Dev Anand is something of a Bollywood institution. His romantic persona, dialogue delivery, song picturizations and mannerisms are legend, and for generations of filmgoers he has remained Hindi cinema's most charismatic personality.
In Romancing with Life, the first-ever full-fledged memoir by a leading Bollywood star, he tells his remarkable life story-no less dramatic and gripping than any of his films-like only he can. Here are tales from Dev's youth in 1930s Gurdaspur and Lahore; his years of struggle in 1940s Bombay; his friendship with Guru Dutt and his doomed romance with Suraiya; his marriage to co-star Kalpana Kartikl his relationships with his brothers Chetan-who brought him to Bombay-and Vijay Anand-who directed him in hit after hit-with S.D. and R.D. Burman, who provided the memorable music for his films with his compatriots Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor, to both of whom he was very close, and with his heroines, from Geeta Bali, Madhubala, Meena Kumari, Nutan, Vyjayanthimala, Mumtaz and Hema Malini to Waheeda Rehman, Zeenat Aman and Tina Muni, all of whom he launched.
Dev Anand has produced an unputdownable book chock-full of bittersweet reminiscences, written in a pacy, effervescent style that carries the reader through sixty of Bollywood's most interesting years. With rare pictures from his personal archive, Romancing with Life is the quintessential Dev. Anand.
Born in 1923, Bollywood's 'evergreen' hero Dev Anand has been part of the Hindi film industry for more than sixty years. Starting his career as a complete unknown in pre-Independence India, he scored major hits in the '50s as a debonair romantic hero in films like Baazi, Tasi Driver, CID, Funtoosh, Paying Guest, Nau Do Gyarah and Kala Pani. Dev Anand's success story continued in the '60s with classics like Kala Bazaar, Hum Dono, Tere Ghar Ke Samne, Teen Deviya, Guide and Jewel Thief. Most of his films were produced under the Navketan banner, the production house he had founded as early as 1950. with Prem Pujari (1970) Dev Anand turned director, and starred in '70s hits like Johny Mera Naam, Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Gambler, Heera Panna and Des Pardes. He has continued to writer, produce, direct and act in films based on socially relevant issues till the very present.
Dev Anand has won the Filmfare Best Actor award twice (for Kala Pani and Guide), and has been honoured with the Filmfare and Screen Lifetime Achievement Awards, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, and the Padma Bhushan.
Writing about your own life, for the whole world to read, can be easy as well as difficult. On the one hand it is quite easy, because unlike fiction, in which you have to invent characters, create situations and incidents, and concoct a believable narrative, the story of your life has already been played out in front of your eyes, and you are intimate with its every details. All you have to do is open the windows of your memory, and let the story run past, spool after spool-spicing it up a bit here and there, deleting bits that are unnecessary, and making it play to a rhythm that grips the reader, absorbs and inspires him throughout its unfolding.
On the other hand, writing about yourself can be extremely difficult, because you have to be honest and truthful both to yourself and to the events and personalities you are describing, even if the truth is sometimes not pleasant, and you have to lay yourself open, with all your strengths and weaknesses, before the reader, baring your soul to them as they read your book.
Writing an autobiography is tougher still when you are a public figure that the world has known and admired for over six decades, and has looked up to as a larger-than-life hero. Unless I can take my readers to a plane of absolute adoration for me as they read my book, the attempt will not have been worth it. and yet, my life has been an open book to my fans, and they must not feel that I am hiding something or glossing over some unsavoury bumps now that I have set out to write my autobiography. This is why the untarnished truth and complete honesty are the first pre-requisites to my writing about myself, rife as they are with the dangers of annoying or angering a few people who have rubbed shoulders with me on my journey along the path of life.
On some occasions, I have been accused of being 'narcissistic' and since this book is all about me, this is perhaps a charge I should answer to before I proceed. Perhaps those who have accused me of being focused almost obsessively on myself are right in a sense, for I, Dev Anand, am certainly the central point of everything I say and do. But my critics, I think, fail to see the reason behind this-that as a popular star, the image of Dev Anand is like that of a deity to his millions of fans. To honour that image, I must project myself as the best I can be in both my personal and professional life. For unless a man inspires himself to greater achievements, how can he inspire the world around him? His effort at raising his own status to the highest possible levels is not an act of self-gratifications; it would seem that way only to the envious.
My life has been full of special moments and people, like thousands of sparkling jewels embedded in my mind in the form of precious memories. Most have continued to shine brightly; a few have lost their luster a bit over time; and some, which turned out to be artificial, have faded or fallen off. But they all deserve to be remembered. And as I wrote this book I have remembered them all with great relish, never with regret. Not all of them may have been recounted in this book due to space constraints, but they remain vibrantly alive in my thoughts. So do the many people who have left their impressions on me over time. Not everyone may find themselves adequately represented in this narrative, but I hope they will not take offence at having to make cameo appearances, and enjoy their part in the larger story I have to tell. If anyone feels hurt, cold-shouldered or ignored as they read this book, I would like to assure them that this is not intentional in any way. Thousands of thoughts whirr around my brain every day; though you may have been mentioned only in passing in these pages, you may be the person I am thinking of with great affection and gratitude at this very moment, as you read this book.
Before I begin my first chapter, I must say a word about my fans, for they are the ones who have made me what I am without them Dev Anand would not be what he is, and this book too would not have been written.
I hove all my fans-all those I've met, and even those I have not but have only conversed with over long distances, delighting in the phone calls they make to me and the fan mail that they send. The extent of my fan mail has always floored me. If I had collected all of the mail I've received over my six-decade-long career, I would probably need to build a separate library for it. Instead, I've stored them all in the best place of all-in my heart.
I've replied to some of my fans on rare occasions, to people whom my fancy suddenly picked on at random, for no clear reason. Replying to every letter would be a full-time job, and I don't believe in the heartlessly impersonal method of having a secretary reply to letters people have written personally to you One response from in the hope of receiving another reply. Another time, I replied to a letters to her; but the day I stopped writing, she put all my letters in a neatly packed bundle and returned them to me along with a goodbye note, her heart broken.
How I with I could write to all my fans, opening my heart to them the way I would like to.
This book finally gives me the chance to speak to each and every one of my beloved fans, one-on-one, like never before.
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