January  2008



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‘Romancing with Life’

By Dev Anand

Published by Penguin Books India, 448pp
Cover Price: Rs 695.00

Reviewed by Najum Latif

Romancing with Life, the autobiography of ever green star and icon Dev Anand is a living proof of his enthusiasm, positive mindedness and optimism. These are the threes mantras of his never exhausting energy, will, youth and passion for life. At 84 he acts, talks and moves like an 18 year old. His hopes for the future are never ending. His zest for life in all its colours and shapes has no boundaries. Dev Anand who did his B.A (Hons) in English from the Government College, Lahore, has written his autobiography in impeccable English worthy of a Ravian. His narrative of his life is racy, warm, interesting and full of exuberance. He wrote the entire book in long hand.

His being young at heart is felt in every page. His glad eye finds all the beauties everywhere in the world responding to his approach. He is a narcissist and all his encounters with the opposite sex speak volumes of his obsession with himself.

There is no doubt that he is the eternal Peter Pan of the Hindi cinema. His autobiography is a tribute to himself. He is blunt, honest and straight forward in narrating the incidents of his life. He does not shy away from being a Casanova and his involvements and romances. He is sensitive and responds like a true human being. He has the capacity to feel and absorb the pain of others.

Dev Anand arrived in Bombay aboard the Frontier Mail in July 1943 and he says E. Dickenson was the Principal of the Government College Lahore at that time. This is not correct. H. B. Dunnicliff was the Principal from 1936 to 1939, G. D. Sondhi from 1939 to 1945 and E. Dickenson from 1945 to 1947.

Dev Anand had a star-struck, childlike glee when he was told that he resembled Gregory Peck. He makes it a point that it was Suraiya who first told him of this resemblance which obviously pleased him. I think he resembles, ever so slightly, Gregory Peck but he has studied the great actor well and has worked hard to master the use of his eyes, hair styles and the gestures to look like Gregory Peck and develop a personality like his. Gregory Peck was a big man with a towering personality. Whereas Dev Anand’s built is quite delicate. I cannot imagine Dev Anand in a cowboy gear in Gregory Peck roles of The Gunfighter, Yellow Sky, McKenna’s Gold, Bravados and The Stalking Moon. Nor can I imagine Gregory Peck singing around trees and running down the stairs making meaningless gestures. Dev Anand’s greatest films are Hum Dono, Guide and Bombai ka Babu. There are lovely photographs full of nostalgia in the book from the yesteryears.

Dev Anand made eight films with Madhubala, the Venus of Hindi cinema. More films than any other hero. He has written very little about her. One feels rather thirsty to hear more. He made seven films with Suraiya, two films with Nargis and one with Meena Kumari. Except for Suraiya, wife Kalpana Kartik and Zeenat Aman he has not written much about his co-stars. He has written nothing about Shakila who was his heroine in the first Navketan film CID. He chose to say almost nothing about Zahida – a close friend and a co-star in two films.

Dev Anand has written very little of the Government College Lahore although in his interviews he calls it the best college this side of Suez and Harvard of the East. Dev Anand does not remember much of the Government College – apart from Usha Chopra. He had lived in both the hostels - Quadrangle and the New Hostel - during his stay at the college but he does not remember the numbers of his rooms. The great freedom fighter Bhagat Singh had taken an aim and shot at an English police officer from the New Hostel Building. There used to be a photograph in Room No.3 at the Quadrangle where Dev stood in the second row with his hair greased and combed back -very unlike Gregory Peck. When Dev Anand came to Pakistan with Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee, he told someone that he lived in room 13 of the Quadrangle overlooking Chatterjee Road. According to him he played some tennis at the college.

His narrative of the independence in 1947 is rather too short but quite subtle. Like Khushwant Singh he is bold enough to write about his relationships with various women - he preferred to be seduced by an unknown woman on a train - a fantasy of many men and a page out of Lady Chatterley’s Lover indeed.

There is a VCD with the book that has favourite songs of Dev Anand from his films. The quality of the VCD is not very good. As a reader, I would have enjoyed reading the-sadly-missing anecdotes on Guru Dutt, S.D. Burman, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Sahir Ludhianvi, Mohammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Shahid Lateef, Ismat Chughtai and Khawaja Ahmed Abbas.

Kishore Kumar’s first song in the films "Marne ki duaen" from Dev Anand film Ziddi was written by Moeen Ahsan Jazbi and not by Prem Dhawan as written in the book. Prem Dhawan was one of the lyricists besides Nakhshab and Raja Mehdi Ali Khan.

To promote his book Dev Anand recently attended a gathering of about 500 at the ranch of Dr. Marwah in Malibu, California where he respectfully and affectionately held the hand of Mrs. Peck, the widow of the great Gregory Peck in admiration of her husband’s contribution to the world of cinema.

I remember my own meeting with Dev Anand. His warmth and graciousness was beyond words. His enthusiasm and spirited expressions reminded me so much of the Oval hero late Fazal Mahmood the handsome Pakistani cricketer. Mr. Dev Anand, you have seen it all and done it all but the best is yet to come.




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