The first film that comes to mind when tracking Dev Anands finest is Guide. Even the most contrary critic will accept that it is among the finest films made in India,routinely hitting the Top 10 mark. That is also a film I remember practically frame by frame,having seen it several times. What I went looking for this time were his early films in which Dev was honing his persona,the one he perfected and purveyed with such panache that it became inseparable from him.
Teen Deviyaan is one of my favourites from this bunch. A revisit this week reveals the ageless star,who passed away this Sunday gone past,in top form. And a film that overcomes its datedness by a startlingly modern storyline,and a treatment that current filmmakers would do well to emulate. Dev plays Dev,a sprightly young man who works in a music shop,who encounters in quick succession three lovelies,Nanda,Kalpana and Simi. Like Dev who gets by his own name,the actresses also retain their own names: and there is always a particular charm to the film when this happens.
As befits a handsome young fellow,and the extent of his triple-barrelled dilemma,the girls are very different. Nanda is a seedi-saadhi stenographer who is also a neighbour,and a fellow bus companion. Simi is a rich miss who throws lavish parties and toys with her piano,and men,for fun. And Kalpana is the ripe,oversexed actress who first berates him,and then drapes herself all over him. With such riches staring at him in the face,whats a Dev to do?
Its almost redundant to say that the music is superb: practically all Dev Anand films came with music which turned into the soundtrack of our lives. But to see Dev sitting at a grand piano and tinkling out Khwab ho tum ya koi haqeeqat,mouthing Majrooh Sultanpuris timeless lyrics,is to experience absolute joy. Simi in her bushy brows (this is where Kajol got her look from),Kalpana in her sheer white wet dress moulding itself to her contours,and Nanda in her tight-tight-tight churidar-kurta: the devis were no doormats,they were all women with a mind of their own,being framed on their own without accoutrements (friends,moms,other relatives),in their environment,with thoughts they had the freedom to articulate.
The devi may change,but when Dev looks into her eyes and gives her the line,there is only the two of them in the world. Whatever he plays,a pickpocket in Pocketmaar,in which he loves the gaon-ki-gori Geeta Bali,or a rich,feckless young man in Asli Naqli teaming with Sadhna,or a cop in Jaali Note trying it on with press reporter Madhubala,(with gangster moll Helen on the side),that is a quality always to the fore. Where there is a lovely,there is always a Dev.