On the occasion of his anniversary, here is my little note to the man who made my heart turn cartwheels year after year. With his passing, I lost a part of my giddy girlhood.
You and your films have mesmerized me ever since I discovered you one misty morning during the final year of high school. It was a matinee show of CID. The image is frozen in my mind - the stark hues of black and white, the wide boulevard of Worli Seaface, a hep looking heroine and a handsome man lazily ambling along to the strains of 'Leke pehla pehla pyar'. The music, the situation and then you. It was difficult to remain unaffected. I was firmly in love. (Well, it really does not take much to fall in love when you are 16, does it?). It was the 'pehla pehla pyar' for the charming magician who had suddenly descended from celluloid magicland and captured my otherwise capricious attention forever. After so many years even now I affirm, it truly was a magical afternoon.
That was it. It started it all - the journey to Dev Anand Land and with it the time travel to the cinema of the 1950s. Song by song , film by film I discovered you a little more and a little more. It was an exhilarating phase of discovery. Every fresh vintage song that I uncovered, I imagined was picturized on you. How disappointed I was to learn that 'Shyam dhale khidki tale' was picturized on Bhagwan. And how excited I was to know the old favourite 'dekhne mein bhole ho par ho bade chanchal' was you.
In the pre-internet era discovery was a laborious, painfully slow, but extremely rewarding journey. The generation that has everything on their fingertips will probably never know the pleasure of finding something after hunting for it for months or even years. You cherish it so much more. It would takes months before a certain song would play on the radio for me to record. If I did not have a blank cassette ready it was gone for another couple of months. Getting videos of your movies was even more difficult. One had to sit through Chitrahaars and a slew of Abhi Bhattacharya's songs before I got one of yours. My class 12 birthday present from mom was a video cassette with your songs found after scouting the dungeons of Palika Bazaar for months. I had unearthed a dusty black and white collection after doggedly refusing to let the salesman sell me a shiny new collection of your later songs. My mother and aunt doubled in laughter as I exasperatedly told the salesman 'Bhaiyya mujhe buddha wala Dev Anand nahin chahiye' (Sir, I do not want the aged Dev Anand). He told me revealingly 'Lekin baby wo toh buddha hi hai' (but ma'am he *is* old). No, I never did like your 70s films, they did not exist for me. It was the enigma of the black and white medium that made you irresistible.
The admiration I felt for you spawned so many other passions. As time went by, I was a little embarrassed to admit to the hero worship part and I tried to intellectualize my desire to watch your films. With it evolved an interest in film appreciation. Truly, I unearthed the beauty of the black and white cinema quite incidentally - while searching doggedly for your footprints! Hearing those wonderful melodies from your films set me off on another journey of discovering music that look me to the equally enchanting Burmanland. To look back, all the passions that have defined who I am today started because a 16 year old completely was besotted by this handsome movie star from her grandfather's generation.
As I grew older my mind started searching for patterns. It tried to rationalize the feelings and actions. What attracted me to you and not say Raj Kapoor?. Hero worship is a strange thing, most people experience it and it sort of forms a mechanism to escape the dreariness of existence. But what is the root behind hero worship. After all the connection is based on basically nothing. You haven't met the person, people just fall in love with an image. Most of the time, this love for the image coexists with other interests in the real life. It seems to sit of flimsy grounds yet it is such a widespread phenomenon that is has to have a strong foundation in the human psyche.
So what on the surface seemed to be a long standing infatuation, was it actually fueled by more deep-rooted reasons? It was only when I read your autobiography I figured out it actually was. There was a thread of common sensibility - a meeting point. It is incredible but true. Two people set five decades apart in age, era, time and space still had a common core. Through the magical medium of cinema that connection flowed - transcending space and time! Like me you loved the mountains, like me you loved long walks, beautiful ruins and like me you loved Burmanda! The people who were your best friends and compatriots in the game of the cinema were the same artists that I cherished and admired - Guru Dutt, Geeta Dutt, Raj Khosla, Sahir Ludhianvi, Balraj Sahni are all in my roll of honour. The commonality in the choices in matter of art is striking.
And then there is the core person. Something of that person invariably shines through their art. For you, it was always said, your screen persona extended from your real one. And one important thing that did shine through in your screen persona was that you were educated, erudite and above all decent. After you died, the most valuable thing your heroines recalled about you was that you were a very decent man, respected women and made them feel very safe. Maybe you made the women in your audience feel the same way that sealed your iconic status.
So what did we say earlier? It does not take much to fall in love when you are 16? Very true. But what I did not say earlier is that is that it takes a lot of charisma and depth from the subject of interest to keep the flame alive as you pass further and further away from your wonder years. After all, the parameters change, people grow and the person needs a lot of depth to sustain that growth of the fan. To be honest I did outgrow you at some point and you became softer and softer in focus almost fading away from my horizon. But then you died and everything was sharp focus again. The incessant tears that flowed told me that I really never had outgrown you or maybe I was mourning the final passing of my girlhood? I don't know. My mind goes back to the beautiful lines by poet Neeraj from the classic 'phoolon ke rang se' from Prem Pujari.
....yaad tu aaye
man ho jaaye
bheed ke beech akela
Dev Saab, for years, you and your films have transported me to a world that was beautiful, intimate and only mine. You kindled and rekindled a feeling that I could continue to cherish deep in my heart. I was naive to think I could write away such a magical portion of my life. You will persist.... forever!
This is your first anniversary after you left for the other abode. The world is poorer with the loss, but then you really haven't gone have you? All I need to do is switch on my computer, navigate to YouTube, flick the mouse and there you are back again. Smiling the same devastating smile, walking the same loose walk and singing the same song...
The catch line of the song resonates deep and clear
badal bijli chandan paani jaisa apna pyaar
lena hoga janam hamein kai kai baar,
kai kai baar....