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'Devsaab was always in pursuit of new dreams'

By Subhash K Jha
December 06, 2011 13:50 IST
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Lata MangeshkarFor music doyen Lata Mangeshkar, Dev Anand's passing away is a personal blow. She'd had a long working relationship with the star and had sung for many of his memorable films. She shares some fond memories of the legend with Subhash K Jha.

"It's not just the songs that we did together, memorable as they were for us and for listeners. It was the man that Devsaab was. So handsome in his looks and deeds. I worked with him for decades. I never heard him raise his voice at anyone, let alone get abusive just because work was not happening properly. In fact I've never seen him lose his temper," Lata said.

Listen to Dev Anand's songs here.

Interestingly, Lata says that Dev Anand never attended any of the recordings for their iconic songs.

"The only time I remember him being there for a recording was for Hothon Pe Aisi Baat in Jewel Thief. Even then, he sat outside, not in the recording room. It was a long, tough song. Pancham (R D Burman) was also there. And Burmandada (composer S D Burman) kept losing his cool over the recording. Devsaab finally intervened: 'Ab rehne bhi do, Dada, singer thak gaya hoga,' he reprimanded Burmandada. That's the kind of gentle, considerate human being he was, always asking about others."

Dev Anand adored two of the songs that Lataji sang for his production house, Navketan. "He loved my Rangeela Re from Prem Pujari and Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hai from Guide. He would call and say, 'Why can't you sing another Rangeela Re for me?'"

It is said that Dev Anand hated the iconic number Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamnna Hai when it was recorded.

"I wouldn't say he hated it," Lata laughs. "But he didn't like how it sounded and, in fact, he made his dislike very clear to Burmandada. You see, Aaj Phir… was a very unusual song. It starts with the antara (stanza) rather than the mukhda (opening riff).

"But when Devsaab saw the song in Guide, he conceded he was wrong. That's the greatness of the man. In fact, he and Burmandada were often in conflict. I believe for another song in Guide, Devsaab clearly rejected the tune. Burmandada took it as a challenge. One night he rang up Devsaab at 2 am, asking him to hear the composition! That's the kind of shared passion, the junoon, that Devsaab shared with his artistes. He would often tell me he missed that kind of creative atmosphere among today's artistes and technicians," she said.

Dev Anand was very keen that Lata take to music composition. She says fondly, "He kept saying in that cultured sing-song voice of his, 'Lata, you have to compose music for me.'

"When I'd beg off saying there was too much work to do, he'd retort, 'But you have composed music for Marathi films.' Devsaab was always in pursuit of new goals, new avenues and dreams."

Lata says Dev Anand took really good care of his health. "Among the three iconic heroes of the 1950s -- Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand -- it was Devsaab who led the most regimented life. He was very strict about his food habits and was often on a diet. I've heard he once almost fainted during a shooting because he hadn't eaten.

"His energy was infectious. And he was a thorough gentleman in speech and manner. He hated being called 'Uncle' even by youngsters. 'Call me Dev, or Devsaab,' he suggested. "No matter what people called him, he was exceptional. One of a kind."

Please post Your Tributes to Devsaab here.

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Subhash K Jha in Patna