Dev Anand’s minor classic
Dev Anand can write such English with literary merit? Spring comes to Bollywood!
Dev Anand’s “Romancing with Life” is a minor literary classic!
Mr. Sunil Dutt and Mrs.Nargis Dutt life stories poignant and deeply moving One, an autobiography. The other, a loving portrait of a famous film couple. Together they bring back a lost spring time,the golden days of theBollywood cinema.When,the actors were genuine super heroes and actresses were the reigning queens.The film was always a creative work and we see in the pages of the 400 and odd pages of Dev Anand’s beautifully-written,yes, he is a B.A. Hons from the Government College,Lahore, when that college prided itself as the best east of Suez.
Yes,it produced the higher class of ICS officers and others who went on to shape society and much else.’Dev Saab’as he is called by the industry,for he had lived through all his 84 years as a youngish man of handsone features who could speak impeccable English with proper accent and there are no such highly educated persons,then or now in the tinself town.So,the autobiography comes as a great surprise,it commands one’s attention,not just the usual attention but an intellectual and even artistic curiosity as well.Here is a mind that is optimistic all times,young in attitudes,never say die spirit and what a life it has been! His story reads like any other rag to riches as Sunil Dutt and countless other artists who ran away to Mumbai and made it big.
But Dev stands out.One could not have believed if he had not written that here is an idealist,Sunil Dutt too was an idealist,the two come from almost the same region, in Punjab and though they had a different route to success,Dev’s is pure”experiment with truth”!Yes,he wanted to succeeed in his own way and he did it all through his life.The Hindi films Dev acted from 1946 to 2005 is almost the very history of the Hindi cinema.He or rather his brother,his was a close-knot family,all the three brothers were later to join and run the family-established Navketan Films and Navketan came to become and remain a brand for its highly creative films,every film was aimed at high creativity and the very first film was entered at theCannes film festival and so too in later years Dev was to enter his productions in all major film festivals,Venice and elsewhere and what an interntional figure he had become!There are no major Hollywood actors or actresses Dev didn’t come into personal contact and all this and much more are all woven into a flowing narrative which is a model of a polished mind and a polished language.Some passages are deeply moving and I should confess,some places brought down tears without one know it!Such is the power of concentration and the intensity of feeling he brings to bear,when at such scenes like the brother dying and Guru Dutt dying and the actor becomes a deepthinker,one should admit.
Usually one doesn’t ascribe to a film such attributes but in the case of Dev Saab,we have to concede he is not just a film man,he is also a patriot,there is always politics and national events interweaving with the narrative of his life’s many activities and pre-occupations.Thus,we see him running into Pandit Nehru at many points,travelling in later years with Vajpayee in the famous Lahore journey and revisiting his old college.
The few paras of the description of the old memories, Usha Chopra,his college-mate and his heart throb,walks past the corridors when the actor takes a passage down the memory lane as he strolls through the verandahs!
The filming of the “Guide’,the film based on the novel by.R.K.Narayan was the highlight of his film career,though there are other films equally good from the points of view of creative excellence and other factors.
He rises to his height of creative best when he writes about the final scene in the Guide:
“I had transcended all human emotions,making the ‘self’ in me the sole conqueror.The ascetic in me was totally in tune with my performance during those glorious days of my own discovery.
The man that the world was predicting would end up as a bankrupt was playing with the inner reserves of his own spiritual finances,to tell the world that it is not always billion-dollar budgets alone that produce the best,most soul-satisfying entertainment”(page 190).
There are so many such beautifully written pages of pure prose,rather prose poems that adorn the pages.Each chapter is written in crisp language and the brief chapters make for enduring reading pleasure.
When you read a film actor’s life,more so an autobiographical account you expect there would be lot of gossip and small talk.This book is free from such short comings,in fact,the pages bring to you full of non-film characters,rather non-film,real world heroes,V.K.Krishna Menon and K.A.Abbas,the Clintons and many others,big and small.The events are as much poltiical and historical from the wider world,the list of his foreign encounters would make for engrossed reading.
A film he took was ,”Love in Time Square” the famous location at the very heart of New York and what a theme! It captured the very spirit of America after the twin towers blasts when the country and the world was devastated with uncertainties.
I felt proud here was an Indian,an Indian film hero and a cinema maker who thought of capturing the mood of the world and the entire world owes a debt to Dev Saab!
There are many images that run through my mind after I finished reading the book, one or two are worth recalling here.One is the capturing the monsoon rains of Mumbai.He arrived at the Bombay Central Station on the Frontier Mail,when the rain was falling on the shutters of the train as it fell as it ran through its course,through the beautiful western Ghats.
Then,as I followed his life in the big city,here was the rains alwa ys coming into his life and mem ories.The monsoon romance with the rains and the city is one of the beautiful images that you would always like to associate with Dev Anand all through his life of struggle and realisation of his dreams.The other images that stuck up in my mind are the ones when he describes his daily journeys into the city from Walkeshwar Road residence on the double decker bus to his work places. He started with no money,except the Rs.30 in his pocket,then got a job at Rs.80 a month,then some other job and the big break,the first contract for Rs.400 per month for three years.
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