(“Middle” is defined as a brief essay of a literary kind in a weekly or other journal or newspaper often placed between political articles & book reviews. It can be placed anywhere in a newspaper but is generally in the middle of the centre page.)

Rajiv Desai

As I stood there shaking hands with him when he came to receive the Dada Saheb Phalke award, the years seemed to melt away. It was as though I was in my preteens, having just watched Nau Do Gyarah, Munimji, Paying Guest or whichever film I first saw starring Dev Anand. I can remember going straight into the bathroom, wetting my hair & trying to work up the stylish pompadour (a style of dressing men’s hair, in which it is combed back from the forehead without a parting). Dev Anand was my absolute favourite screen personality & I religiously caught every single film he ever made.

My friends say I am an inveterate (since a long time) optimist, that’s why I came back to India after nearly 2 decades in the US. The optimism has its roots in my early exposure to Dev Anand’s films. Since the late 1950s & through the early 1960s, he was my favourite hero, not necessarily because he was a good actor, but because he stood for hope. While Dilip Kumar represented the tradedy of the Indian condition, Raj Kapoor the misbegotten (disreputable) ideology that messed up India, Dev Anand stood for what India could be, smiling & stylish with a song on his lips.

Dev Anand represents the most modern of all creative idioms: Find talented people & let them grow. Through his organisation Navketan, we were introduced to Guru Dutt, S D Burman & dozens of others, who entertained generations with movies & music that today are part of our memories. About the time Dev Anand began to be recognised as an entertainer, the operative mood in the Indian films was down-in-the-mouth (looking unhappy) , a victim of the colonial experience, The theme song was Duniya mein hum ayieh hain to jeena hi padega, jeevan hai agar zahar to peena hi padega.

Along came Dev Anand with his worldview expressed best in the song from the film Hum Dono: Barbadiyon ha shokh manana fuzul tha, har fikr ko dhuein mein udata chala gaya. His films filled me with hope, the ultimate global value that was in short supply in India at that time.

Congratulations on the Dada Saheb Phalke award, & thank you Dev Saheb, you instilled me with optimism about India before I reached my teens. In the words of your immortal song: Jeevan ke safar me rahi ……. de jaate hain yaadein. Indeed you have given me, a fellow traveller in the world, a rich lode (load) of memories, never mind your lyricist’s other lines, which I have left out in the ellipsis (leaving out words rather than repeating them unnecessarily).