By Jyothi Venkatesh
To commemorate his 100th birth anniversary today, we reproduce this rare interview by JYOTHI VENKATESH with DEV ANAND which appeared first in the now defunct Free Press Bulletin dt 4th August, 1979, that is almost 42 years ago, exclusively for Cineblitz.
Right from the time I was a budding freelance film journalist, Dev Anand has been a hot favourite of mine and once at least a month, I used to make it a point to meet him either on the sets of any film which he was shooting or at his office at Pali Road without fail. Yet another reason why I feel I just cannot forget Dev is the fact that he had taken me along for the premiere of his film Mr Prime Minister to Ahmedabad along with Boman Irani and a few journalists and introduced me to Mr Narendra Modi, who was then the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
One evening, when Dev asked me if I knew anyone who was ready to sponsor his premiere party at a five star hotel, I suggested the name of Parag Desai who was a struggling PR person at that time and Dev immediately asked me to call him over but when I called him, Parag told me that he was at Colaba the other end of the town and asked me to ask Devsaab to wait for two hours.
When I asked Dev, he said Okay call him. I am ready to wait. And though I had already had two cups of coffee with him, he offered to go, to his room and fetch me a peg of Black Label scotch, not once or twice but three times, till Parag fetched up. I just cannot forget that every time he used to go to the kitchen and get cold water too for me while he was not drinking at all.
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The venue was the posh discotheque cellar at the Oberoi Towers. It was a normal working shift for the unit of Dev Anand’s LOOT MAAR. Dev was seen briskly pacing up and down the floors when I peeped in to have a chat with him. Dev was supervising the lighting arrangements and at the same time waiting for Tina Munim to report for the shooting with her makeup on. A unit hand told me that Tina was doing her make up in a suite Dev had booked upstairs in the hotel and the moment Dev was ready for the shoot, she would breeze in.
It was indeed difficult to keep pace with the energetic Dev. It was a treat to watch him in action as a director without the grease paint on his face. The moment he noticed me sneaking into a corner of the Cellar to have a dekho at him in action, Dev was all smiles and asked me to be seated beside him. Shakti Kapoor was sitting in front of Dev awaiting instructions from the director. Shakti told me that he is playing an air force commander in the film. I wondered since when our air force started tolerating men with long hair and sideburns.
Talking about the film, Dev said that he was confident that LOOT MAAR would turn out to be one of the biggest money spinners of the year 1980. “It is almost complete. By the end of this year, I plan to complete the film and release it early next year.”
Even though Dev had shot the film earlier at Simla with Tina and even had a few schedules at the Mehboob Studios and then Film City with Simple, Mehmood etc, he had booked the Cellar for two days. I asked him whether there was any necessity to shoot the film at a five-star hotel disco like The Cellar at immense cost. Incidentally, I was also working at the same Hotel in the Accounts Department then.
“I needed a disco where I can shoot the scene in which Tina is dancing with her friends and Shakti Kapoor is ogling at her on the floor. I went and saw for myself each and every disco in Bombay but ultimately found only this one the ideal one for my film because there are secluded corners where Shakti Kapoor can sit and observe Tina without Tina knowing that she is being watched.”
“Aren’t you afraid of the Censors clamping down on violence since your film boasts of not one but as many as seven villains- Amjad Khan, Prem Chopra, Shakti Kapoor, Sudhir, Ranjeet, Ajit and Narendranath?”, I asked Dev.
Dev almost blew his top when the word Censors was mentioned in his presence. He is naturally sore that the Censors had certified his DES PARDES for Adults only just because he showed the bar as the backdrop of the film.
“LOOT MAAR will deal with violence. I want to show that as long as there are positives in the world; negatives also will continue to exist. Raakhee plays my wife in the film. She gets killed and the track of revenge starts. Violence is the mainstream of life. If violence does not exist, how can one glorify nonviolence? Nobody can prevent a filmmaker from making what he has conceived. Governments may come and go but filmmaking will continue to remain an obsession with me.”
Looking back at your illustrious career as an actor and filmmaker, how do you assess yourself in these last five decades?
Look here. I have grown in films. I am still a child of cinema. I enjoy what I do. Others think in terms of dus lagaya magar bees nikala. I cannot think of any profession other than films. How can I get out of it? I cannot sell meat or potatoes. Can I? By and large, I work in my own pictures. I do not seek roles as an actor or films as a director outside. I do not have the time to look back. I am concerned about what I am doing as an actor in my current pictures, whether the critics or for that matter, the audiences accept it or not, because their norms of judgment are quite different from mine.
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What do you think of the audience?
Unpredictability is the name of the audience. A wave of raves comes all of a sudden. I am used to what people say. I take it philosophically. I think I have mellowed down. Temperamentally today I am the same as I was 40 years ago. Over the years I have slowed down my pace. In my entire career as an actor, I think I must have acted in only around 120 films. In the last 20 years, I did very few films either as an actor or as a filmmaker. If I wanted to, I could have owned the entire city of Bombay by signing on films left right and centre indiscriminately.
What do you have to say to the criticism that you are a non-actor?
It is after all very easy to destroy something which has taken years to build but very difficult to construct. The so-called criticism is after all just a one man’s point of view. As long as my fans continue to look forward to a film of mine and ask me why I am not acting in my own films, why should I pay cognizance to such hollow criticism?