The journalism film that Dev Anand didn’t make

5 December 2011

Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta pens a warm and personal profile of the departed Bollywood star Dev Anand in today’s paper, with this concluding first-person experience:

“His curiosity about my life and years as a reporter too was never-ending. Sometimes, on those long evenings, I would end up telling him stories from the pickets, trenches, minefields and snipers’ alleys just as I might tell my children. And he listened just as curiously as the children.

“So he said to me one day, ‘Shekhar, let me make a film on your life.’

“I said thank you, and that it was such a funny idea.

“But he said no, there will be a journalist like you who goes from one battlefield to another, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur under tribal insurgencies, Amritsar under Bhindranwale and Operation Bluestar, the massacres at Nellie and in Delhi after Indira Gandhi’s assassination, Afghanistan and Pakistan during the first (and “good”) jihad against the Soviets, Jaffna under LTTE and IPKF, Baghdad’s Al Rashid hotel and Jerusalem under Scud missile attacks in the first Gulf War — he remembered all the various stops in my years of reporting conflict.

“There will be many, many interesting women in his life, including an ambitious politician, a Pakistani spy and a pretty foreign journalist, he said, ‘what a film it will turn out to be, Shekhar, socho zara.’

“I asked him, cheekily, so, Dev Saab, who will play me in your film?

“‘For the younger phase, we will have to find somebody. Lekin thoda senior hone ke baad,’ he said, of course he would be playing that lead role himself!”

At the time of the interaction, Dev Anand was 80 years old and Shekhar Gupta, 46.

***

Pankaj Vohra, political editor of the Hindustan Times, writes in today’s paper:

“I remember that I had invited him to the Press Club of India for a “Meet the Press” programme, just before Sache Ka Bol Bala was to be released. There was no electronic media and I doubt that any actor in our history has received the kind of coverage he got on the front pages of every newspaper, which came out from Delhi.

“The story is that originally, the report was slated for page three in the Dainik Hindustan. But when the night foreman saw Dev Anand’s picture and the report, he ran it on the front page telling his colleagues that he was prepared to face the consequences the next day as “Dev Anand has to be on page one”. This is the kind of committed following he had.”

***

Raja Sen in Mumbai Mirror:

“I was lying in bed, bleary eyed and half-asleep, making up for a particularly long and raucous night when the phone rang. “This is Dev Anand,” the voice trilled, in that exact iconic, oft-mimicked tone we’ve all heard, and I instantly, instinctively stood up — y know, like in the movies where hawaldaars stand while talking to the superintendent.

“Devsaab commandeered respect by default, regardless of fading importance and diminishing cinematic quality, and here he was calling up in response to an SMS I’d sent about an interview and totally throwing me off balance in the process, of course.

Goldie [Anand] would have cast you as a spy in the 70s”, he laughed later when I sat across from him in his Bandra office. He asked me what I’d like to drink, and then ordered me tea with a flourish — “inke liye aisi chai laana ki unhe yaar rahein kahan chai pee thi” — in that tone again, naturally, with a wink thrown in, and proceeded to talk.”

***

Bharati Dubey in The Times of India:

“The first time ever spoke to Dev Anand was after the release of his 1994 film Gangster. ‘I read your review titled ‘Gangster Disaster’,’ said the legendary actor over the phone. ‘You are entitled to your opinion. Please come and meet me at my pent house in Bandra….’

“His invitations were always personally written and he followed them up with a reminder phone call…. One never needed to go through a secretary to fix up a meeting with Dev Anand ‘I’m available on this number after 2 pm,’ he would say ‘Call me and we shall meet.’”

Read the Express article: Deeply in love with life and with himself

Read the HT article: Fiercely independent, fearless and individualistic

Read the Mumbai Mirror article: Salaam, Dev saab

Read the ToI article: Goodbye guide to romance

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