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'In his later years, my dad Dev Anand was not given his due'

Last updated on: December 23, 2011 16:03 IST

Image: Dev Anand on his 88th birthday with son Suneil Anand
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar Patcy N in Mumbai
It's hard to let go of a legend, especially if the person was always full of life like Dev Anand.

The Evergreen star passed away on December 3 but his son Suneil is obviously still hurting.

He talks to Patcy N about his famous father, and their life together.

I think my father is happy, and smiling down at us. He is happy that he had a long, successful, healthy career. I think he would want us to celebrate his life. Although I am sad -- we all are sad -- he would have wanted us to celebrate his life. 

He wasn't sick. If anything, he was probably tired because he used to push himself a lot and wouldn't let any of us stop him. If there were 10 interviews to be done, he would want to do them, he wouldn't say no to anyone. Maybe he over-exerted himself.

He did not go to London for treatment, he went there to rest, to get away from everything. But when he was there, they were after him for interviews, to be the chief guest at some function and so on. We had to ask them to please give us a break as Dad needs a break.

He was hale and hearty the day he passed away. We were planning to see some places in London the next morning, to browse around and scout locations for his next film. His script was ready and he was very excited.

He had dinner and then went to sleep. He passed away in his sleep. By the grace of God, there was no pain.

'He never made demands when it came to food and eating'

Image: Dev Anand, Tina Munim in Des Pardes
When I was growing up, my Dad was a huge star. Yet, he was always in touch with us. I think his kids (including daughter Devina) were close to his heart.

We would go on the sets and meet him; we were very impressed and were in awe of him. I remember going on the sets of Jaanemaan. Once Dad was doing an action scene and I was really worried. It was rough and I was afraid that he would get hurt.

He has done many action roles in movies like Amir Garib, Warrant, Johny Mera Naam and Mahal, which have worked very well at the box office. I remember our Delhi-UP distributor telling me when I came from America after my studies, 'Suneil, remember one thing, if your dad has a gun in his hand in a film poster, that film will become a blockbuster.' That was the masses talking about my father.

Whenever my dad went out on shoots, I would accompany him. What I learnt from him was his friendly demeanour. He was so down to earth even after being a giant in his field. In spite of being known the world over, he would never make you feel he was bigger or more important than you. 

He was very approachable. That was the greatness of the man, he had humility, and he was humble. He never made demands when it came to food and eating, he was a good hearted, gentle and loving soul.

'I never met Suraiyaji'

Image: Dev Anand and Suraiya
My father was my best friend, I could confide in him. I could talk to him about anything and he could speak to me about anything. He was always there for me and so was I for him. We were a great team.

When I was growing up, there were many things written about my father's affairs but I just took it in my stride. He was a public figure and people write all sorts of things about such people. It may or may not be true, so I took it in my stride.

I never met Suraiyaji. I wasn't even born when things were written about them. I have met Tinaji (Ambani) and Zeenatji (Aman). I never get upset looking at them because as a kid, you are on a different wavelength.

My father was very modern, he changed with the times, he knew what was happening around him, he was very up-to-date, read newspapers and watched television. He saw world cinema, he understood cinema of every nation. He came from an era that was close to Hollywood.

He had hobnobbed with people like David Selznick (the American film producer best known for Gone with the Wind (1939) and Rebecca (1940)). He was a good friend of Dad's and wanted to make a film with Dad but a month after they spoke, he died. 

The great Hollywood casting agency William Morris asked him to leave India and come to Hollywood; they wanted to promote him there and make him a big man. But he said no, because he was always a nationalist, he was always very patriotic. 

He acted in Hollywood films, though. His first film was The Evil Within (1970) for 20th Century Fox. He was close to Kirk Douglas and Frank Capra. He came from a stylish era and his thinking was broad. He was evolving with every decade yet ahead of his time. But as a person he never changed -- he remained a kind, gentle and humble person.

'The death of my father came as a shock to my mother'

Image: Dev Anand with wife Kalpana Karthik and two kids Suneil and Devina
Dad was a good teacher. Once when I was making my film Master, I was stuck, unsure how to tackle a certain scene. I told him and he told me an easy way out, and when I thought about it that was the only way it could be done.

I think he was a giant; he was a major pillar of the industry. I can say he made the industry; all your actors of today have taken inspiration from him. Dad is Bollywood.

Dad told me about his days of struggle in Mumbai, about how he starved as he didn't have money to eat, how he survived. He never forgot those days.

Till the last he was very simple in his eating habits, he never demanded big gourmet meals, he was happy with the basic dal, sabzi and roti. He was frugal in his eating. He never took to drinking alcohol or smoking.

Dad loved being an actor, he loved the limelight, and he was an actor in the truest sense of the word.

My mom has always been shy and introvert, she doesn't come out much. Mom was a very good actress, she did five films that were all very nice and successful. She was never ambitious. The moment she got married, she quit films and settled down. We were a nice, close-knit family, we loved each other very much and we respected each other a lot. 

My mom and sister are still in London. They attended the funeral and their duty was over. We had to bring back the ashes and take it to a holy place, so now the son has to take over. They were tired and it was pointless bringing them all the way back here so I asked them to rest there. But they will be coming back soon.

The death of my father came as a shock to my mother. She has spent so many years with the same man and suddenly he is not there. It is a big setback for her and it will take her a long time to get over it. I can't get over it myself. 

When I come to the office or am at home, everything that I see reminds me of him. But we must remember that he lived a long life and died at the age of 88, and he worked till the last. He always said I will die with my boots on, and he died with his boots on. I salute him!

'I loved all my dad's movies'

Image: Dev Anand, Suneil Anand and Raakhee in Anand Aur Anand poster
My dad made great movies. I don't know why people didn't wake up to him; they should have woken up to him in the later days. In Hollywood, they understand preserving their wealth in the form of talent -- their senior actors. I think we should also do the same. 

An actor improves with age, gets more experience with age. So our older crop of actors should be preserved. I think his films were fine and people are going to wake up to him now that he is no more. People are going to study those movies. 

He has had the longest innings of any actor in the world. I was reading on the net and I came to know that Hollywood's top actor has not worked for more than 49 years. Dad worked for 65 years, spanning eight decades. Has any Indian actor achieved that? No.

I think in his later years my dad was not given his due. He should have been given his due by everybody with all due respect. 

Mindsets change, new influences come in, a new generation has come in and the scenario has changed. People's sensibilities have changed and may be they didn't understand such intelligence any more. Dad's movies were 100 years ahead of their time, we still haven't caught up with them.

I loved all my dad's movies. He was one actor you could shoot from any angle and it will still be a perfect photograph. He had a great face. My dad looked handsomer with age. He looked better with every film; he looked 48 in Chargesheet when he was 88. Lord Karan Billimoria (entrepreneur and a life peer in the UK) said at his funeral: 'He is the youngest man that I ever met.'

My favourite film of my dad was Johny Mera Naam. It was a fantastic film. I think he looked dashing, the music was good. I loved it, for me it was a benchmark.

He gave a chance to so many actors -- Zeenat Aman, Tina Munim, Jackie Shroff, Shabana Azmi, Kabir Bedi, Shekhar Kapur, Shatrughan Sinha, Amrish Puri. Most of them were huge names later but they did not forget him.

I was not hurt that there was no one for his funeral in London from the Bollywood fraternity. It is understandable because it is not easy to travel that far at short notice and people are shooting. I did not expect anyone to come, but the creme de la creme of the UK was there -- Subrato Roy was there and we appreciated his being there. 

When we had a memorial service for him here, everybody came, which was nice of them.

'I am going to direct films and act in them also, like my dad did'

Image: Dev Anand and Zeenat Aman in Hare Rama Hare Krishna
When I decided to go abroad and study, Dad was very happy. He knew I was learning a combination of business management and various filmmaking courses. He was happy that I would bring back vital knowledge of how to run an organisation.

I have acted in five films and now, will continue acting. I had just put my career on hold for a little while because I was trying to give all the support that Dad needed, whether it was in production or direction. I am going to direct films and act in them also, like my dad did. Why shouldn't we promote our own actors? We have such a wealth of talent in-house and we should promote it to the hilt. That will be my objective.

I never married because I wanted to take care of my dad, but it is never too late. God has his plan so we shouldn't argue with his plans. Now I will marry and settle down in life by the grace of God.

Navketan will make a lot of good movies that are all in the planning stage now. We have a great library of movies that we are in the process of upgrading technically. We have just restored Guide like a brand new film. We have made it wide screen and we are doing the sound all over again in Dolby digital eight tracks surround. Hopefully, the film will be ready in eight months. 

We have always had a music studio and now that studio has been demolished as we want to upgrade it. The work is almost over and we are making it a Dolby digital premier studio, which is the highest sound post studio anywhere. We have a British architect helping us with the sound and acoustics and that will also take about eight months.

We are going to make the sequel to Hare Rama Hare Krishna. The script is ready and I just have to make a few changes. I know how he thinks, I will have to make a few adjustments and then it will go on the floors. 

I am also working on some of my scripts and then I will act in, direct, and produce those films. 

It upsets me that he is not there anymore but I have to be strong to carry his legacy forward. He was progressive, he never looked back, he always looked forward and I have to do the same.