My uncle Dev Anand, the man no one knew…

A suite at the Oberoi hotel. Dev Uncle’s film Ishq Ishq Ishq, had just released the night before.

I was the nephew that had, on a whim, given up a really successful career as a chartered accountant and a management consultant in London to be in the movie business. Somehow being from London made me special for him. It was the city he loved most in the world. Ishq Ishq Ishq was my break into movies. Tiny role, but hey, I got to romance Zeenat Aman, who had changed the very perceptions of what it meant to be a modern Indian girl to all of us.

We had shot the film in Nepal over two months. Trekking all over the mountains. It was an amazing adventure. All the way up to Namchi Bazar and then upto Lukla from where you could almost touch the Everest. It spoilt me forever. I thought this was what the rest of my life was going to be. The dizzyness of altitude matched only by the dizzyness of personal adventures. Much better than going to an office on a cold grey winters day in London.

We hardly saw Dev Uncle (every one called him Dev Sahib but me). Even Zeenat! Although she had this special way of purring ” Devvv Sahiiib” with a flash of her incredible eyes that told their story immedietly. And his sing song ‘Zeenieee’ would just confirm the story. But her ‘Devvv Sahiiib’ would be up at 4 am every morning ready with make up and announce we were going to be on the move again to another location. He would rally his reluctant troops and before you knew it he was off climbing the mountains to a spot he wanted to shoot from 10 kms climb away. The crew would groan and moan, but follow the leader. He was always the first one there, and would already be in his pitched tent writing the scenes for the next day by the time we got there. He must have been about 55 at that time.

I have many stories of those two months that I will have the courage to tell one day. Nadira, Premnath, Zeenat, Shabana, Kabir Bedi, 12 beautiful models. And of course my own unforgettable adventures. But the one I want to tell today, is the story I will always remember my dear Uncle Dev for.

Dev Anand had put all his own money, almost everything he owned into Ishq Ishq Ishq. Money had no value to him, except to make films. Nothing else interested him really. On this evening he was talking calls from the press and the distributors. As always they started with excited congratulations and jubilations. His face sparked with excitement and joy. But over the next two hours, the tone changed. I could not hear what was being said, but I saw it on his face. His voice going softer. That spark that was Dev Anand dimming. In a couple of hours and a hundred calls later the reality overcame the dream. The film was a disaster on the box office.

Then the calls stopped. No one called and the loneliness of failure hung in the room. Dev Anand has just lost everything. All his money and everything he sold to make his most ambitious project ever. There are few more intimate moments you could share with a courageous man than his coming to terms with complete defeat. He was sad. Reflective.

For all of five minutes. He then looked at me and smiled.

” I just be back ‘Shekharonios’ (thats what he called me) and went into the bedroom of the suite. I should have felt sorry for my first foray out as a (minor) actor flopping, but was too caught up in the incredible drama unfolding in front of me.

Ten minutes Dev Anand emerged. His his eyes were vibrant. His face excited. He was unable to sit down for his excitement. Looked me in the eyes.

” Shekharonios, I just thought of a great plot for my next film !!”

He picked up his register. Took out a pen and started to write. How does a man who just lost of everything come to terms with it so easily? I was left gaping. But knew it was time for me to leave him alone. To write and plan his next film. He never talked about Ishq Ishq again.

Thats the Dev Uncle I knew.

But the Dev Uncle I did not know. The Dev Sahib , the Dev Anand that the world did not know, was the man coming to terms with himself in 10 minutes in that room.

We will never know… maybe thats what true Karm Yogi’s are. People we cannot fathom from our own lesser standards of courage…

107 thoughts on “My uncle Dev Anand, the man no one knew…

  1. There is something called “Lightness of one’s being”. He exemplified that – in thought, speech and action. We see it in his performances. And in the above anecdote too !

  2. My condolences Shekhar. We need to hear more stories about Dev Saab like this one, along with those which we love to hear again and again, and will keep hearing and telling forever.

  3. Thank you very much Shekarji for sharing a very differant phace of Dev Anand Sir… I have always been a great admirer and fan of Dev Anand. Eventhough I am from South India(Kerala) and speak very little Hindi I have really enjoyed his movies ans songs. I always watch his songs on Youtube. I donnow how many times I`ve seen “yeh dil na hota bechara…” I have read his autobiography-In romance with life, and really enjoyed that book…I still keep that book as a treasure and it travels with me all the way from Kottayam(Kerala) to Aldershot(United Kingdom) and now in Adelaide…
    People like you are so lucky to be his nephew and all those close associations with this great man…Indian film industry can never replace him…May his soul rest in peace….
    Mr H Joseph
    South Australia

  4. I feel like my inspiring person missing again … one was dad, the fan of Devanand as actor and person in real life. …… who keep gave me example of devanand personal abilty to move forward……which i admire even after my dad passed away… hearing him..devanandji pass away….has made me feel alone again….miss you dad and the special person devanandji.

  5. Really the world didnt knew dev saab the way he was…I can say he was rather is a treasure whom only few people found and everybody talked…Really the world has lost its unique treasure….Rip

  6. Very well written, Shekhar.
    I am trying to come up with this loss in my own way and to believe that he is no more. Spent about 30 + years knowing him closely. But specially after Goldie, he had hard time being the surviving brother. Spoke to him about 3 weeks ago and told him am coming to see him in Jan..”Yes yes absolutely…aaja, will meet”.
    Tomorrow I go to see him in London. Though this time there will be no warm hug and no peck on my cheeks. Will be seeing him quiet, sick and gone….first time! I hope I can survive this. God HELP me !

  7. There’s such a Karmic connection with the gargantuan pull of nostalgia, even for those who were not all that much into the genre of 50s and 60s Bollywood, and the delivery of the sagacious wisdom, by the man at the centre of that gravitational field of communal memory, that there’s no point in looking back but going forward is what life is all about. If there had been no looking back and there had not been this mass clinging to the memories defined by an individual, who would have absorbed his advice about the futility of being retro? Its the ultimate conundrum.

  8. Awesome blog. Last line of the blog says it all. He truly lived life to the fullest doing full justice to it by simply moving on and by giving his best to the life… He will stay in our hearts forever..

  9. I have not lived in the era of Dev Saahib but seen all his movies and have read about him one adjective that i can relate to him is “Passionate” Filmmaker.

  10. Shekhar,

    My condolence to you and the Anand family.

    Dev Sahib was known to be very kind and encouraging to newcomers. In this regard, I had first-hand experience. In ~ 1984 during one of my vacations from my day job as an executive, I was thinking about my future, and maybe I should leave my job and joins films.

    On a whim, I got Dev Sahib’s phone number from the white pages (yes he was listed), and he did answer the phone. I said I was a recent graduate and would like to work with him in any capacity. He said he was busy completing a project, and I should contact him after 6 months. That same evening, I went to his office to make sure I really did speak with him, and restate my desire. He was just leaving his office, and did give me a minute. I referred to our conversation that morning, and he asked, “so what was my response?”, and I sheepishly responded what it was. Then he said, “so contact me after 6 months”!

    After that, my vacation was over, and I got back into the rat race. I did not contact Dev Sahib again, but later I thought maybe I should have, since the setting of his next film, Hum Naujawan was college campus based, and I was a recent graduate.

  11. Wow…truly inspiring…in the words of Mahesh Bhatt failure is the only truth and success will come and go…RIP dev sahhiiibb

  12. Very well written Sir and I could feel that the words were effortless and straight from your heart. For somebody like me born in mid 70’s, I didn’t have the opportunity to see Dev saab’s films. I saw him first in Doordarshan, sometime in 80’s, in a feature film called “Jewel Thief”. I liked his charm and style. Later I saw Guide, Hare Krishna Hare Rama and gradually started recognizing him as a big star. His style was majestic and that is what I used to love the most among his other special qualities. The vacuum is huge. We’ll all miss him.

  13. Awesome… Total inspiration… An institution, in his very own capacity, sharing some beautiful and inspiring moments spend with yet greater an institution, a phenomenon that world experiences perhaps once in 1,000,000 years… RIP Dev Sahib. Thanks for sharing, Shekhar jee.

  14. hmmm…Your true Sir, “maybe thats what true Karm Yogi’s are….” Duas for his soul. amen .TQ

  15. Unbelievable …. the pace of reading was like driving a Ferrari, lots of excitement, and then suddenly the last few lines became an Ambassador! Just could not leave them! Am sure his should will rest in peace! Most charming film personality we have ever witnessed!

  16. Hi Shekar

    A beautiful story about an inspiring man by another inspiring man.

    Makes you want live for another reaason altogether.

    Thanks for the lovely insight.


  17. its nice to read about dev ananad ji…pls do share more about him.would love to knw more of him .thnx

  18. Dev S’ab was a great man…earlier when I used to read stories about hm being young and full of excitement and all that I used to think it was all a media gimmick …Then I had chance to meet hm and be with him and I realised that the media couldn’t write enough about him…His personality was electrifying and his charm and excitement was infectious. I shall miss the great man! And so shall the millions of this world! They don’t make the likes of Dev Anand anymore!

  19. He was unique..he will remain in us in the form of his creations..
    And the ‘period’ is necessary other wise will not understand the next statement has begin..

    thanks for sharing memory of a legend..take care..subodh

  20. Dear Shekhar Sir,

    Such a Great actor and a man with true courage, A real karmayogi, A fine Human Being….
    Will miss him forever…RIP DEV SAHAB

  21. Thanks for sharing those incredible 10minutes of Dev Sahib’s life. From where did this strong personal courage come from? Was it an urge to prove something either to one seld or the world? Or was it just that he had understood the drama of life so well that he just played on….

  22. What an amazing person he was! One only heard of Dev Anand creating…never resting. That’s probaby why everyone seems so shocked on his passing..all of us somehow believed that the laws of nature would not apply to him- he would live on and on…

  23. Hello Sir,

    I am a great admirer of your uncle. Not only because of the incredible artist that he was but of the amazing energy and positivity that he had. My all time favorite movie of his is Guide because of the incredible depth that the movie has. What made me post a comment is what is you wrote in the end..”maybe thats what true Karm Yogi’s are”.. so true.

    I am sure he is an a happy space and chooses a higher path.


  24. Hi……can you give me the access to post this on my Facebook. I LOVED THIS BLOG.

    Am on FB as Shalini Shori

  25. Shekhar,

    All Filmi chaps are passionate. Many of them survive on failed love. So did Dev ji. Suraiya put the non-stop cigarette in between his lips and he lived, loved other women, made films larger than his life and smoked himself to death.

    Sad, but that is life!


  26. Dev Anand’s father., I am told., used to teach Arabic/Persian., in the pre-partition days ! Undoubtedly he had some knowledge of Arabic., i am told. I hope this is not wrong. But his zest for life was infectuous. In retrospect, I think he never had the love of his life. He was a husband and a father., but for a man of his creative-energy., he needed a “Saathi” (or soulmate).. Someone who was superior to him (intellectually) to engage him for a life-time ! She could have been a writer or a timeless beauty., because both are huge forces. “Husn” or Beauty is a strong force., and so is “Ilm” or knowledge or intellect. Dev Anand tried to discover his soul thru his work… writing… films… He was not a great actor., but he was stylish., and he knew the truth. He had faith in himself., and that was his FINEST quality. He indulged himself, but there was a certain grace of movement., a certain culture., and a certain decorum in his bearing. In short., he was a good man. I think his finest work is Guide. (Intellectually, his brothers, Chetan and Vijay were superior to him). But Dev Anand brought a certain “savvy-ness” to bear, to the Bollywood Hero. Dilip Kumar was too sophisticated (he looked so wonderful in “Andaz” literally stole the show from Rajkapoor and Nargis)., but Dev Anand with his puff (phugga as they said in Hindi) was a new icon. He was well groomed. He kept on making films – cuz thru films – he tried to reach his audience. His spirit had GRIT., and that is the quality, finest quality of the man.

  27. I didn’t know him as person but the fact I could not know him is a regret…I should have born earlier. Whatever little amount of work I have seen, made me a ardent supporter…a fan. whenever i saw him doing some interview or read some article, I amaze by his enthusiasm for making film…calling his recent works better than earlier films, defines his belief system not easy for anyone to comprehend. few regrets in my so far …couldn’t meet Kishor Da, Dev Anand Sahb…I’ll try hard this would not increases.
    But sir i have few complains also…Why strong believers of film making…stop making films. “why dont i make another film? Bec creativity is a deeply intimate act which nowadays arrogance of finance thnks they know everything abt.”
    Sir I also have immense faith in film making …but sir agar aap jaise log haar mannke movie making se quit kar denge to kon ye ghatiya trend change karega…
    I think of one day when I’ll be making a film…If people like will not be there to teach me…tab to main bhi yahi naya aur bakwas tareeka hi seekhunga na ?

  28. if i want to know about Dev sahab there is one Waheeda Rehman and one is you.everyone knows that he is evergreen,everready batterry and the most youngest senior actor,director.i love him and admire him only because of Guide and that’s why i found him the most bold & courageous of all the actors,directors of indian cinema.and he always have bold&beautiful actresses working wit Waheeda rehman, playing Rosie is not only acting it also includes dealing with fans of 1960’s who will not easily accept a character who leaves her husband to live with her lover.Zeenat aman a lost mind character of a girl,smoking and with little of exposure too.this is Dev Sahab for me.he was truly larger than life and i bet he is not resting in heaven too.
    i have a request to you, please try for a remake of Guide in hollywood or may be an one day said “wanna work with Cate Blanchett again”.

  29. good post about Dev Anand…. salute to his diligence and confidence…..very few personalities we find like him….

  30. Beautiful, Inspiring…ahh beware demi gods for he is flattering rambha, meneka and urvasi and now gods are jealous of him he was better on earth

  31. Dear Shekhar,
    You have just shared the “essence” of Dev Sahab. I met him in my childhood at his home in Iris Park – my mother was a HUGE fan and also quite friendly with his wife. I met him a couple of times again in my youth…….and his energy and and effervescence were not fake. He was really the MOST ALIVE person I have met in my life. A true gentleman to top it…….very gracious and very approachable. Such a wonderful wonderful Man!!! Just loved him!

  32. Aptly put, the greatness of one can never be fathomed by mere mortals like us. What happened in that room will always remain a mystery. But whatever it is I strongly believe he found niravana / moksha in his own terms. RIP Dev Sahib.

    May you not come back to this cycle of life and death.

  33. Perhaps, unless most of us, Dev knew ‘what’ he was. ‘Dev’ not only knew ‘who’ he was but was also aware ‘what’ he was. Most of us know ‘ourselves’ as per our ‘educational’ or ‘professional’ backgrounds and no more! When asked: `What is Dev Anand?’ The response was profound but reflective. Said he: ‘Dev Anand is `Style’!

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