As the Indian film industry joyfully commemorates the centenary of the legendary and evergreen star Dev Anand, it is not merely a celebration of a cinematic icon but an exploration of a legacy that extends far beyond the realm of entertainment. Dev Anand, a stalwart in Indian cinema, left an indelible mark not only as an actor, director, and producer but also as a fervent nationalist and a harbinger of revolution.
As a Nationalist
Dev Anand’s journey in the world of cinema was deeply intertwined with his sense of nationalism. Born on September 26, 1923, in undivided India, Dev Anand’s formative years were marked by the struggle for independence. His films often echoed the spirit of a nation yearning for freedom, embodying the ideals of patriotism and love for the motherland. Making his debut in 1946 with a leading role in Prabhat Films’s “Hum Ek Hain,” the film centered around Hindu-Muslim unity, reflecting Dev Anand’s early commitment to themes promoting communal harmony and national unity.
In the post-independence era, Dev Anand continued to infuse his work with a sense of national pride. Whether through tales of sacrifice, resilience, or societal transformation, his films became a reflection of the evolving Indian identity, contributing to the cultural tapestry of the nation.
As a Revolutionist
Dev Anand’s cinematic journey was not confined to mere storytelling; it was a revolutionary expression of ideas. His choice of roles often mirrored a desire for societal change, challenging norms and advocating for a progressive India. Films like “Guide” and “Hum Dono” stand as testaments to his commitment to using the cinematic medium as a catalyst for social transformation.
“Guide” emphasizes the importance of self-discovery and the pursuit of one’s true calling. It suggests that societal expectations and norms should not restrict individuals from exploring their passions and realizing their true potential. The film challenges traditional societal norms, particularly in its portrayal of Rosie (Waheeda Rehman), a woman who seeks to break free from societal expectations and pursue her path. The narrative questions the judgmental attitudes prevalent in society and advocates for individual freedom. The film incorporates elements of spiritual awakening and introspection, highlighting the idea that true happiness and fulfillment come from an inner understanding of oneself rather than conforming to external expectations. “Guide” also explores the consequences of choices and actions, suggesting that breaking free from societal norms may come with challenges and sacrifices, but it’s a journey worth taking for personal growth and fulfillment.
“Guide” conveys a message of individuality, self-discovery, and the courage to challenge societal expectations to live a fulfilling life. The film is considered a classic in Indian cinema, not just for its engaging narrative and stellar performances but also for its thought-provoking exploration of these social themes.
Another movie, “Hum Dono,” set against the backdrop of war, portrays the emotional toll that war takes on individuals and their families. The film suggests that the consequences of war extend beyond the battlefield, affecting the lives of those left behind. Dev Anand’s double role in the film provides a platform to explore themes of identity and self-discovery. The characters navigate personal conflicts and dilemmas, reflecting the broader human quest for understanding oneself and finding a sense of purpose. The film promotes the idea of unity and brotherhood, transcending societal and cultural boundaries. It highlights the common humanity that connects people, regardless of differences, and suggests that understanding and empathy can bridge gaps. “Hum Dono” touches upon the themes of sacrifice and duty, portraying characters who make personal sacrifices for the greater good or fulfill their responsibilities even in challenging circumstances, encouraging viewers to reflect on broader themes of love, sacrifice, and the impact of war on individuals and society.
His characters, rebellious and non-conformist, became symbolic of the changing times. Dev Anand’s revolutionary approach to cinema resonated with an audience eager for narratives that mirrored their aspirations for a modern, forward-thinking society.
Similarly, “Patita,” a 1953 Bollywood film directed by Amiya Chakravarty and starring Dev Anand, addresses social issues and carries a strong message about the stigma associated with unwed mothers and the challenges faced by women in society. The film’s social message revolves around compassion, understanding, and the need to overcome societal prejudices, emphasizing empathy and acceptance beyond societal norms and judgments. “Duniya,” another film, explores the impact of corruption on society and advocates for moral integrity, justice, and collective responsibility to resist and combat corruption.
Dev Anand was indeed an outspoken critic of the Emergency imposed by the Indian government in 1975. He resisted attempts to curtail freedom of expression and refused to express support for the Emergency on Doordarshan, the state-owned television channel.
In 1977, after the Emergency was lifted, Dev Anand took an active role in the political scenario. He led a group of film personalities against Indira Gandhi during the general elections held in 1977. This period marked a significant shift in Indian politics, and the elections resulted in the end of Indira Gandhi’s government.
Philosophy of Life:
Dev Anand, the iconic Bollywood figure, embodied a unique life philosophy evident both on and off the screen. Fueled by eternal optimism, he faced challenges with a contagious smile and maintained a hopeful outlook in adversity. A staunch nonconformist, he championed individuality, often navigating his own path in both personal and professional realms, encouraging others to do the same. Dev Anand’s passion for the transformative power of cinema defined his career, as he saw it not just as entertainment but as a medium to inspire and convey meaningful messages. His enduring relevance in Indian cinema stemmed from an openness to change, embracing new ideas and genres with flexibility. Known for his charismatic personality, zest for life, and a “never retiring” attitude, Dev Anand’s belief in destiny shaped his perception of life as a series of predetermined experiences guiding individuals along their unique paths. His legacy extends far beyond films, inspiring individuals in the realms of Indian cinema and beyond.
As we celebrate 100 years of Dev Anand, we honor not just a cinematic maestro but a nationalist and revolutionist whose legacy transcends the boundaries of entertainment. Continuing to inspire, entertain, and stimulate contemplation, his movies serve as a testament to the influential role of cinema in shaping a nation’s ethos, a sentiment beautifully captured in the lyrics of the song “main zindagee ka saath nibhaata chala gaya har fikr ko dhunen mein udaata chalagaya…….”
Padmashri Dr. Mukesh Batra, was a respected figure in the advisory community of the censor board, brought his perceptive eye to the world of cinema. In the vibrant era of the 90s, he served as a judge for two prestigious Filmfare Awards, contributing his expertise to recognize outstanding cinematic achievements. During his college days, Dr. Batra immersed himself in the timeless charm of Dev Anand’s movies, undoubtedly influencing his appreciation for the art of storytelling on the silver screen.