Zeenat Aman got her break playing Dev Anand's sister, Janice/Jasbir, in Hare Rama Hare Krishna, a film directed by the legend, who died last week. The former Miss Asia tells us of how she learnt a lot simply by looking at the star in action
"I will be eternally indebted to Dev Saab," says actor Zeenat Aman, who woke up last Sunday to a barrage of calls and messages, all seeking to inform her that Dev Anand, one of the most-loved stars of Bollywood, was no more.
Dev Anand was, in some ways, responsible for Aman's career. The former Miss Asia was signed on to play the star's sister in Hare Rama Hare Krishna, in what turned out to be her debut film.
"I was heading to Germany to join my stepfather, when I got a call from Dev saab's office to do Hare Rama Hare Krishna. Technically, this wasn't my first offer.
I was offered O P Ralhan's Hulchal, however, the director realised that it was not the right launch-pad for me and put me on to Dev saab." In many ways, Aman's was a lucky break.
Says the actor, "Not too many established actresses wanted to play Dev saab's sister, especially since Mumtaz had already been signed on to play the romantic lead. Tanuja was almost finalised (for my role), when she opted out."
Aman's audition went like a dream, too. "I was auditioning at Filmistan, and I went with my mother. I was fortunate to do my audition in English, something that was unheard of in those days.
I was signed on immediately and we left for Kathmandu. We shot the film at one stretch, again unheard of in those days. I didn't stress over my role. I just watched Dev saab and got inspired to give my best."
"It was a dream launch and I feared that nothing would match up." Aman and Anand went on to do a series of films through the '70s. The transition, says Aman, from playing siblings to lovers was gradual.
"Dev saab made it happen that way since he wrote the films. In our next film, Heera Panna, Dev Saab's romantic lead was Raakhee. Throughout the film his heart went out to her, while I remained the other woman.
In our next film, Ishq Ishq Ishq, we played the romantic lead pair. Thereafter we went on to do a series of films like Warrant, Kalabaz, Darling Darling and Prem Shastra. Each film with Dev Saab was a learning experience."
Aman says she learnt much from Anand. "He believed in what he did. He put his money where his mouth was. He was never afraid to fail. I learnt to be courageous in my career decisions because of him."
"What does one say about a man who meant so much to one's career? Dev Saab was indefatigable. To the end he continued to believe in what he did," she signs off.