Free spirited Vijay Anand set cinematic standards

The demise of the master of muted drama, Vijay Anand, signals the termination of a golden era of cinematic brilliance.

Generations of filmmakers claim to have learnt filmmaking by watching Vijay Anand's eclectic repertoire. The brother of Chetan Anand and Dev Anand breathed his last in a hospital in Mumbai Monday after a heart attack. He was 71.

No filmmaker dabbled in so many genres as successfully as he did.

Vijay Anand went from the comic caper "Nau Do Gyarah" (1957) to the crime romance "Kala Bazar" (1960), to the breezy romantic musical "Tere Ghar Ke Samne" (1963), to the all-time classic "Guide" (1965), to the melodious whodunits "Teesri Manzil" (1966) and "Jewel Thief" (1967), to the crime blockbuster "Johnny Mera Naam" (1970), to the medical drama "Tere Mere Sapne" (1971).

Vijay Anand single-handedly rewrote many of the rules of mainstream filmmaking.

By bringing hugely refined aesthetics into state-of-the-art cinema, he not only fashioned some of the most enduring classics of Hindi films but also gave a fecund texture to his star-brother Dev Anand's career as an actor and producer.

The Dev Anand we saw in Vijay Anand's "Guide" or "Tere Mere Sapne" wasn't seen in any other director's work. Vijay Anand knew exactly what to extract out of his actors. This was as true of Dev Anand as of Waheeda Rehman (who was coaxed by the director to give her career's best performance in "Guide"), or Mumtaz (whose glam-doll image was completely revamped in "Tere Mere Sapne").

Towards the 1980s, Vijay Anand's directorial vision appeared to be blurred by the rising crassness in commercial cinema.

His big-budget extravaganzas in the 1970s and 1980s -- "Chupa Rustom", "Blackmail", "Bullet", "Ram Balram" and "Rajput" -- disappointed the filmmaker as much as they did his fans.

In recent times, Vijay Anand had become a bit of a recluse, withdrawing only for a few months from his shell to take on the mantle of chairperson of the censor board. He soon relinquished his job in a huff after his unorthodox views on liberal censorship nettled the moralists.

Born in Punjab in 1933, Vijay Anand (popularly known as Goldie Anand) scripted his eldest brother Chetan Anand's "Taxi Driver" before taking to direction.

He also made quite a name for himself as an unconventional leading man in films as varied in style and genre as "Double Cross", "Kora Kagaz" (where he starred as Jaya Bhaduri's husband) and "Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki" (memorable as a man torn between his wife and mistress). In television series "Tehqiqaat" for Doordarshan, Vijay Anand earned a whole new generation of fans as Detective Sam.

But it's as a filmmaker that he will be most cherished. The path breaking quality of his cinema was matched by some of the best melodies composed. In collaboration with composer Sachin Dev Burman, Vijay Anand created the sublime songs of films like "Tere Ghar Ke Samne", "Guide", "Jewel Thief" and "Tere Mere Sapne".

"I didn't do anything special in my cinema. It's the audience who discovered things in my films," he once said.

The image of Waheeda Rehman celebrating the spirit of liberated abundance in the song "Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hai" in "Guide" lingers in the memory as the archetypal work of Vijay Anand's creativity.

Shunning stuffy studios, he took his plots and characters into the great outdoors. And now, Vijay Anand is irrevocably one with nature.