The late Dev Anand eulogised youth. And this fascination began right from his days in Government College, Lahore where he often recited Hafeez Jalandari’s poem Abhi To Main Jawaan Hoon. In fact, Sahir Ludhinavi’s classic romantic number Abhi na jao choddh kar in Dev Anand’s Hum Dono (1961) was based on the same metre as Jalandari’s elegy. It was this undying zest for life that attracted young Mohan Churiwala to Dev Anand. “Ours was an association of 15 years,” says the fan and associate with a faraway look.
Today, six years after Dev Anand passed away, nothing can seal the vacuum in Mohan’s life. A successful share-market professional, the empty spaces are filled by recollections of his hero. He points to the huge photograph of Dev Anand in his bedroom saying, “Yahan roz matha tek kar jaata hoon!” A cushion with Dev Anand’s face on it holds the pride of place in his bedroom. Few days before Dev Anand passed away, Mohan had ordered the star’s favourite cologne 4711 for him. Sadly, he never wore it. “But I’ve kept it near my mandir,” says Mohan. “I’ve preserved his hat, his jacket, his mobile, his pen… in fact I even bought over his old car, a Ford Ikon 524. It’s a scrapped model but it’s a keepsake for me,” he smiles. “When I received the delivery of my new Mercedes, I first kept Dev saab’s hat in the glove box,” he reveals adding, “Every car of mine has his book Romancing With Life.” While Mohan has more memories of the legend than he can share in a lifetime, he shares a handful with Filmfare…
As a youngster, I used to read Dev saab’s interviews and was inspired by his optimism. But the inspiration reached a new level after
I happened to watch Kala Bazar (1960), in which Dev saab plays a black-marketer. He realises the importance of education when he’s besotted by Waheeda Rehman and wants to impress her. He regrets not having studied. He starts studying to dismiss his ‘dil aur dimaag ka andhera’. This enthused me to complete my education.
Later, whenever I commuted in the B.E.S.T bus that passed through Khira Nagar (Santacruz) where Dev saab’s office was, I’d strain my neck hoping to catch a glimpse of him. By the mid ’80s, I was doing well in the stock market. But my fascination for Dev saab continued. One day, I dialled his number. Dev saab picked up the phone. I said I wanted to meet him. He said, “I’m busy, call me next week.” This continued for a long time. Till one day he asked me to come over. Then on it became my daily routine to meet him. After finishing with the stock exchange at 3.30 pm, I’d reach Dev saab’s office by 5 pm. He’d wait for me like a child. I’d help him in his work, conduct recce for him, send out his mails… Through time, he realised I had no vested interest. I didn’t want to invest his money in stocks, I didn’t want to act… In fact, for years, I’d fast every Tuesday for his success. The turning point came when Peter Mukherjee’s 9x channel was to be launched. Dev saab trusted my business acumen. He sent me to Peter to sell the rights of Navketan Films. Peter tried to bribe me suggesting I keep a certain amount for myself and quote a lower amount to Dev saab. Feeling insulted, I got up to leave. Peter then agreed to the higher amount that I was asking for Dev saab. When I went back, Dev saab hugged me teary-eyed. He realised I was his well-wisher. That I could give my life for him. We grew closer.
Generosity of spirit
Dev saab’s positive attitude is well-known. When his films failed, he’d say, ‘Chalo koi baat nahin, next time we’ll do better!’ Once at a press conference, a journalist asked, “After so many flops, aren’t you craving for a hit?” His retort was, “Someone like you is interviewing me. That means I’m successful. You wouldn’t have interviewed a flop actor. Would you?”
He never cribbed about money. When I’d go to give his balance payments, he’d tell me, ‘don’t bargain, give the full amount’. He was a good paymaster. From the clapper boy… to the top man he paid everyone on time. He had huge FDs. He earned from the video, music and the satellite rights of his films… Anand Studio did well. I never saw him sell anything or borrow money.He had a unique take on love and women as well. He’d say, “Romance does not mean going to bed with a woman. Romance also lies in conversation. You can sense the beauty of an orgasm even in a conversation.” He respected women deeply.
An affair to remember
Dev saab looked back at his relationship with the late Suraiyaji with respect. When asked about her he’d say, “I’m not ashamed of anything. I liked her at one point, call it calf love or whatever. And I did not model myself after Gregory Peck for her. I superseded Gregory Peck long ago. Has he made films? What talent has he introduced? I’ve gone beyond him. Yes, I admired him but I never copied him.” During his romance with Suraiyaji, Dev saab had bought her a diamond ring. Infuriated, her Nani (grandmother) threw it in the sea. But Suraiyaji’s mother asked Dev saab to come on their terrace at 10 pm and meet her daughter one last time. Raj Khoslaji and Guru Duttji asked him not to go alone fearing trouble. He took an inspector friend along. With two torches and a loaded gun, the inspector sat on the parapet opposite. He asked Dev saab to flash his torch if he sensed trouble. When Dev saab met Suraiyaji, she cried bitterly. Dev saab returned heartbroken too.
Even years later, whenever we passed her house, Krishna Mahal at Marine Drive, he’d recall, “I’d take a train and walk down the road to meet her during my struggling days.” Years later, Suraiyyaji attended the 25th anniversary party of Navketan. Dev saab didn’t visit her when she was ill to avoid the press. He wanted to maintain the sanctity of the relationship and not malign an ailing woman. He didn’t attend her funeral for the same reason. When she died, he shed a few tears quietly.
Friends & rivals
The Censor Board had opposed the scene where Waheeda Rehman’s husband Marco fondles the feet of a woman in Guide (1965). Vijay Anand (Goldie) believed that it was essential to justify Waheedaji’s moving towards Dev saab in the film. A special screening was kept for Indira Gandhi, who was then the Information and Broadcasting Minister. She gave it a nod and the film was passed. After the premiere of Guide, industry’s bigwigs, who watched it left with a blank face. A few nights later, Raj Kapoor called up and asked for the reels of Guide. Goldie was woken up from his sleep and sent across to deliver. Rajji called Dev saab the next morning and said, “Kya picture banaiyee hai! Tere Bhai ko bol mere liye yeh picture banaye!” Rajji, Dev saab and Dilip Kumar were good friends despite being rivals. Rajji had offered Sangam to Dev saab. “If you don’t direct it, I’ll act,” Dev saab laid the precondition. Even Dilip saab said the same when he was offered Sangam. Dev saab wanted Dilip saab to release his book – Romancing With Life. But he was unwell so the then PM, Manmohan Singh, released it. Also, Manmohanji and Dev saab share the same birthdate. The memoir talks about his association with Zeenat Aman. Maybe, Dev saab had developed an attachment with her. One evening he asked her out for a candle-night dinner. Zeenatji said they’d first make a flash visit at a party. At the party, Zeenat touched Rajji’s feet. While doing so, she turned around and looked at Dev saab, a little guilt evident in her eyes. Rajji asked Zeenatji, “Why didn’t you wear white as promised?” Dev saab heard all this and was heartbroken. He was about to leave the party when Rajji clasped his hand tightly and said, “No Dev, you’re not leaving!” Zeenatji also said, “But we were supposed to go out.” To which Dev saab said, “Some other time. You enjoy the party now!” Few days later she was signed for Satyam Shivam Sundaram.
Dev saab’s fans were varied… from commoners to the elite. His greatest fan was Nawaz Sharif. When Dev saab visited London, he’d too fly down to meet him there. They’d enjoy having hot chocolate at Harrods. In jest, Nawaz saab would urge him to talk in Punjabi. “Tusi Punjabi mein gal karo!” he’d say. Nawaz saab has a house in Surrey in the outskirts of London. Once we three took a scenic ride in a horse-carriage there. Those days Nawaz saab was in exile (he became PM of Pakistan after Dev Anand passed away). Dev saab was extremely fond of MF Hussain as well. One day he called him and said, “Husain saab, aapki yaad aa rahi hai, I want to kiss your hands!” Husain saab flew in from Indore that night. It happened to be Dev saab’s birthday. He drew a sketch of Dev saab, signed it, presented it to him as a gift and flew back to Indore that same night! Another incident is that of a distraught girl, who came to meet Dev saab one day. She wanted to hand over a sketch of his, which her artist grandfather had made years ago. It was his last wish that the day he dies, the sketch be given to Dev Anand. Dev saab was touched and recalled the story behind that sketch. He said, “As a struggler, I’d often visit the Parisian dairy at Nariman Point to have hot milk and develop contacts. Once I was sitting on the parapet, brooding and watching the waves, when an artist came up to me and said, ‘You look like a hero, can I sketch you?’” He drew the sketch in two minutes. Dev saab, who was in a disturbed frame of mind, asked him to keep it himself. Years later, the sketch finally found its way to Dev Anand, the star!
Farewell in London
Dev saab was a health freak. The doctors would say that his reports should be framed as an example. He used to have 11 glasses of lukewarm water throughout the day. He’d have a heavy breakfast, no lunch – maybe a sandwich – and end the day with a full dinner. He’d take a light walk after that. He was vegetarian and enjoyed baingan bharta, dahi, papaya, corn, popcorn… He didn’t fear aging but he didn’t like people addressing someone older as ‘uncle’ or ‘aunty’. He’d say address everyone by name. He’d say, “Why count age on birthdays? Stay young at heart and in mind. Aging is a state of mind.” He worked for 18 hours a day till the very end.
Sadly, when Dev saab passed away, I was not with him. He had gone off to London to prepare for his next film – the sequel of Hare Rama Hare Krishna. In the hotel room, Dev saab was seated on the sofa talking to his son Suneil (Anand). Then Suneil went to the washroom, came out and continued talking to him. When he got no response, he turned around to look at his father. Dev saab had turned still and silent. He was no more. Dev saab always wanted his fans to remember him the way they had last seen him on screen. Hence, he was cremated in London on December 3, 2011… away from it all…