LOS ANGELES – The demise of veteran actor and filmmaker Dev Anand elicited expressions of shock and sadness from his Indian-American fans and those who knew him personally, with many terming his passing away as a ‘sad day’ and an end to a generation in Indian cinema.
The legendary actor, who starred in as many as 100 films over a career spanning 65 years, passed away at the age of 88 in London on Sunday.
Sangeeta Singh, associate director in a Manhattan school, recalled that her first memories of the legendary actor were of his movies like ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’.
“After Shammi Kapoor, Dev Anand’s death is another great loss for Indian cinema. He was a legend and people imitated him for him,” said Singh.
She fondly recalled Anand’s distinctive style, particularly his way of wearing his cap and scarf around the neck. His movies were ‘unparalleled and while they became a little eccentric later, they were always loved and respected’.
Film maker Deepa Mehta too paid tributes to the thespian and said “to your vibrancy and belief in immortality – well you will live on and on and on.”
Vivek John, Senior Business Analyst at a global FMCG firm said the demise of Dev Anand marks “almost the end of a generation of actors and film makers who struggled to build the great Indian movie industry, which the modern film fraternity has taken for granted.”
“The optimism and stubbornness to act only as the lead despite criticisms until a few years ago, makes him a mysterious icon of optimism and self confidence that first generation Indian migrants to America can easily relate to, as it is the same that gave them the encouragement to chase their American dream and prosper,” he said.
The Indian Americans, who over the years came to know him personally, be it in New York — the city he loved the most — or California where he made frequent visits because of Hollywood, remember him as a man ‘young in his outlook and full of energy’.
While not much is known about when he travelled to the United States for the first time, old timers remember his trip to the US after the release of his ward-winning movie ‘Guide’.
Wahida Rahman in fact received the Best Actress Award at the Chicago Film Festival for the English version of the movie Guide, recollects his family friend Kenya-born Indian-origin physician from Los Angeles, Pravin Syal.
“It is a major personal loss. He was not only a mentor, but he was a very very close friend and family member,” said Syal.
Dev Anand was a dynamic man, said New Jersey-based Gora Choudhury, who studied along with his son at the Woodstock School in Missouri.
“He was very very young in his outlook and full of energy. He inspired me and millions of people like me to not to follow old ideas. He was genuinely young in his outlook… not a negative word out of him at all,” said Choudhury.
Of all the places in the US, Dev Anand was very fond of New York City, especially Manhattan and the Times Square. He was the chief guest of the Miss India USA pageant in New York in 1986 and Miss India Worldwide pageant again 10 years later.
People still remember his grand appearance at the popular Indian Day Parade in New York in 1986.
Los Angeles-based writer Harshi Gill had known Dev Anand for three decades.
“I had the good fortune of accompanying him, driving him around,” said Gill. In subsequent trips he was in search heroine for his movie ‘Mein 16 baras ki’.
“I found him an extremely warm and charming person. He talked with every individual as if that was the only one who mattered. He was really a people’s person. He had no ego about his position. Very forthright, very honest,” said Gill.
Known as a pioneer in bringing Bollywood entertainment to the US and co-producer of ‘Bombay Dreams’, Sudhir Vaishnav, remembers the legendary film actor as a very energetic person.
He was involved with Dev Anand during the making and premier of the movie ‘Love at Times Square’ in the US.
“I real great loss… He was a warm, very energetic person. He always thought about the next project. He was full of enthusiasm. He always looked at new face, new generation,” he said.
Kamal Dandona from New York-based Bollywood Group of Companies said the veteran left behind a legacy of celluloid magic. “A style icon in those days — he still looked dapper with his trademark scarf even when in his eighties.”
“After dining with him many times, I observed that he used to drink hot water before and after a meal, to which he accredited his good digestion. What I will remember about him the most is his joie de vivre and his passion for life and film,” Dandona said.
Young Gitesh Pandya head of the Box Office Guru says Dev Anand was in a class of himself and was tirelessly devoted to cinema and entertaining audiences.
“I remember being contacted by his associate once who told me that Mr Anand wanted to meet with me to get some marketing advice on an upcoming project… I was so impressed with his energy for both films and life itself,” said Pandya.
New York-based photo journalist Jay Mandal recollects his last meeting with Dev Anand in 2003 when he was in the city to look for a new ‘female’ face for his then untitled movie about Sitar Maestro Ravi Shankar and his daughter Norah Jones.
“He was quite a unique person yet no air about being a movie star… I recall one simple anecdote, he called me up on my mobile to ask that if we are going to have lunch together… his son Suneil was with him, who could call me instead but it was Dev Saab himself who picked up the phone to do so,” said Mandal.