Main zindagi ka saath nibhatha chala gaya …

They don’t call him ‘evergreen’ for nothing.

He’s been in the movie industry since the days of the British Raj. He has starred in more than 300 movies, and written, produced and directed about a hundred of them.  From the 1940’s till this day, he’s introduced so many newcomers to Bollywood that half the industry owes its career to him. Many of those newcomers have themselves retired from movies, but he is still going strong. He’s won so many awards in India and abroad, that he says he has himself lost count!

The man is an industry all by himself. Next week, he turns eighty eight years of age, but Dharamdev Anand simply will not stop. His eyes still sparkle, his voice is still clear and his style and charm are still intact.

If there is one man who defined polished style in Bollywood, that would be Dev Anand. By no stretch of the imagination was he ever a beefy hunk. Dev Anand was slim to the point of being frail. Delicately handsome, articulate and intelligent, with a characteristic habit of lightly nodding his head, Dev Anand was a rage with the ladies. And man, was he versatile. Romance, comedy, tragedy, mystery, action, negative roles, he’s done them all.

Dev Anand was part of the Big Three, the trio that dominated Bollywood through the fifties and sixties, until Rajesh Khanna shook the foundations of Bollywood with Aradhana in 1969. The other two of the Big Three, Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar started playing fatherly roles in the late sixties and eventually faded away. But Dev Anand continued to play lead roles right through the seventies and eighties, and held his own against the Rajesh Khanna phenomenon. Rajesh Khanna came and went and another phenomenon called Amitabh Bachchan took his place. But Dev Anand stayed.

In 1978, at age 55, he directed Des Pardes, and starred opposite Tina Munim who was all of 20 years old. After that, he starred opposite Tina Munim in Lootmar and Man Pasand. At age 60, he paired up with the 25 year old Padmini Kolhapure in Swami Dada. All these movies were hits. At age 70, he played the lead role in Awwal Number, with Aamir Khan as the hero. This movie too was a hit.

Dev Anand helped out innumerable struggling actors and made their careers, when no one else was willing to give them a break. Zeenat Aman, Waheeda Rehman, Sadhana, Vyjanthimala, Hema Malini, Richa Sharma, Tabu, Jackie Shroff, music director Rajesh Roshan, the list goes on and on.

During the Emergency in India, Dev Anand took a stand against Indira Gandhi, and openly campaigned against her. He was, and still is, a champion of free speech and has strong views about censorship. Dev Anand’s controversial movie ‘Censor’ made in 2001, about the archaic censor laws in India, was critically acclaimed.

Not all of his movies were hits. Some of them were resounding flops. But that didn’t stop Dev Anand from creating films. Many of the films he made, like Hare Rama Hare Krishna (Zeenat Aman’s debut film), Jewel Thief, Prem Pujari, Tere Mere Sapne, Censor, Sache ka bolbala, were way ahead of their time.

Dev Anand’s best movie is ‘Guide’, that he produced in 1965. Based on RK Narayan’s novel, Guide was directed by Vijay Anand, his younger brother. A deeply moving and spiritual story, memorable songs, and an exceptional performance by Dev Anand in the lead role, make Guide one of the top ten Indian movies of all time. Guide became the first film to sweep all the major Filmfare awards in a single year.

Hero, producer, director, writer, mentor and poet, Dev Anand will never say die. Here’s wishing Devsaab a very happy birthday.

Cheers … Srini.

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