A romantic icon. Handsome. Ahead of his times. A sensation. A killer smile, which takes people aback even today. Unmatched prowess in acting. Born on the 26th of September in 1923, Dharam Devdutt Pishorimal Anand, whom we know better by his screen name – Dev Anand, continues to remain an Indian film icon, whose match frankly, India has not found to this very day. While we know him for his charismatic personality on screen, few know that he was equally witty and tongue sharp off screen as well. Dev Anand was a courageous man – not afraid to say what he believed in. He also had the incredible ability to call out politicians, especially the Nehru dynasty, for their indecent and dictatorial acts.
The Indian National Congress is a party with no ethics and character, with a loose set of morals. The Congress really draws its inspiration from Jawaharlal Nehru’s own character, which was so dubious that his relationship with Mountbatten’s wife, Edwina continues to be talked about, even today. Dev Anand spoke about this relationship too. At the time, calling out India’s first Prime Minister for his extramarital relations with Edwina was no small deed. It could have ruined the actor’s career. But that did not stop Dev Anand from calling Nehru’s dirty deeds out.
In 1962, the actor, then 39, had asked Jawaharlal Nehru: “Is it true, Sir, that your devastating smile stole the heart of Lady Mountbatten?” Talk of outwitting someone as powerful as India’s first Prime Minister in the ‘sweetest words’ possible!
Dev Anand’s Run-In with Sanjay Gandhi
In 1975, Dev Anand was asked to speak a few words in extollation of Sanjay Gandhi – the small-time dictator under whose terror, India had to suffer at the time. Asked to say a few words in appreciation of Sanjay Gandhi, Dev Anand refused, responding to what he described as a “call of conscience”. Dev Anand’s films were subsequently banned from being screened on television, while All India Radio (AIR) forbade any reference to his name.
Dev Anand’s Janata Party Experiment
In the run-up to the 1977 general elections, Dev Anand was approached by lawyer Ram Jethmalani, who urged the actor to join the Janata Party’s movement against Indira Gandhi. Dev Anand agreed to share the dais with Morarji Desai and Jayaprakash Narayan, whom he admired deeply, and made a short speech condemning Indira Gandhi.
Dev Anand was a man who did not fear the powers that be. To take on Indira and Sanjay Gandhi during the emergency was not a small feat, and the actor deserved due recognition for standing up to the dictators of India, who sought to create political instability in the country to fulfil their own political goals. Meanwhile, to take on the Congress’ godfather – Jawaharlal Nehru is all the more significant, and shows how Dev Anand was least impressed by Nehru’s supposed ‘charisma’, and in fact, felt repulsed by his personality.