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Meeting Dev Anand

December 04, 2011 11:20 IST

Abhishek Mande recalls his unforgettable encounter with Devsaab.

Also: Please post your tributes to Devsaab here.


The text message on my mobile phone seemed unreal -- Dev Anand passes away.

Over the last year, there have been quite a few messages about celebrities passing away, but never once had it occurred to me that the list would probably someday include Dev Anand.

Just the idea seemed incredulous. Unlike everyone else, you never read reports about Devsaab being unwell or bedridden out of action. He was just there. At it, making movies, doing his thing, giving a damn about what the world thought of him or his work.

You really couldn't think of Dev Anand doing anything else other than announcing movies and making them. That was the only thing he seemed to do!

If he ever in his life he broke a leg or fractured a hand or had a cold or was down with flu, we never knew. It wasn't plastered over the tabloids; it never made it to Twitter. Indeed, more ways than one he was evergreen.

I had the opportunity to meet Devsaab once. His autobiography was just out and I had gone with the idea of discussing a video interview with him for the Web portal I worked with then.

I reached out to him over the phone, which he almost always answered (if not, he'd make sure to return your call) and he asked me if I could come over to discuss the idea in person.

I was thrilled!

As I waited in the foyer of a film screening theatre inside his sprawling apartment complex, I looked around to see the various posters of the movies in which he starred and some which he produced. It occurred to me then that though I had watched practically all these movies, I hadn't liked more than half a dozen of them. In a career spanning more than five decades, it seemed to me an awfully small number.

The telephone rang. I had been summoned.

I was escorted up a narrow staircase and an elevator and entered a huge room that was furnished in '80s style upholstery. There were an incredible number of books and papers strewn around, trophies lined up along practically every wall and in one corner on a sofa that wasn't more than two feet high, sat a tiny man dressed like he was about to go for a party.

Dev Anand, the man, was indeed quite like the image I saw of his on the screen. He had his scarf, his jacket and that ever present twinkle in his eye.

As I walked towards him, he did something that I will never forget. Dev Anand got off the sofa (with no difficulty whatsoever) stood up, held out his right hand, smiled at me warmly and introduced himself: "Dev Anand!"

It seemed to me that he didn't do this so much for impressing his visitor, but rather as a genuine act of self-introduction. It wasn't his trademark vanity; that I am certain of.

We spent about 20 minutes talking about why I wanted to interview him, how it would be uploaded on the internet, how we could go about shooting it. He suggested we could come over to his sets in Panchgani a few months later but he'd have to look at his schedule first.

Just when I thought that the conversation was over, he said, "I think we've spoken enough about me. Let's talk about you!"

For someone who was said to be self-possessed, it seemed like an unlikely thing to say. In Bollywood, you don't say such things -- journalists are almost always treated like dirt and the few years that I did cover the beat I came across just one other filmmaker asking me this question. (Later I would realise he had other things on his mind, but that's another story.)

I could say with some amount of certainty though that Dev Anand's concern was genuine because he kept prodding, like a man who was interested in your story. Even as I kept my answers brief, he kept asking -- about my education, my parents, my father who I told him was his fan and he laughed and my siblings. He also seemed genuinely interested in knowing about my marriage plans, which to him were of utmost importance.

We could never keep our next date. His schedules kept getting postponed and I moved jobs. Somewhat disillusioned with Bollywood, I also changed my beat. The web portal I worked for shut down a few months later and the only meeting I had with Dev Anand remained etched in my memory.

Please post your tributes to Devsaab here.

Abhishek Mande