Dev Anand. True to the ‘Anand’ in the name, the mere mention of the star elicits happiness, a kaleidoscope of joy and melody. If songs are the backbone of Hindi cinema, no star exemplifies the best of it better than Dev Anand. So youthful is his image in the minds of his fans and lovers of Hindi cinema that it is almost impossible to think of Dev Anand and 100 years in the same breath.
As the nation gears up to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of this timeless star, what better than a retrospective that showcases some of his best films in the theatres. And after the mind-boggling success of Bachchan: Back To The Beginning in October 2022, followed by Dilip Kumar: Hero of Heroes in December 2022, who better to curate it than Film Heritage Foundation and its redoubtable founder Shivendra Dungarpur.
Collaborating with the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) and the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), the Film Heritage Foundation, in association with PVR INOX, is organising a two-day retrospective, on September 23 and 24, of four classic Dev Anand films: C.I.D., Guide, Jewel Thief and Johny Mera Naam.
Audiences in 30 cities and 55 cinemas across India — including Mumbai, Pune, Goa, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Trivandrum, Chennai, Bangalore, Lucknow, Kolkata, Guwahati, Indore, Jaipur, Nagpur, Chandigarh and New Delhi — will have the opportunity to watch these landmark films on the big screen, in 4K restorations done by the NFDC-NFAI under the ambit of the National Film Heritage Mission funded by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Speaking about the festival, Shivendra says, “When we did Bachchan: Back To The Beginning, it was a real challenge to convince stakeholders that we could bring people back to the theatres after Covid and that too for films that were 40 to 50 years old. People had become so used to watching films on OTT channels, on their mobiles, TV, laptops. One of the big successes of Bachchan: Back To The Beginning was the nostalgia, the euphoria these films were able to create. The challenge of bringing these films to the theatres was immense. The material was poor but we managed. Covid made me think that people were not going to come to an NCPA, Habitat or IIC if they lived far away. How can you bring films closer to where they live? Our cities do not have places for classic cinema.”
After Amitabh Bachchan and Dilip Kumar, here comes Dev Anand
After the success of the Bachchan and Dilip Kumar retrospectives, it was only natural that Shivendra’s thoughts turned to Dev Anand in what is the star’s hundredth year. “I think we have been huge fans of the kind of work which Dev Sa’ab had over the years — his flamboyance, style, charm, persona, romanticism. One of the most exciting things about him is the number of thrillers he worked in. When I was in FTII, I would keep watching films like C.I.D. (1956), Guide (1965), Jewel Thief (1967) and Johny Mera Naam (1970) and so many other films which had great music, plot, which were pacey.”
What sets this particular festival apart is that Shivendra aims to move beyond multiplexes to cover single screens too. “We didn’t want to limit it just to PVR and INOX,” he says. “We are taking it to many single screens too. We are talking to Cinepolis and adding theatres in Bhopal, Indore and Jamshedpur. The whole idea is to reach out to the smallest city and to make people feel that classics are part of your history and heritage. Unless you go back, you will not be able to move forward.”
Talking about the films, Shivendra says, “One of the reasons I love the retrospective is that three of the films are directed by one of my favourite directors, Vijay Anand. An amazing filmmaker who blended artistic ways of looking at films with commercial elements. He was able to combine these aspects so beautifully. You have Guide, which is a romantic film. It is one of the most beautiful classics of Indian cinema. You have Jewel Thief; it’s one of those films which I myself studied. On September 23, we will start the event with Johny Mera Naam at Juhu PVR where Rajiv Rai, son of Gulshan Rai who produced Johny Mera Naam, will introduce the film. We are going to have Sriram Raghavan, who will talk about how the film inspired his own cinema. Vijay Anand was known for song picturisation. All the songs in the films are classics. When they see Raj Khosla’s C.I.D., people will realise how contemporary these films are and how ahead of their time they were.”
Adding to the festival is the presence of some of the stars who were part of these films. Waheeda Rehman, who debuted with CID and who starred in Guide, will be present. As will Hema Malini, who starred in Johny Mera Naam. “We will have Jackie Shroff, the families of Jagdish Raj, the entire Dev Anand family, Prem Nathji’s family,” says Shivendra.
‘There can never be another Dev Anand ever,’ says Hema Malini
Talking about the retrospective, Hema Malini says, “I am delighted that Film Heritage Foundation is releasing four milestone films of Dev Sa’ab in cinemas to celebrate his 100th birthday and that they will open with Johny Mera Naam, the first film that I worked with him. I have very fond memories of Dev Sa’ab. He was a megastar when I was cast with him in Johny Mera Naam, but he never made me feel uncomfortable or that I was a newcomer. Thereafter we worked on several films which were big hits. His unique and inimitable style was a delight to watch not only for the audience but also for me. There can never be another Dev Anand ever.”
Jackie Shroff, who got his earliest break in a Dev Anand film, says, “C.I.D., Guide, Jewel Thief and Johny Mera Naam are films that I grew up watching and they are an important part of the heritage of Indian cinema. I have loved Dev Sa’ab since I was a child and he was my hero and mentor. He gave me my first break with Swami Dada. I was lucky to have worked with him on a few films. He would never sit down. He was always on his feet, directing and acting. He had more energy than the youngest person on the set. I learned so much from him and I am glad that his films are preserved and restored so that young actors today can continue to learn and appreciate the work of a legend.”
Shivendra also points out another unique and historic feature of the retrospective. “For the first time, the Film Heritage Foundation is collaborating with the NFDC and the NFAI. I’ve been trying my best to convince the government about the need to strengthen partnerships so that the public can access the treasures lying with the NFAI. They have been able to restore these films in 4K and this is the first time they will be tested with the audience. I’m grateful to the entire NFDC-NFAI team who made the collaboration possible.”
Talking about the collaboration, Prithul Kumar, MD NFDC and Joint Secretary (Films), says, “It is important for the public to witness Dev Anand on the big screen once again, and in a manner he was viewed during his heyday decades ago. NFDC-NFAI is sparing no efforts to ensure these films are presented in the best way possible, as hundreds of restoration artists, technicians, graders, DOPs, sound engineers and archivists, spread across multiple cities, are hard at work to once again bring these films to life. Showcasing the restoration of Dev Anand’s films on the occasion of his centenary, as a joint endeavour between both film archives, NFDC-National Film Archive of India and Film Heritage Foundation, along with our esteemed partners INOX and PVR, is a testament to our shared commitment to preserving India’s cinematic heritage.”
Lovers of Indian and Hindi cinema and fans of Dev Anand can expect a treat. As Amitabh Bachchan, ambassador of Film Heritage Foundation, says, “I am so pleased that they have planned a festival of four iconic Dev Anand films to be released in cinemas across the country in a manner that befits a legend of Indian cinema. He signified something that was endless. The fact that we can watch these films almost 70 years after the first one was released is because they have been preserved and restored. This only reaffirms the importance of saving our films for future generations to enjoy. As Dev Sa’ab turns 100 this year, I still remember how his attitude and singular style would get us out of our hostel beds, jump the boundary walls of the college to the nearest film theatre repeatedly, just to witness the magic of his charm and energy. And on our way back we would sing along with his songs, his dialogue delivery and create this wonderful world he had structured for us to be remembered forever.”
(Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri is a film and music buff, editor, publisher, film critic and writer. The article was written with Soujannya Das)