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Dev Anand: 81 years young

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS

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Dev AnandHe's unstoppable. As he turns 81 Sunday, Dev Anand touches a peak where everything and everyone seem like a speck.

Dev Anand may be old in terms of years. But he's undoubtedly the youngest actor at heart in Bollywood. His spirit is indefatigable. And he's arguably the most easygoing superstar cinema has ever known.

So what if none of his recent films has worked? Dev Anand doesn't make films to make money. He makes them because he has to. No two ways about it.

His films are no longer evaluated by cinematic yardsticks. They are looked upon as works that represent an institution rather than cinema per se.

"If it's Dev Anand, you've got to be indulgent," the resident editor of a daily in Mumbai said after the filmmaker's last film "Love At Times Square" was released. "We here have strict instructions to do the review only if it's favourable," he said.

"How can I say no to him?" asks Raakhee, one of Dev Anand's biggest fans. Not just her, but her entire family - mom and dad included - are huge Dev Anand fans.

Unquestioningly, the actress has said yes to anything he has offered her. And the same goes for every actor he approaches, from Rekha who starred in his "Censor" to Salman Khan who took up the guitar and strummed away on stage in "Love At Times Square".

Dev AnandPerhaps the fact that he symbolises the most dazzling bastion of Hindi cinema has something to do with our collective caution about his feelings. It doesn't matter if the man no longer functions creatively. What matters is he's the guy who made the nation swoon by wooing Nutan in "Tere Ghar Ke Samne", Waheeda Rehman in "Guide" and Hema Malini in "Johnny Mera Naam".

Flamboyant, debonair, mischievous and romantic, Dev Anand's personality is best manifested in the song he sang in "Hum Dono" - "Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya har fiqr ko dhuen mein udata chala gaya..."

It can't be easy being Dev Anand...not when you are a one-man army with no backup. Whether it's a film set or his living room, Dev Anand is a complete loner. He isn't lonely. He likes to be on his own. Every waking hour he's either reading, thinking or planning a film.

Extremely gregarious and yet completely and supremely alone, that's Dev Anand. No matter how little you know him, he always has a warm greeting for you.

Dev Anand sincerely cares about other people's lives. He's immensely curious about lifestyles. He hungers to know more so he can somewhere use the information to further his endless cinematic journey. He asks innumerable questions about other people's lives, and stores them away to play whatever role he fancies next.

His last success as a filmmaker and actor was "Swami Dada" 20 years ago. And yet the image of the consummate star doesn't wear off. Nor has he left behind the image of a ladies' man.

After all he brought Zeenat Aman in "Hare Rama Hare Krishna" and Tina Munim in "Swami Dada" to the audience. Thereafter the discoveries got progressively unimpressive. But the image of the lady killer who could put ladies in a swoon by wearing a black suit lingers to this day.

Dev Anand continues to be as charming as he used to be. What has changed are the wrinkles on his face. But, then, the man refuses to grow old with them.


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