite of you having given him two opportunities, your son Suneil Anand could not click as an actor. ANAND AUR ANAND was a flop while MAIN TERE LIYE has not seen the light of the day. Will you give him one more opportunity?
As his father, I owe him one more chance. Suneil is now keen on taking up direction. I will help him make his own film and try his luck. He has already written a script for a film called MASTER which deals with martial arts. I have warned Suneil that he should have a good team with him to help him in the making of his film, not just a group of yes men but knowledgeable people. I intend to listen to the subject once before I okay it and then leave him to do his job the way he deems it okay. I will not interfere with what he is doing as a filmmaker. Let him learn what filmmaking is all about by his own trial and error method. It will stand him in good stead.
Did you have to struggle to get your first break with HUM EK HAIN?
For two years, I had struggled in Bombay. I survived because I had strong will power and steely nerves. Do you know that at that time I was living in chawls in Bombay, commuting by trains and buses, hopping in and out of trams dong odd jobs in military census for a monthly salary of Rs 150 which was considered princely in those days before The World wear II? The World war ended in 1945. I was staying in this very same place as a paying guest of an elderly aunt in a wooden structure (He takes me to the window and points out to a skyscraper nearby where the wooden structure used to remain at one time)
What do you think about the challenges posed by satellite and cable?
As a filmmaker, you have got no other alternative but to accept it gracefully with all its challenges. Yes. It can be detrimental because it cuts into your revenues as a producer but do not forget that it also increases your audiences manifold. In the long run, any film will make more money even if it loses in the initial stages. If your film has a universal appeal, you can recover your cost from the cable and satellite and yet make quality films which have a worldwide standard. There is no doubt about this.
What has the film industry taught you?
It has taught me what I am today. It has given me hell of a lot of experience, not only as an actor, but also as a writer and director. There are no set rules, cannons of how it functions because it is very unpredictable as far as the box office is concerned. Today with four decades of experience behind me, I am a wiser man. I am very much in the know of what is happening. Making a film, conceiving it, mounting it, introducing new and bright people with it, distributing it, selling it etc is a mountain of a work which keeps me involved almost 15 hours day both mentally as well as physically. I’d love to die with my boots on”.
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