I must confess that I did not cut classes to see only Dev Anand films but there was a greater urgency, in the mid 1960s and early 1970s, to see films like Jewel Thief and Johny Mera Naam on the first day, first show. And that often meant buying tickets in black.
As a student, I could not really afford buying the tickets from the scalpers but I dipped into the small money I earned from writing freelance stories for a number of publications. I just could not plan well to book the tickets in advance, for my class and freelance schedules were crazy.
Dev Anand's films offered, for most part, unalloyed entertainment and had little melodrama and silly fight scenes like most other films. And that was the prime reason to see them, hoping that they would help me prepare better for the exams.
As a teenager, I was allowed only one film a month, and if a Dev Anand film were to be released that month, it got the preference. Thus I did not even hesitate for a moment in choosing Dev's Asli Naqli over Shammi Kapoor's [ Images ] Dil Tera Diwana
But one month I had to forego seeing Dev Anand's Baat Ek Raat Ki because I had said something bad about a particular nun to my mother who believed priests and nuns cannot be spoken against. Not only did I get a slap from her, but was also told I could not see movies for a couple of months.
By the time the ban was lifted, the film had long gone from the small town in Kodagu district. I had to be satisfied listening to its awesome Hemant Kumar and Suman Kalyanpur song and imagine how it had been pictured in the film. Years later, when I caught the film in a morning show in Chennai, I felt silly for having cried because I could not see it.
The first day first show habit continued even when I started teaching at a Jesuit college in Chennai. But I also had a class on Friday afternoons, and that caused many problems and I missed the first show of many hit films.
When the Dev Anand and Sharmila Tagore [ Images ] film Yeh Gulistan Hamara was to be released, I rushed through the course, and on the day of the film's release, I spent about 10 minutes in the class, and told the students (truthfully) that we had covered most of the course by then, and they should spend the next hour in the library doing specific research. And then the class was dismissed.
Should I have been surprised to see a handful of my students at the same matinee show? I don't know who was more embarrassed.
Less than half way through the film, I realised how lousy it was and made a resolution to see a Dev Anand or a Rajesh Khanna [ Images ] or an Amitabh Bachchan [ Images ] film only after it had become a certified hit. I was going to give up the first day, first show craze.
I had also remembered how I had brought black market tickets for Prem Pujari and realised soon into it how lousy it was. Worse, by Monday everyone was talking of it as a flop.
I went to college the next day of seeing Yeh Gulistan Hamara, expecting the students to gossip about my movie adventure. Surely, they had spread the word about it, but that was the least thing that I had to worry about. A note from the principal was waiting for me.
It seems he had sent the peon to the class on Friday to tell me I should stop by the principal's room. A couple of priests had complained to him, I learned later, that I was giving out salacious details of church scandals in the European history class.
But the peon found the class, which had 60 students, empty. The principal sent him to the library, but hardly anyone of my students was there. Many had decided to catch Tamil or Telugu movies around the time I was buying ticket for the Dev film.
"I have never seen anything like this in my entire life," said the principal who was in his mid-50s. I was in my mid-20s. "What kind of a tutor are you?"
I said I was far ahead of my schedule for the course and students rarely bunked my class. He made me promise I will never repeat the act, but as I was leaving his office, he whispered, "What was the film you wanted to see so badly?"
When he heard the name, he sighed and said, "I have forgotten how many times I saw Kala Bazar and CID." And in the same low voice, another confession. "Like so many boys, I too wondered why I could not be handsome like Dev Anand. But now all that does not matter because in God's eyes we are all handsome."
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