Dev Anand: Only Ashok Kumar could have done Jewel Thief
Ashok Kumar, lovingly addressed as Dadamoni, wasn't just a loving patriarch as his daughters describe him. Everybody was entitled to his affection.
On the occasion of his birth centenary today, we look at the late actor's significant contribution to Hindi cinema. And to do that, it is imperative that we first look at talents he helped foster.
One of them was Dev Anand who, in later years, would himself acquire a reputation as a filmmaker with a keen eye for young talent.
Here, Dev Anand fondly remembers his idol.
'I was a big fan of his smoking style'
It's interesting how Dev Anand met Dadamoni for the first time. Dev was walking up to his car when director Shahid Lateef accosted him.
"He asked me to come over to Bombay Talkies the next day. I kept asking why but all he would say was, 'Dev, aa jaao bhai (Dev, please come, brother)."
The next day when Dev visited Bombay Talkies, he was offered tea and before he could finish it, he was pushed into a room. "When I entered, my jaw dropped, 'Oh my God, it's Ashok Kumar!' He was smoking. I couldn't believe my eyes. For a long time, I couldn't speak a word. I was a big fan of his stylish way of smoking," recalls Dev.
Image: Ashok Kumar and Dev Anand
'He spoke to young actors warmly'
When Dadamoni asked Dev, "Will you do Ziddi?" Dev says, "Maine socha aap itne bade star ho, mujhe kyun pooch rahe ho." (I thought here was a big star, asking me whether I will do the film.)
Written by Urdu giant Ismat Chughtai and directed by Shaheed Latif, Ziddi was Dev's first big film. He had acted in half-a-dozen lesser-known ones but, "I never looked back after that," says Dev.
He remembers Dadamoni as a very helpful man, unaffected by success or failure. "He spoke to young actors warmly and never looked down upon them. That's why he was such a big superstar."
Image: Ashok Kumar
'Ashok Kumar was not a very handsome man but he had charisma'
"During the shooting of Ziddi, Shaheed and Ismat used to push me to perform better. They would do one retake after another. I used to get fed up," says Dev.
"One day, I met Dadamoni and I told him, 'Dada, ab mujhse nahin hota. Kya karun? (I can't do it any more. What should I do?) I requested him to come to the set. Not only did he come, but he also instructed Shaheed to stop being a taskmaster. He told Shaheed, 'If the actor is performing well, why are you giving him a tough time? Let him be.'
As a payback, Dev cast Dadamoni in an unlikely role in Jewel Thief. "Only he could have done that character. He was a marvellous actor. He was not a very handsome man but he had charisma," says Dev.
Image: Ashok Kumar