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. I too have a small memory of him. Must be late 90’s. I was in a cab about to enter Y.B Chawan for the inauugral ceremony of MAMI. A fiat dashed in before us driven by Dev Anand. I think he was going to get a Lifetime achievement award. Though I was right behind him, he reached the door many minutes before me. He felt like the wind whizzing past you. Half is age, I amazed at that swiftness given that we were 15 minutes early…. the other charming thing was that at 75, he was wearing a parrot green shirt with long collars. Completely at ease with himself. Hope he is livening up the heavens!

  2. As a family we can never forget the interaction with Dev Saab in Lonavala in 1990-1991 when we were holidaying at a bungalow on the hills, a part was which was to be used for shooting by Dev Saab and his crew for the film 100 Crores. Dev Saab was at the shoot from 9am till sunset all the time on his feet and he never did sit even for a moment. My wife, Asha offered him to come in and have a cup of tea. He very politely and kindly replied that someday he definitely will have a cup of tea made by her but today he was too busy. He invited us to Navketan office in Santa Cruz and said that he will take our younger son in films-(then a very chubby and sweet little baby in arms).
    The cup of tea that he promised to have with us now will never happen but Dev Saab will live in our hearts forever and be remembered whenever we sip our cuppa tea.
    A toast (raising our tea cups) to the man who truly lived life like his famous song..Zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya….har fikr ko dhueen mein uda ta chala gaya…LONG LIVE Dev SAAB!

  3. People achieve ” inspite of ” and ” not in the absence of ” .

    This is a quote of Shiv Khera .

    He probably had Late Dev Anand & his reactions to Ishq Ishq , in mind .

  4. People achieve ” inspite of ” and ” not in the absence of ” ……. Shiv Khera .

    Dear Mr.Shekhar Kapur ( even I am an FCA & 25 years back , was a Management Consultant in A.F.Fergusans) ,

    From your blog , it seems that Mr.Shiv Khera , perhaps had Late Dev Anand in mind .

  5. There is certain nichy perfection in your story of Dev Uncle vis-a-vis yourself and Dev Anand vis-a-vis the rest.

    Some rare people complete a whole cycle in one life at their own level in the same way the universe completes a whole cycle from big bang to big crunch. They include (Lord) Krishna on the one end and may be any unknown entity on the other, both intrinsically being the same.

    Their essential characteristic is that for one, like the universe they get cut off from their ‘initial conditions’ from birth. Which practically means as if they are born of light, of unwed mother, or of at least a father who seemed to have no connection with them beyond the bare minimum.

    Their next essential characteristic is that they will sort of die and be reborn at the end of all three basic phases – i.e., childhood, youth and middle age of their lives.

    Their third essential characteristic is that in their third phase – around 55 to 60 – they will seem to lose everything.

    It is essentially the end of the “I” or ego or ego phase and they lose everything which is tied to their ego like things are tied to a tether, with tether itself gone all things also go with it.

    In the crucial ten minutes or so when Dev Uncle left you and went to the bed to be alone he simply understood and accepted this fact and that was all. He had already moved on to the next phase, to the beginning of egoless phase.

    From then on though such people will continue with their previous work they will not achieve the same worldly success. Rather from within they will be achieving an other kind of success which may be called ‘other-worldly’ or spiritual success, visible only to themselves.

    That spiritual success is far higher and complete than the visible spiritual success of usual Gurus or Godmen simply because these later are completing only a part though a certain spiritual part of the complete cycle described above in this one life. It is like if the later are becoming kings because of being kings sons the former began from a village boy to be a king further destined to even go beyond. Obviously they will know far more the story of life than mere kings sons.

    I don’t know if Dev Anand gave any great film later or not but in general it will be like no return of ‘those’ days.

    For worldly people such a person will begin to look like sort of failure while for himself he will be in an other far higher and happy world, in which measure of worldly success has no longer the same value.

    At the end of the fourth phase he will be the person who would have really COMPLETED his life.

    Thank you, enjoyed your article thoroughly.

  6. Shekhar,

    Your uncle was truly a great man and like to many many of his other fans, his passing to me seems like a deeply like a personal loss. It is incomprehensible to the rational mind why a person who you met once in your life could hold the heart strings for years on end like he did… but it seems very natural to the emotional side because it is not only me but a nation that is mourning with me.

    I cannot say ‘Rest in Peace’ for him, for resting was not his mantra. All I can say Alvida Dev Saab, I know you’ve just moved onto another project in another world. Like with your other projects, you did not stay around and linger suffering. You left before any ambulance or help could reach you and put you on ventilators. In death as in life, you have shown that you called the shots.

    You will be sorely missed. With you this week-end a part of my wonder years went away forever.

    Lena hoga janam hamen kai kai baar….

  7. Thanks for the lovely post, Shekhar! You are fortunate to have had such a man of iron as your uncle! My grandfather was a great fan of him. So was my late father. And so am I! He inspired three generations!

  8. Dev Anand Saab,

    How can one forget your misty eyes in Bheeghi Bheeghi Aakhen (Ishq Ishq Ishq), your desparation surrounded by the ‘lost’ generation in Dekho O Deewano (Hare Rama Hare Krishna), the long never ending lonely night in Dil Dhal Jaye (Guide), your all embracing Tu Pee Aur Jee (Des Pardes) and numerous other songs in roles that remained etched in our memories? Just like your tireless energy, we never seem to tire of those movies which left a deep impact on our lives. Many a night you kept us awake with your movies, glued to the cinema screen or the television truly turning Bollywoood into an evergreen world not to be ever forgotten in time to come. We thank God for making you a part of our lives here in Malaysia by giving us the opportunity to appreciate your style of acting, your type of film-making and your manner of sharing your message with the world. Most of all thank you for the enthusiasm, the youthful projections and the positive outlook that made us realise that age is just another number and not a reflection of a person’s physical state. May your soul rest in peace.

  9. Thank you Shekhar sir for this beautiful insight into Dev Saab’s mind. But for that amazing zeal and love for movies, he wouldnt have achieved what he achieved- so many millions must have cried listening to and humming his songs, thinking of that famous puff or that dialogue delivery style that was unique to him…..In his death, Hindi Cinema has lost its first style icon and a energy powerhouse…..a huge double blow considering the fact that his death came few months after the death of Hindi Cinema’s only rockstar- Shammi Kapoor.

    Vaccum in Hindi Film Industry has got bigger with the demise of Dev Saab and like previous ocasions this too will remain a vaccum!

    Dev Saab has left us but then his cinema shall remain with us forever and with future generations as well…..

  10. Dear Shekhar,

    my heartfelt condolences to you. Your loving reminisces about your uncle Dev Anand bring back treasured memories of my own.

    It was in 1974 when I was relaxing in a chair on the lawn of the Fishtail Lodge in Pokhara with a glass of wine, contemplating the Annapurna range that was bathed in the rays of a setting sun. I was deep inside my thoughts about a planned trek into one of the beautiful valleys of the Himalayas when a sonorous voice next to me asked “you mind if I sit with you”? As it turned out the voice had belonged to Dev Anand. For more than an hour we talked, two people who had found together to debate, to reflect, to analyze and just simply to enjoy each other’s company. I had asked him why a man of his intellectual gravitas would not want to make avant-garde films rather than light fare such as Ishq, Ishq, Ishq for which he had chosen the Fishtail Lodge as one of the film locations. His answer was quick and to the point. “People in India live hard existences, for two hours I want them to forget all their troubles and revel in a fantasy”. When we finally rose to go for dinner he graciously invited me to be his guest the next day when he was shooting a scene inside the lodge. What a delightful experience it was to sit next to him and the first and only time in my life to be smack in the middle of a scene that some day I would see again on a movie screen.

    Of course, I had also met you, an encounter that reverberates even after so many years.

    I still have a photograph I had taken of Dev Anand and Zeenat Aman for which they had agreed to pose. She, smiling sweetly into the camera, he, looking outrageously young for his 50 years of age.

    A few days later the Nepalese King Birendra and the Queen Aishwarya had come to the lodge to great the film team. They had brought along their cute 3 year old son Prince Dependra, the same who 27 years later would kill his parents and 6 other members of his family in an insane, drunken rage. Life often writes the most bizarre screenplays.

    5 years after this wonderful encounter in the mountains of Nepal I had listened on a Sunday morning to the India radio station at the Columbia University in New York when all of a sudden I heard the pronouncement that the movie Ishq, Ishq, Ishq would be shown at the university’s auditorium. Needless to say, I made it to get there on time together with my wife and to our delight this particular scene in the Fishtail Lodge had not ended up on the cutting floor.

    I always will keep the memories of this gentle and incredibly interesting man in my heart and I can easily understand the sadness that is felt across India.

    With kind regards.


  11. Dear Dev Saab,

    Kala Bazaar was the first I saw of you. I always felt there was no actor more adorable than the early days, Dev Anand with his puff of a hairstyle. Why I do not know that the vulnerable black marketeer who would not respond to the vile and wickedness of Madan Puri..

    Who romanced Waheeda Rahmanji, so much so that as a kid couldn’t see them on screen with so much of man-woman affection. The stone with which Waheedaji broke his forehead and ripped a piece off her saree.

    Rimjim ke tarane leke aayee barsaat
    Apni toh har aah ek toofan hai
    Sachche hue sapne tere, jhoom re o man mere
    Khoya-2 chand, khula aasmaan.

    The evergreen hero, whose films like Banarasi Babu, Amir Garib, Johny Mera Naam and Hare Rama, Hare Krishna in the 1970s. There were others like Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Rajesh & Vinod Khanna, Shashi & Rishi Kapoor, Shotgun or any other, but Dev Saab gave them a good run for their money.

    The evergreen effervescence of a man, who lived by his heart, the man who spread mirth..Thanks for being that..a man full of life.

    Hum jab na honge to ro-2 ke duniya, dundegi mere true

    Prakash Iyer.
    Twitter: @aprakashiyer

  12. Great Human being with a difference
    Refined soul, left to us to enjoy his own freedom
    We wish him the very best
    His presence will be felt but we will deeply miss him.

    SK, very touching, inspiring story you told. Thank You.

  13. I have loved listening to half of the songs because of the way he acted in them!

    I cried listening to Lena hoga janam hume, kayi kayi baar!

    But what is unfortunate is that the generation younger to us, shall never know what they could not get..
    Rest in eternal Peace Dev Sahab!

  14. Karm Yogi , is not just one who shrugs off defeat and starts over again – it is a technical term describing the inner state of surrender to Lord Krishna, or one of his plenary expansions. It is a technical term, not to be used loosely.

    It is alright to recognise the spirit of a man , we cannot / dont have to, define someone as good or bad or ‘Karm Yogi’ due to demands of social ritual. Lets celebrate the memory of Dev Anand and his contributions to Indian Cinema for what they were, without hyperbole.

  15. Hi Shaker,

    I am a Big Fan of Dev Anand Ji (Though Much younger in Age).
    Apart from his movies and the songs I am much of his fan because of his way of life. No controversy and move forward attitude of several set backs.

    Only request form you is that, if possible and not inconvinient, can you please provide the details his last journey. I would like to be part of that and personally pay respect.

    I am no big person, and simply working in field of IT in UK.

    Thanks and Regards,

  16. Thanks for the brilliant post. I hope some day you will make a movie about your uncle Dev Sahab’s life. It will be a great and inspirational watch for the rest of us to watch his journey from his village to Lahore to Bombay and to know about his passion for life and movies.

  17. May the spirit of Dev Anand continue to soar with the stars…Aum Shanti shanti shanti Aum

    Well, his inspiration reached countless countries, no doubt! My husband was named after Dev Anand, but my mother-in-law spelt his name Davanand (as his whole first name)…and when my son was born, he wanted to have some part of his name passed on, so my son’s name is Aaravinda Dev. Interesting how the name evolved and continued on in it’s own way.

    Oh, how we are all so connected…even deeper than the names.

    Blessings to Dev Anand’s family,
    Peace and Love…


  18. Sekhar Ji

    Very well written . During my short conversation with you in Singapore I have been also greatly influenced by your passion for the art . Your post brings out your deep love and respect for your uncle. I am sure his blessings will be with you . As rightly pointed out by many , he was a hero for many generations . May his soul rest in peace.

    Sandeep Chatterjee

  19. we all love Dev saab for he was and what he was capable of !! people live dev saab are immortal !!

  20. Well written , by a family member .

    The Evergreen Debonair , Eternal Romantic hero ,known for his joie de vivre was a real Star & nobody can match his zest for life & passion for cinema .
    We will miss him .
    Dev Anand : (1923-…….) Forever.

  21. Devanand … Evergreen romantic hero. So energetic, very positive, full of life and what a personality!
    There r people whose presence bring positivity, but, for me, just thinking of Him gives positive energy.

    Abhi na jao chhod ker ki dil abhi bhara nahi…..

  22. Thanks for sharing this amazing unknown incident about Devsaab. I have grown up swinging to his ever youthful musicals and I guess that this courage of conviction in his work & dreams was what made him evergoing on & going on….! Wonderful example of positive thinking ! Thanks !

  23. The debonaire Dev Anand never seemed putting on. He was very naturally jaunty. The attire and the way he dressed himself in never looked out of place on him; anybody else would have looked a clown. Everything went very well with him.
    Shammi Kapoor and Rajesh Khanna imitated his style but were only imitations !

  24. Dev Sahab will always remain in our hearts, and it is imperative that ,Shekhar Ji you and his son ,Sinil,continue his legacy and film making.
    Else it will break our hearts and Dev Sahab’s too. It must continue with Dev Sahab’s Blessings.

  25. A true legend. Will always be remembered. Never wanted false publicity. A true, hard working Punjabi from Amritsar. RIP. Dev Sahib.

    Los Angeles, CA, USA


  27. Dear Mr Kapur,
    I have been planning to correspond with you for quite some time. Recently, I read a book called “Ramanujan – the man who knew infinity’ and it was spell binding. I strongly believe there is an incredible amount of drama, application, agony and elation in that story to lend itself into a great motion picture.
    I can see the opening scene with old Mr G H Hardy sitting at a local College Cricket match in Cambridge reflecting on the life of Ramanujan with whom he had a most productive academic life. The film can flow backwards from this moment and who best but Mr Peter O’Toole to portary the incredible character Mr GH Hardy in his dusky years (just a thought). The film does not need to go into the nuances of mathematics but can revolve around their lives, their lows and their triumphs.
    There is a stupendous scope for story to swing between Kumbakonam, Madras port, voyage to England, start of the World War I, GH Hardy and Littlewood duo in Cambridge, attempted suicide of Ramanujan and Ramanujan being elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, just to name a few.
    It needs a sensitive director such as yourself who has a good knowledge of the these two Great Countries to take it forward.

  28. hi

    my condolences to you and mum.
    your uncle’s strength was his ability to get over things quickly. and films was his passion. like he had once said: “shruti, i am alive only to make films. the day i stop thinking about making films….i will die” it’s sad that he died when he was thinking of a sequel to hare ram hare krishna.
    but…mortality is the only immortal thing. and it’s a little pacifying to know that he died the way he wanted…when he was active!
    take care

  29. The best homage you can pay is to get back to work.

    When you ready for a musical I am ready with the screenplay

  30. I just read the news….and a few sighs later, and after reading your blog, all I could think of was that one song from Ishq Ishq…wallah kya nazaara hai. I was very young when that movie came so did not know the name. I had recently looked it up on youtube. Even on the cloudiest of days I know songs from his movies can brighten my day. I hope he is bringing the music of his life, his presence to wherever he is now…pyaar ka raag suno re he….

  31. Guidance from Eileen Caddy
    Give Thanks For Beauties All Around You
    There is such tremendous beauty in everything if you open your eyes and look for it, and when you can do this you will find the problems will quickly be solved and will
 melt away. How easy it is when it’s cold to become shriveled up and sit in a huddle bemoaning the cold instead of allowing yourself to expand and enjoy all the beauty that is around you. Wrap up warmly and then forget yourself and how you feel and how cold it is, and just give thanks for beauties all around you.

    9 December 2011

  32. Dear Administrator,
    The comment above is meant for “Zen Thoughts”, not on this post…thank you for making the adjustments.

  33. Dear Dev Uncle

    Your pyre has probably been lit in London, at the time I write this. It is time for the last rites. I just wanted to thank you for some unforgettable moments in my life…. you lifting my chin and fixing a twinkling, amused gaze into my shy eyes, or walking hand in hand with me after dinner in your back garden, my tiny hand fragrant with your perfume. Or the time when you waxed elo…quent on your never- give- up philosophy in the confines of your office, surrounded by books, or your exhortation to me on tape, while I interviewed you (`Tu Film Bana!’). My childhood died a second death, when you passed away. You’re probably smiling down at all this outpouring of grief. You were never one to indulge in it; at least not publicly. You always looked to the distant future and moved on, as you did, on Dec 3.

    Bless you and may you move on to even greater creativity and joy, wherever you are!


  34. a wonderful account of a very personal memory.. thanks for sharing! The inimitable Dev Anand.. amazing personality, lifelong romantic.. a legend!

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