Dev Anand: Unraveling the enigma through ‘The Navketan Story’

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Had he been alive yesterday Dev Anand would have celebrated his 89th birthday, but it does not appear as if he has gone as the aura of vibrancy and of an entity in flux that he had created for himself continues to create an elfin charm among his fans across generations. Sidharth Bhatiya, who was one of the editorial directors, has captured the cinematic journey of Dev Anand by using Nav Ketan, the production house that Dev Anand created and has tried to unravel the enigma of Dev Anand through his cinematic oeuvre with the book, ‘The Navketan Story- Cinema Modern’.


Indeed, Dev Anand epitomized the element of modernity that our country was aspiring for after it had gained independence in 1947. The choice of Nav Ketan as the fulcrum to focus on the evolution of Dev Anand in the film industry was perhaps guided by the fact that Nav Ketan represented a crucial phase in the growth of Indian film industry, from the early, post-independence phase of black and white films to the glorious music filled colorful cinema of the 60s and 70s.

Underlining the aura of Dev Anand, Sidharth Bhatiya has narrated his experience of accompanying Dev Anand to Delhi when he was awarded Padma Bhushan and the hysteria that he had created in the Delhi University campus, though he was not successful commercially. Bhatiya notes with wonderment whether any star of the present times be able to have that kind of aura 50 years from now? Indeed, the sway that Dev Anand had across generations would be a feat difficult to emulate for any star across any generation.

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The popularity of Dev Anand was owing to the sense of optimism and joy for life that he connoted for more than six decades, an embodiment of ‘a can-do spirit’, not maudlin self-pity that was the style of his contemporaries and this could be catalysis how his name brings a mischievous smile on the face. The banner Navketan that he had created had a particular kind of cinema, characterized by style, being contemporary, modern and urban. The black and white films that were made by Navketan in initial years with Dev Anand as the lead star still enamor owing to the fact that they looked at urban India in an entertaining rather than a disaffected way.

Dev Anand never believed in giving message through his films, and that could be the reason why Naseeruddin Shah remains one of his most ardent fans, and he also quoted in the book on Dev’s films by drawing reference to Alfred Hitchcock who held the view that ‘if one wants message one can go to post office’. Indeed, Dev Anand along with his brothers created a brand that was enjoyable and entertaining and never driven by ideology.

The book has interesting anecdotes, like where it not for Dev Anand Hindi cinema would have lost S D Burman as he had given up and was packing his bags to go to Kolkata. The book also informs that Kishore Kumar first gave playback for Dev Anand in the film TAMASHA in 1952 with the song ‘Khaali Peeli Kahe Ho Akka Din Bethke Bom Marta Hai’- a typically Mumbaiya style statement.

For the fans of Dev Anand as also fans of cinema, Sidharth Bhatiya’s book is a treasure house of knowledge and one needs to savor the book.

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