A guide to the legend

Dev Anand's famous public persona overlaid a fiercely private man. We bring you a glimpse of the man through some of the people with whom he spent his private, waking hours (he hardly slept for two to three hours, we are told). Read on to know about the actor-director's friendship with Raj Kapoor, and why he never attended public funerals

Octogenarian Prem Prakash has been Dev Anand's assistant director during the crafting of classics such as Hum Dono, Guide and Jewel Thief. "I climbed Navketan's office stairs at Khira Nagar, Santa Cruz, in 1955 during the last days of House No 44 and he kept praising me and promoting me. He would talk to me with such atmiyata (intimacy). Today, I am 80 and still inspired by Dev saab!" he says, as he flips through the pages of a signed copy of Anand's autobiography, Romancing With Life, at his Borivli residence (see pictures).

Businessman Mohan Churiwala, meanwhile, is a fan, first and foremost, who later became a close associate of the actor and remained so for the last 10 years. "I loved Dev saab's Funtoosh song, 'Denewala jab bhi deta, poora chappad phad ke deta' and I avidly read all his interviews because he was bubbling with positivity," he says. After a long day at the stock market, you would invariably find Churiwala with Anand at his Bandra penthouse. Today, he has one constant, wistful refrain --"I was with him 24 x 7."

Pics/ Ashish Rane

Hema Upadhyay, a young media consultant who worked closely with Anand on Charge Sheet and Hum Dono (Rangeen) over the last year, never felt the yawning age difference. "He was so young," she says. She is amazed by Dev's hold over the public imagination. "When he called me at my hometown, my mother couldn't believe it and insisted I keep my cellphone on speaker." Neither can she get over Dev's fabled enthusiasm for life, which she says stayed high through his last year. She recalls, "Wherever he would go, he would say, 'Hema, Hum Dono is a classic film, tum aag laga do.' Once he went to Lower Parel for a TV shoot and shot continuously for about four hours without having a morsel of food."

She laughs, remembering a time when she caught the indefatigable man taking a nap in his office. "After a long round of interviews, I told him, 'Sir, take rest' but he stopped me and said, 'Thak jaata hoon, but it is okay'. He was very fond of reading newspapers and watching news channels. He would call Arnab Goswami and tell him, 'Kal ka tumhara episode bahut achcha laga, tum logon ko phaad ke rakh dete ho. (I liked yesterday's episode, you corner people so effectively.")

Evidently, little things made the man. Churiwala tells us about how Anand would keep "to-do chits in his pockets and throw them away one by one, as each item was taken care of." "He preferred buttermilk to alcohol because he had a delicate stomach," recalls Prakash, who also remembers Anand as a man with measured responses even at the giddy height of his stardom in the 1950s and 1960s.

But the young Dev Anand also knew how to enjoy himself. "He would ask for a harmonium at the anniversary parties and Raj Khosla et al would all gather and sing songs," Prakash recalls. "Dev saab was very fond of poetry, and he would recite entire ghazals," he says, adding how at that time, in Anand's Juhu bungalow, there was a big library with stacks of books on films, acting and poets."

Prakash is not short on anecdotes about his mentor. "Dev saab was good friends with his contemporary Raj Kapoor. Once Kapoor dropped in on Anand's set in his Shri 420 attire -- bowler hat, ankle length patloon et al. "Raj gave a running commentary on the way he planned to shoot a Shri 420 scene with trolley movements and what-not, while Dev lent him a patient ear. Later, Kapoor dropped in at the Khira Nagar office too."

Anand remained an effusive host even half a century later. Upadhyay recalls, "He would say Dev bulayega, sab aayenge. He invited Govinda, Aamir, Ranbir, Salman, Dharmendra, Shatrugan Sinha personally for the premiere of Hum Dono (Rangeen) and they all turned up. He was so charming. At the premiere, after months I saw him ecstatic, smiling broadly when the crowds whistled to the song, 'Abhi na jao chhodkar ki dil abhi bhara nahin.'" 

It seems Anand was not unaware of the lack of enthusiasm for his latest ventures. Upadhyay says, "He wanted a premiere for Charge Sheet though we tried to dissuade him. He said, 'Mujhe pata hai log kahenge ki dekhte hai is baar Navketan ne kaunsa teer mara hai. But I am fine. I will keep on making films till I die.'"

For a man widely known to be full of life, it's not surprising that Churiwala recalls him as someone who never liked talking about death or attending funerals. "When Amitabh Bachchan's mother passed away, Dev saab and I went to his place secretly to console him. He would never go for a group condolence."

Not surprisingly, he didn't want people to cry over his own death, but remember the good times instead. For Churiwala, as with most of us, the end came unexpectedly. "I had a conversation with Dev saab on December 3, around 5.20 pm London time. He told me, 'Mohan, I am fine but it is getting cold here'. He said he would be back in 10 days. Next morning, a common friend Naveen Sharma called and cried. 'Dev saab is no more,'" he recalls, sadly.

Churiwala continues, "He literally died with his shoes on. In a hotel, he always had his socks on and often even the hotel shoes. I have never seen him with his naked feet. And fortunately, his son Suneil was with him. Suneil was the only one who was always there for him."

What was the man like in his final moments? Prakash tells us. "Suneil and he were chatting after dinner. He told him 'You will make good films for Navketan, if something happens to me.' Maybe he knew the end was near. Suneil then left the room. When he returned, Dev saab was sitting on the couch, looking outside the window. Suneil thought he must be preoccupied with the film he was planning, Hare Rama Hare Krishna Aaj. But in those five minutes, he had a heart failure."

After regaining his composure, Prakash says, "Dev Anand will always be remembered as a trail blazer. As Majrooh saab once wrote: Guzre hain is raah se aise bhi raahron/ Manzil udhar gayi, jidhar woh chalein gaye."

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