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The dapper hero who serenaded all of Hindi cinema's brightest heroines

IANS | September 24, 2023 01:13 PM

NEW DELHI: Three-fourth of his 88-year-long life was spent in acting and of these, six and a half decades, over half, had Dev Anand playing the lead (romantic) role, even as his peers and even several of his leading ladies had moved on or out.

In the process, Dev Anand ended up being paired against at least three generations of heroines, if not four, as he transitioned from his early days where his female co-lead was the bigger star to a time when most actresses were keen on working with him as he sauntered from success to success with that charming demeanour and the winning smile.

While most of his early heroines, say, Kamla Kotnis, who was cast against him in his debut "Hum Ek Hai" (1946), Kamini Kaushal, the heroine of his first hit "Ziddi" (1948), Khursheed Bano or Nimmi or Shakila will only be familiar to hardcore film buffs or movie historians, Dev Anand struck up successful partnerships with leading actresses across three decades - from Meena Kumari to Mumtaz, from Asha Parekh to Zeenat Aman, and Geeta Bali to Yogita Bali.

Let's go down memory lane with a dozen-odd of the heroines who played significant roles in his professional - and personal - life.

Suraiya: Dev Anand's first hit pairing was with the silver-throated Suraiya - the last of Hindi films' singing superstars after K.L. Saigal's demise and Noor Jehan's departure - and their intent was to replicate their onscreen chemistry in real life too, but was foiled by prejudice.

"Vidya" (1948) was the first for the duo and they struck up an instant chemistry, deepened when Dev Anand pulled out her of a lake when she fell in while shooting. It was Suraiya who first compared him to Gregory Peck. "Jeet", "Shair" (both 1949), "Afsar", "Nili" (both 1950), "Sanam", and "Do Sitare" (both 1951) were their other films before their bond dissolved.

Kalpana Kartik: After Suraiya, Dev Anand struck up a successful partnership with beauty pageant winner Mona Singha, whom his elder brother Chetan Anand gave the screen name she is still known by. Introduced in the noirish "Baazi" (1951), she went on to star opposite Dev Anand in "Aandhiyan" (1952), "Humsafar" (1953), "Taxi Driver" (1954) - where they utilised a break in filming to get married - "House No. 44" (1955), and "Nau Do Gyarah" (1957), after which she bid adieu to acting.

However, she did not abandon films altogether, serving as an associate producer in at least six Dev Anand films from "Tere Ghar Ke Samne" (1963), to "Jaaneman" (1976) and "Jewel Thief" (1967) and "Prem Pujari" (1970).

Nalini Jaywant: The cherubic and petite Nalini Jaywant did only four films with Dev Anand from "Hindustan Hamara" (1950), though only two are well-known. She was his romantic counterpart in only one of them - "Munimji" (1955) but played a key role in the iconic "Kala Pani" (1958) and has two memorable songs - "Jeevan ke safar mein rahi" and "Hum bekhudi mein tum to pukarte chale" in them.

Geeta Bali: The effervescent Geeta Bali was an appropriate match for the ebullient Dev Anand, right from the time she danced around him while strumming a guitar in "Baazi" (1951), transforming a ghazal into a jazz number. However, she was the "other woman" in the picture. She was the romantic pairing in "Jaal" (1952) - "Yeh raat, yeh chandni" - with Dev Anand with the guitar this time. "Ferry" (1954), "Milap" (1955), "Faraar", and "Pocket Maar" (1956) were their other pictures.

Madhubala: With her angelic features, beguiling yet enigmatic smile, and restrained but undeniable talent, she was a natural foil to the debonair Dev Anand whose smile was no less captivating, and they acted in over half-a-dozen films, spanning genres, from "Nirala" (1950) to "Jaali Note" (1960), which had her playing a journalist for the second time after "Kala Pani" (1958). Breezy romcom "Madhubala" (1950) - the first and so far the only one to be named after its leading lady - is another worth seeing.

Nutan: The talented Nutan also formed a popular screen couple with Dev Anand, though they only acted in four films together, out of which "Paying Guest" (1957), and "Tere Ghar Ke Samne" (1963), with their engaging stories and enchanting songs, stand out. The latter is also famous for its special effects - where Dev Anand, in his cups, pictures Nutan in the bottle – and accomplished in the pre-computer age.

Waheeda Rehman: The exquisite Waheeda Rehman starred opposite Dev Anand in some of his most famous films after debuting in Hindi movies with his "C.I.D." (1956), where she played a vamp but gets to sing "Kahin pe nighahen". She went on to play the heroine opposite Dev Anand in the offbeat (in its narrative structure) "Solva Saal" (1958), in the moralistic "Kala Bazar" (1960), and then "Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja (1961), and "Baat Ek Raat Ki" (1962), but sparkles in the unconventional "Guide" (1965), where she revealed her flair for classical dance, and "Prem Pujari" (1970), where her "Rangeela Re" was acknowledged by Dev Anand as the favourite from his films.

Nanda: The graceful and entrancing Nanda starred with Dev Anand in just three films but all three stand out. While she had just a supporting role in "Kala Bazaar" (1960), she got her place in the sun with the patient and noble wife of the elder army officer in "Hum Dono" (1961), where "Prabhu Tero Naam" and "Allah Tero Naam Ishwar Tero Naam" showcase her ability, and then, as one of the three women Dev Anand considers as his prospective life partner in "Teen Deviyan" (1965). As a demure yet spunky girl next door, she ultimately wins over the actress (Kalpana) and socialite (Simi Garewal) and gets focus in both "Likha hai teri ankhon mein" and "Aise to na dekho", while being the subject of "Khwab ho tum ya koi haqeeqat", being the only of the three absent from the scene.

Suchitra Sen: The doe-eyed Suchitra Sen worked only in a handful of Hindi films, but two of them were with Dev Anand. While the noirish "Bombai Ka Babu" (1960), with its hint of the taboo subject of an incestuous romance, is best known, especially for its sparkling music, the two had worked in the relationship drama "Sarhad" (1960).

Vyjayanthimala: The demure Vyjayanthimala is best known for her role opposite Dev Anand in "Jewel Thief" (1967), where the hero has no lack of female attention, being wooed at various times by Tanuja, Helen, Faryal, and Anju Mahendru, but still holds her own with her performances in "Hothon mein aisi baat" and "Rulaake gaya sapna mera" as well as "Asmaan ke neeche" and "Dil pukare aa re aa re". The two had first acted in the romantic thriller "Amardeep" (1958), but it was not very successful, and then reunited for the courtroom drama "Duniya" (1968).

Mumtaz: The pert Mumtaz just acted opposite Dev Anand in two films, but both are legendary. A close friend of Dev Anand, she agreed to act as his romantic co-star in "Hare Rama Hare Krishna" (1970) despite knowing that the glamourous Zeenat Aman would overshadow her role. The Nepali-themed "Kanchi re Kanchi" helps her establish her presence. She plays Dev Anand's love interest in "Tere Mere Sapne" (1971) - arguably the best of Vijay 'Goldie' Anand's films but considered a bit grim despite its theme of redemption.

Zeenat Aman: A find of Dev Anand, Zeenat Aman's first film was not "Hare Rama Hare Krishna" (1971), which established her as a Hindi film phenomenon, but Indo-Filipino crime drama "The Evil Within" (1970). While she played Dev Anand's long-lost sibling in "Hare Rama...", she went to star opposite him in a string of films across the 1970s - "Gambler" (1971), "Heera Panna" (1973), "Ishk Ishk Ishk" and "Prem Shashtra" (both 1974), "Warrant" (1975), and finally, "Darling Darling" and "Kalabaaz" (1977). Dev Anand even confessed he had fallen in love with her, but a scene at a party where Raj Kapoor acted overfriendly with her put him off.

Hema Malini: The romantic lead of Dev Anand's slick crime flick "Johny Mera Naam" (1970), which she acknowledges paved her way to Bollywood stardom, Hema Malini went on to act opposite Dev Anand in a string of movies, including "Tere Mere Sapne" (1971), "Shareef Budmash", "Chhupa Rustam", and "Joshila" (all 1973), "Ameer Garib" (1974), and "Jaaneman" (1976). She was also present in some of his later films where he was no longer the leading man.

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