80s was coming to an end. Last decade of the century was starting. Cold war was in its last phase. Germans, from two different sides of the same wall, were getting reunited. Situation in the Middle East was getting trickier with each passing day.
At home, Congress was realizing twice in two decades that ruling this country wasn’t its birth right. If a new star was born in form of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, another star in Amithabh Bacchan was fighting his way back to super stardom through movies like Toofan and Jaadugar.
And I, I was soon going to enter my teens.
Anil Kapoor was declared as next super star courtesy his 4 hits – Ram Lakhan, a multi starrer hit; Tezab, movie which positioned him as a replacement of Amithabh’s angry young man image; Rakhwala, a movie where credit went to him and only him and Eeshwar, a critically acclaimed success. But very soon, his success turned out to be the boom of 2010 after the recession of 2008. So did Amir Khan, Salman and the rest.
Watching a movie wasn’t really an easy option during those days. DD showed one movie per week, there was no cable TV and to watch it in a cinema hall wasn’t really an easy option for school-goers like me. A very prevalent trend used to be “Video-Shows” where you would hire someone to come with a colored TV, a VCR/VCP and few video cassettes of your choice. He would charge you around Rs. 30/- per movie. We watched these movies throughout the night.
Someone in my neighborhood was celebrating his kid’s birthday and arranged for the video-show.
First movie to be played was a movie about which I had heard multiple times from my father – Guide. He used to talk about the movie and its hero – Dev Anand, at length. Dev Anand used to be his favorite hero. One day I read Dev Anand’s interview in a newspaper where he claimed to be “the super star”. I asked my dad about it and he told me “Dev Anand will always be much bigger star than your Anil Kapoors or Amir Khans of the world. He even beats Amitabh in the pecking order”. Dad left me puzzled, how come such an old man could be “the super star”. He hasn’t even given a hit in recent times. I hadn’t seen a single Dev Anand movie till date.
Although the movie of my interest was to be played after Guide, as it was a movie based on cricket, I watched Guide with lot of interest. I didn’t understand the movie completely – movie was a bit too intense for a kid, I still liked it in pieces. After all it was supposed to be an entertainer. But what interested me most was Dev Anand’s style of acting – his right hand was always stretched out, his left hand was always adjusting his scarf and head was as stable as Sensex is these days. Sunil Gavakar would have committed suicide if he had ever seen Dev Anand holding a cricket bat and batting – “A batsman must hold his bat as still as a dead man” is what Gavaskar often says. To be honest, I was a bit bored by the time Guide ended – maybe the movie was too heavy for my age or maybe I couldn’t wait to watch the next movie – Awwal Number.
Awwal Number was about the subject of my interest, in fact the only subject in which I was interested. It was about cricket. It was about a “no-one”, being handpicked by the chairman of selectors – Dev Anand, replacing the “star of the side”, the hatred generated out of this turning into terrorism and demanding withdrawal of India’s forces from Pakistan Border. Aamir Khan played the “no-one” and Aditya Pancholi played the star – both in the starting phases of their respective acting careers. If you see the current state of affairs, you will realize that Aamir khan has managed to make a respectable acting career whereas Aditya Pancholi is yet to start acting. The difference in the acting was visible in the movie itself. While Aditya Pancholi tried acting to bat like a star, Aamir the “no-one” did bat like no one does – not even Ashish Nehra. Hope Nehra doesn’t sue me on the basis of I mentioning his style of batting and Aamir’s batting in Awwal Number in the same sentence.
Coming back to the movie - after being replaced by Aamir khan in the side, Aditya Pancholi takes extreme steps. No, he doesn’t announce his retirement like some Pakistani cricketers do or alleges everyone of match fixing like rest of the Pakistani cricketers do. He takes the route which lots of normal Pakistanis take – route of terrorism.
Aditya Pancholi, with the help of some terrorists, plants a bomb in the stadium where Aamir Khan would make his debut. This gets converted in a serious law and order situation. Director General of Police, Dev Anand, takes the situation in his own hands. Terrorists demand withdrawal of India’s peace keeping forces from the border and government of India appoints a negotiator, again Dev Anand, to deal with them.
The match goes on. Aamir Khan single-handedly takes India to victory. Crowd, oblivion to the fact that they are sitting on a bomb which is being monitored by Aditya Pancholi in a helicopter hovering above the stadium, enjoys the cricket match. Clock keeps ticking. The moment of explosion keeps coming nearer. India needs a savior –off the ground. India needs a hero.
In the end, it all boils down to one man who keeps informing the press about the situation of the bomb, tells terrorists that India doesn’t negotiate with them, hunts down all the terrorists, nails down Aditya Pancholi from the helicopter and finally defuses the bomb. That hero is Dev Anand. And no, there are no multiple roles. It’s Dev Anand who plays the role of a chairman of single man selection committee, deputy general of police, the national negotiator, one-man ATS, government representative to face the press and the bomb diffuser. He also had to carry the duties of writing and directing the movie. I was mighty impressed by this multi-faceted, multi directional, multi dimensional performance by the legend called Dev Anand.
Rumor has it that Dev Anand was going to play the role of Aamir Khan but he didn’t do it at the behest of some senior politicians. They didn’t want Sunil Gavaskar to commit suicide. It is also rumored that these politicians granted permission to Dev Anand to make a movie where he was going to play leader or the ruling party, speaker of the parliament and the ruler of opposition.
No. My intention is not to make fun of a great man after his demise, not at all. The intention is to salute the spirit of his.
Okay. To be honest, I have never been a great fan of Dev Anand – apart from some of his old movies when he wasn’t really old e.g. Hum Dono, Guide.
But what I always liked about him and admired was his dedication towards his profession of movie making and courage to continue with it by defying his age. He looked like a man hungry for acting, writing, directing and acting. He looked like a man hungry to be involved in every second of he did. He looked like a man hungry for life and living every second of it.
When he wrote, he would be the pivot around which the story revolved. A murder mystery maybe about the suspects, the murderer or even the murdered but it’s the one who catches the murderer gets away with all the credits. Dev Anand played the cop who nabs the murderer in Sau Crore.
When he directed, it would be him to occupying the maximum length of the reel. When Awwal Number stars focusing on terrorists instead of cricket, chairman of selectors has no role to play in the movie. Hence Dev Anand also plays the deputy general of police. When matter goes beyond police, Dev Anand becomes the one who catches the villain and diffuses the bomb.
When he acted, he would be the hero, the good cop, the good politician and the one who gets to romance with the hottest chic in the movie. He was everyone. Everyone else was no one in his movies.
The man loved his profession beyond the boundaries of craziness. The man was so much in love with himself that he could be termed as self-obsessed. The man lived a life. This is what he teaches – not only to love what you do but also to love yourself. If you can do so, nothing can stop you – not even age. After all it’s for nothing they say – he wasn’t 88 when he died, he was four times twenty two.
I tempt to say the usual - may his soul rest in peace. But I am sure, somewhere in the heavens; he would be busy preparing the script for his next movie.