Romancing With Life ! Jab I met Dev Anand…

Dr. Veena Bharathi with Dev Anand at Taj West End Hotel in Bengaluru on 19th January, 2008.

Bollywood is holding a year-long centenary celebrations of veteran actor Dev Anand (26th Sept. 1923 – 3rd Dec., 2011). The actor would have turned 99 years this September. Dev Anand left this mortal world on 3rd of December, 2011, in London. Here we publish an article by Dr. Veena Bharathi, recalling her meetings with Dev Anand on the occasion of his death anniversary on Dec. 3.—Ed

It was September 1984. I was about to begin my Medical Internship. I had won a “caption contest” (conducted by the famous “Star & Style” magazine from Mumbai) at the All India-level. The management of “Star & Style” had invited me and nine other winners to Mumbai and to have lunch with the emerging Super Star, ‘Hero’ famed actor Jackie Shroff — Meet Jackie Shroff and have lunch. [See photos of the winners published in “Star & Style” alongside]

A day after I reached Mumbai (then Bombay), the associate editor of ‘Star & Style’ magazine, A.T. Jayanthi received me at “The Film City” and informed us that Jackie Shroff’s flight from Goa was delayed by 3 hours. She said, “Today is Dev Saab’s (Dev Anand’s) 61st Birthday. Let us all meet and greet him on this occasion!”

At Mehboob Studios, on the Studio set, legendary actor, director Dev Anand was directing the new faces, the budding stars for his movie “Hum Naujawaan”. At his age of 61 years, the handsome star was still looking like a “Naujawaan” (young adult)! After wishing him “Happy Birthday!”, I politely requested him whether he could grant me an interview. Smilingly declared the legend “For the sake of this wide eyed, young lady, shooting is halted for half an hour!” Dev Anand then turned towards me and said “Now, shoot your queries Doctor!”

A clipping of “Star & Style” magazine (Mumbai).

Dev Anand had answered more than a dozen of my questions, especially the one answer which enlightened me the most was the “mantra” of his physical and mental fitness. “I do not do any exercises or yoga asanaas. But, I am a tee-totaller, I do not take liquor and I do not smoke! For my lunch, everyday, I eat only fruits and freshly cut vegetables! I try to keep my mind as creative and as optimistic as possible!” When I profusely thanked him for giving me the interview, he had enthusiastically said “meet you again Doctor!”

Dev’s 1984 parting words came true in January 2008.

It was 19th of January 2008. Ramya Cultural Academy had organised a felicitation programme for the legend at “Gayatri Vihaar” within Bangalore Palace grounds. Many dignitaries belonging to medical, legal profession had sung melodious songs from Dev Anand’s famous movies and the evening was titled “Gaata rahe mera dil…”

After the function got over, Dev Anand gave me an hour long interview at Hotel “Taj West End”, without showing any signs of fatigue! He was 85 years of age at that time. Dev Anand said:

“In this same ‘West End’ Hotel, in 1965, I took the rights to make R.K. Narayan’s well-known novel “Guide”, in both English and Hindi languages!” When I asked Dev Anand “why did he initially make the movie only in English language?” he had explained to me “In 1965, the theme of adultery by an Indian woman was viewed as ‘too bold’ for an Indian audience! Hence, ‘Guide’ was initially made in English, produced by me and Pearl S. Buck (Author and Nobel Laureate, USA), who also wrote the English script. Tad Danielewski was the Director of the English version of the movie ‘Guide’. The English version was released only in USA. After viewing the English version of ‘Guide’, R.K. Narayan congratulated me over the phone, as he was in New York at that time. But, when I made the Hindi version of ‘Guide’ by toning down the adultery component, R.K. Narayan was not at all happy with the modifications. But ultimately it was the Hindi version which won the people’s hearts and the rest is history!”

Dr. Veena Bharathi with Dev Anand at Mehboob Studios in Mumbai during Sept. 1984.

At the “Taj West End” interview, Dev Anand had also talked about his forthcoming ventures such as “Charge Sheet” (Hindi) and “When Heart Beats are the same” (English). He also said in the interview that “he was not at all satisfied with any of his roles in the movies (though he had already acted in nearly 200 Hindi films), for if a creative person gets satisfied and feels saturated, then that will be the ‘death of his/her creativity’!”

Dev Anand, who was a graduate of English Literature, was the recipient of “Film Fare” Best Actor award — twice — for his unparalleled acting in the movies “Kaalapaani” and “Guide”. In 1991, he was also awarded “The Life Time Achievement Award” by the Government of India.

At the end of the interview in 2008, when I said ‘Good night’ to Dev Anand, the veteran did not say “Meet you again Doctor!”

His Autobiography is aptly titled “Romancing with Life”, for the veteran actor, director and producer’s romance was always only with Film-making, which of course was his Life !  Dev Anand who brought alive on the screen “Mai Zindagi Ka Saath Nibha tha Chalaa gaya….” if alive today, during his birth centenary year, would probably have been humming “Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai… (Aaj phir phir jeene ki tamanna hai…!).

For the Bollywood’s Gregory Peck and Cary Grant (as he was affectionately called by his fans) never had the “Marne ka iraada…” (a wish to die)!

This post was published on December 3, 2022 6:05 pm