As teenagers, my friends and I were unanimous about one thing: there was no beating Shammi Kapoor and Dev Anand as the most watchable stars. Not that they were then in their prime; this was in the very late 80s, but as far as my pals and I were concerned, Hindi film heroes stopped being interesting somewhere in the 60s. Both Shammi Kapoor and Dev Anand were all we starry-eyed sahelis could’ve hoped for: utterly handsome, always in films that were generally happy (we conveniently forgot Guide), and always singing the most awesome songs.
We weren’t mature enough then to appreciate that Dev Anand was actually also a good actor, who could switch from melancholy to philosophy, tapori to suave gentleman, in a jiffy.
Here, therefore, is part 1 of a tribute that’ll probably stretch over the next few posts. This is a list of ten songs that showcase Dev Anand in ten different moods. They focus on everything from the madcap with no qualms about acting the clown – to the heartbroken, disillusioned drunk who has lost everything – to the irresistible romantic. And more. All are from pre-70s films that I’ve seen, and no two songs are from the same film.
1. Romantic: O nigaah-e-mastaana (Paying Guest, 1957): To begin with, one of the first Dev Anand songs I remember watching – and immediately falling in love with. He’s at his handsomest, most romantic best here, yet the romance isn’t a sappy, sentimental kind. It’s playful, sweet and affectionate as he wraps Nutan’s sari pallu around his head and shoulders, grins beguilingly at her, and dances around, arm in arm with his sweetheart. Both of them are so obviously at their ease – not the simpering, silly couple of so many other romantic Hindi film songs – that I can’t help but find them utterly endearing.
2. Huffy: Acchaji main haari chalo maan jaao na (Kala Paani, 1958): Another of my favourite Dev Anand songs, also with a lively, gorgeous heroine – but, this time round, our hero isn’t being the romantic one. In fact, he’s being distinctly huffy. He’s miffed at the way his girl’s been treating him, and though she sings, pleads, even pouts – it takes a lot for him to finally forgive her. Dev Anand does the peeved hero act perfectly: that annoyed expression, that sneer, the words flung back in her face – but you can see, despite that façade, that he really does love her. Sweet!
3. Maudlin: Kabhi khud pe kabhi haalaat pe (Hum Dono, 1961): Amongst the flurry of Dev Anand tributes I’ve read recently, there was a comment about how an entire post could be created out of Dev Anand-and-liquor songs. This is one of them. Rejected by his girlfriend’s father because he’s poor and jobless, this hero joins up so that he can leave his past behind – and finds that nothing will allow him to forget. A chance encounter with a lookalike, a few glasses of liquor, and all the memories come surfacing, bringing with them the pain of the past.
One of Dev Anand’s best performances, as the young hero who’s gloomy and maudlin, and as his lookalike, befuddled, amused, and all the while understanding, too.
4. Broken-hearted: Din dhal jaaye haai (Guide, 1965): Another Dev Anand-and-drink song, this one even sadder than Kabhi khud pe kabhi haalaat pe. Whereas the Hum Dono song is more philosophical, this one is pure anguish – the outpouring of a lonely soul. There are memories here, the knowledge that where there was intimacy, there is a vast, uncrossable expanse – even though the beloved is physically here, just a few rooms away.
Dev Anand, in a role that won him a Filmfare Best Actor Award, is excellent here as Raju, whose crookedness has finally estranged him from Rosie: melancholy, regretful, bitter – and deeply miserable.
5. Comforting: Hain sabse madhur woh geet jinhe hum (Patita, 1953): I was a little surprised when I first saw this song, because the Dev Anand I’d seen onscreen till then was generally the street-smart type who wooed his ladies with bright grins, flirtatious songs and mischief in his eyes. Hain sabse madhur woh geet isn’t (as those of you who’ve seen Patita will know) a love song, really – but it’s one of Hindi cinema’s finest expressions of love: of a warm, supporting comfort offered to a dear one deeply in need of it. Just watch the tranquility, the peace on Dev Anand’s face, the gentle movement of his fingers in Usha Kiron’s hair as he sings… there is so much love, so much empathy and sensitivity there.
6. Teasing: Kali ke roop mein chali ho dhoop mein (Nau Do Gyarah, 1957): If Dev Anand could be romantic and affectionate onscreen, he could also be teasing – both irritating as well as attractive, all at the same time. In this delightful song (from a film that was chockfull of delightful songs), he teases mercilessly the girl who’s been taking a free ride in his lorry. The devilish, gap-toothed grin, the eyebrow riding up into the disheveled hair, the loony tooting of the tin horn: none of it pleases the girl (Dev Anand’s real-life wife, Kalpana Karthik), as she strides away in a huff, determined not to yield to his pleas. She eventually does, of course – and who can blame her?
7. Cajoling: Arre yaar meri tum bhi ho gazab (Teen Deviyaan, 1965): And not just cajoling, but also vastly embarrassed. If Dev Anand was the one doing the teasing and good-natured tormenting in Kali ke roop mein chali ho dhoop mein, the tables are turned here. In Arre yaar meri tum bhi ho gazab, he’s at the receiving end – the ‘famous actress Kalpana’ (played by Kalpana), eager for all the adulation she can grab, launches into a song and dance among a crowd, and our friend is left to run after her, trying to reason with her. See the way he whispers to her to veil herself; his wincing and cringing as she makes a spectacle of herself. His many frustrated attempts to get her away. Yes, our man’s being paid back in his own coin.
8. Seductive: Yeh raat yeh chaandni phir kahaan (Jaal, 1952): I was a pre-teen when I first saw this song, and I was a little taken aback by the sheer sensuality of it all. There are no heaving bosoms and nodding flowers, but there’s more eroticism here than you shake a stick at. The confusion and helplessness in Geeta Bali’s face, the self-confidence in Dev Anand’s. His assured strumming of the guitar as he sings of the night – the moonlit trees, the waves of the sea, the wind… but, even though his words beckon to her, his stance and the almost absent-minded languor of his singing seem to suggest he isn’t half as tense as she is.
9. Playful: Gori zara hans de tu (Asli-Naqli, 1962): Not just playful, but also affectionate in a sweet, somewhat paternal way. Here, Dev Anand – as the bus driver of the Sarojini Girls’ School bus – finds himself having to wheedle a reluctant little girl who doesn’t want to go to school. In the process, he ends up in a brief interlude (with some clowns on stilts helping out!), singing to all his little charges. And, of course, it’s not long before all the little faces around are wreathed in smiles. Dev Anand was certainly popular with the female of the species, wasn’t he? Irrespective of age!
10. Footloose: Naacho ghoom-ghoomke (Sarhad, 1960): Okay, nobody ever said Dev Anand was a good dancer. And it’s apparent even more here, where he’s teamed with a very formidable dancer, Ragini. But so what? He makes the best of what he’s got, jumping about (both feet at once, knees bent, too!), going prancing through the crowd of dancers, linking arms with Ragini, and playing what looks like a balalaika. He shows here some of the unself-conscious joie de vivre, the uninhibited having-a-good-time feel of an actor like Shammi Kapoor: giving the party all he’s got. I just wish this song were longer.
By the way: on a related note. Here’s a sweet little article that Dev Anand wrote about Shammi Kapoor, as a tribute when Shammiji passed away in August this year. The old friends must be catching up now…