Shaikh Ayaz, a gifted artist and journalist, shares his experience of meeting Dev Anand, and getting his painting signed by the legend.
With Dev Anand, there was this unspoken consensus, almost a surreal surety that death wouldn't touch him.
His life, 88 years of immense artistic pride and deeply-felt commitment towards cinema, was a celebration of life in all its form.
He hated the sedentary life.
"I don't like wasting time. When I don't make films, I read, travel and think of new ideas. My mind is deeper than the Indian ocean," he told me, about a few months ago, at his Khar office where he would receive friends, guests and visitors.
As usual, he was sitting behind that big, wooden desk (familiar to those who knew him), looking more like a newspaper editor than the legendary actor he was. His desk was cluttered and there were papers, scripts and books strewn across his room.
"Don't go by this mess. My mind is sharp and agile and it's becoming sharper as I am growing old," he said.
Mind and intellect was everything to him. He was a solipsist; he talked mostly about himself. "I hate to be in somebody else's shoes. I am Dev Anand and Dev Anand is original -- he doesn't do remakes, he doesn't make a story that's not his. How many actors you know who has played starring roles in film after film for over 60 years?"
He made no bones about the fact that he enjoyed the attention and that he chose this public life because he wanted to be loved and adored.
There was a point when I was dropping into his office every week, but never unannounced. He always answered his phone, because as he told me later, "I like to be in touch with people. I want to know who's calling and why."
Most of my conversations with him bordered on life and death and I would often remind him of Raju's enlightenment scene in Guide. He viewed death as inevitable but looked at life as a gift that should be enjoyed for what it is. Once, I gave him a watercolour painting I had made of Guide and got another signed by him (pictured here).
He felt a particular sense of pride towards Guide (my favourite Dev Anand film; and every time I tried to confirm if it was his favourite, too, he would rattle off, "What about Ziddi, Baazi, Hum Dono, Taxi Driver, C.I.D, Kala Pani, Tere Ghar Ke Samne, Johny Mera Naam, Jewel Thief and Hare Rama Hare Krishna?").
When he saw the painting, he counselled in that lyrical drawl, "Aiyyyazzz, you must follow your heart. If you want to make movies, make movies. If you want to be a newspaper editor, be a newspaper editor. But I can see that you want to paint. Just do that -- paint and write and do these things that you want to do with all your heart."
He told me that once M F Husain, too, made a quick sketch of him which is now a prized procession at his home. He took my painting and promised to get it framed. I was too small, still am, and here was this legend who respected my love, feelings and creativity and assured me that when I come next, this painting would be put up.
It was a poster of Guide and at the bottom, it was written: Guide: 1965-Forever. Now when I think about it, it would have more appropriate if it was: Dev Anand-Forever.
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