Ahead of Time: Dev Anand and Navketan Films
Dev Anand was definitely the Indian cinema’s most loved leading man who hypnotized three generations of audience. He was often compared to the Hollywood star Gregory Peck in terms of his looks and charisma. He started his career as an arts graduate in Punjab but later came to Mumbai in the year 1945. Without more ado, he began working in Hindi films and within four years he established his own production house named “ Navketan Films.”
It was in 1949 when Anand brothers namely Chetan Anand, Vijay Anand and Dev Anand came together and redefined Indian cinema with their creatively enriching Hindi films. Proving true to their banner’s name Navketan that means newness in Sanskrit, Anand brothers not only produced a series of novel concepts but introduced new talent as well. Be it Zeenat Aman, Tina Munim, Jackie Shroff or Tabu, all were the outstanding discoveries of Navketan films. Also, it was under Navketan banner that directors like Guru Dutt and Raj Khosla, cinematographers such as Fali Mistry and V Ratra and music composers S D Burman and R D Burman flourished and excelled in their bollywood journey.
Many unforgettable classics were made by Dev Anand and his production company Navketan films. He was so fearless in his approach that majority of the cinema created by him reflected contemporary ideas and busted old taboos. For example, one of his most successful films, Guide took the Hindi film world by storm with its bold theme of live-in relationship. Dev Anand was one progressive filmmaker who loved to set trends with his every new film. Whether it was Hare Rama Hare Krishna dealing with topical issues or Des Prades that explored the lives of Indian migrants in London, all his films personified different thinking.
Alfred Hitchcock once said that “If one wants message one can go to the post office”. Adhering to the same notion, our magnificent superstar Dev Anand never really believed in propagating social messages through his films. On the contrary, he made movies that were more pleasurable and engaging instead of philosophical. Even his romantic films cultured a gentler and softer persona rather than a feel of gloom and tragedy. Along with his brothers, he worked on numerous cinematic ideas that eventually went on to become roaring box-office hits.
Dev Anand was one of those diligently creative filmmakers who easily bridged the gap between cinema and commerce. He possessed such a great sense of cinema that not only his stories but also music laid a benchmark in the history of Hindi films. Some of his tracks such as har fikar ko dhuey me udata chala gaya, gaata rahe mera dil, and Phulon ka taaron ka sabka kehna hai… are still popular among masses. With his superlative understanding of cinema and worldwide perspective, Dev Anand produced around 35 motion pictures under Navketan films. Since the post-independence era of black and white films till the colorful world of cinema filled with melodious music, Navketan films witnessed crucial phase of growth in Hindi movies.
As an ode to this evergreen actor and his affair with Indian cinema, Pandolin showcases ten of his landmark Hindi films:
Hum Ek Hain: Released in 1946, this film happens to be Dev Anand’s debut film as an actor. While working with his brother Chetan Anand as a member of the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA), he was proposed this film by Prabhat Talkies. Dev Anand shared an equal screen space with a host of other debutants in this film. Also, it was during the making of this movie, when Dev Anand met Guru Dutt and their strong bond of friendship was build.
Ziddi: This was Dev Anand’s first big break in the Hindi film industry offered to him by none other than Ashok Kumar. Ziddi was one of the Bombay Talkies productions that got released in 1948. It was directed by Shaheed Latif and served as a platform for stars like Dev Anand, Kamini Kaushal and Pran to showcase their talent on the silver screen.
Baazi: This crime thriller released in 1951 was the Navketan’s second film production that introduced cinematic genius Guru Dutt as a director. Apart from Dev Anand, it featured Geeta Bali and Kalpana Karthik. This film proved to be a game changer in the Hindi cinema owing to its unique approach towards filming and editing. The music of the film was composed by SD Burman and one of the Geeta Dutt number Tadbir se bigdi hui taqdeer got immensely liked.
Taxi Driver: This film definitely exemplify the breakthrough cinema of its times. Inspired by Hollywood style of filmmaking, this musical thriller unfolds the life and adventures of a Mumbai taxi driver. Adapting aesthetic references from film noir, this 1954 flick brought together all the three Anands with Chetan Anand as director, Vijay Anand as writer and Dev Anand as the main lead. The film also starred Dev Anand’s to be wife Kalpana Kathik and comedian Johnny Walker. It also featured one of the best tragic songs of all time Jaaye to jaaye kahan, sung by Talat Mehmood.
Nau Do Gyarah: This 1957 thriller marked the directorial debut of Dev Anand’s brother Vijay Anand. The lyrics of the film were penned by Majrooh Sultanpuri and music was composed by S D Burman. The film had a hit track, Hum Hai Rahi Pyar Ke that later inspired the title of an Amir Khan movie.
Guide: This film was the screen adaptation of R K Narayan’s famous novel Guide. It was one of the most ambitious projects of Navketan productions that fetched Dev Anand his second Filmfare award. Besides, it was the first movie that brought recognition for him at an international level. Directed by Vijay Anand, this dance-musical extravaganza was released in 1965. Dev Anand also produced the English version of Guide in collaboration with late American Nobel Laureate Pearl S. Buck and it was the India’s official entry for the Oscars that year. This bittersweet love story starring Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman went to the Cannes Film Festival in 2007 i.e. 42 years after its first release.
Jewel Thief: With an unexpected twist in the climax, this crime thriller is defined as one of the masterpieces from Navketan banner. Starring Vyjayanthimala and Tanuja along with Dev Anand, this film celebrated many days of success. Enhanced with S D Burman’s music, this mysterious love triangle broke all records in the year 1967. Some of its vibrant tracks such as Raat akeli hai and Hoton pe aisi baat still resonate in our hearts. Because of its superb plot and terrific music, this film became an instant hit. Also, Tanuja went on to receive a Filmfare award for this film in the category of best supporting actress.
Johny Mera Naam: This musical action drama featured Dev Anand and Pran in the role of two brothers separated at childhood. Directed by Vijay Anand and released in 1970, this Hindi film is termed as one of the Dev Anand’s eternal classic. Also, it was an instrumental movie that launched Hema Malini as a star.
Hare Rama Hare Krishna: It is considered to be Dev Anand’s most trendsetting film. One of its songs, Dum maaro dum, composed by R D Burman became such a national rage that even today, we see youngsters gyrating on this track. Portraying the problems faced by Indian youth, this film acquired a cult status during that time. Showcased in 1971, this film brought Zeenat Aman, a Filmfare award for Best Supporting Actress.
Des Pardes: This film released in 1978 was the debut film of female actor Tina Munim. Produced and directed by Dev Anand, this family drama was hugely applauded for its sensitive dealing with subject like illegal immigration of Indians to the West. Also, it was the first time Dev Anand worked with a new music composer like Rajesh Roshan who did complete justice to the film.
Amongst his other remarkable films, there was Hum Dono in which he played a double role, Prem Pujari that he both wrote and directed himself, Swami Dada that marked the debut of Jackie Shroff and last but not the least Chargesheet that happened to be the Dev Anand’s last screen performance.
Romancing for more than six decades with bollywood, Dev Anand breathed his last in December 2011. Even though, this amazingly versatile actor is not present among us, Indian film buffs would always be grateful for his cinematic contribution to Hindi movies.
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