The battle to breach the last border—the Oscar Awards continues for living legend Dev Anand with his latest directorial masterpiece–Mister Prime Minister. While the rest of the Indian movie industry continues submerging itself in a lala land of song, dance and romance Dev sahab, at the young age of 82, keeps on directing one realistic movie after another—whether it be the hard-hitting Censor (which laid bare the inner workings of the Censor Board), Love At Times Square (a love story set amidst the collapse of the Twin Towers) and his latest offering Mister Prime Minister ( a story of memory loss, earthquakes, political horsetrading, rap songs and navel-baring Al Qaeda operatives).
Dev Anand is universally acknowledged to be the greatest Hindi movie director alive today. Did I mention he is 82 years old? Yes I think I did. I must be getting senile.
Feisty as a 25 year old, his movies are still a huge hit with young and old alike.
What’s unique about Dev Anand is that he is the true embodiment of the Renaissance man—a modern day Da Vinci who can do everything. Do you remember Awwal Number—the “ahead of its time” movie from which movies like “the Rock” shamefully copied its plot from? For those of you too old to remember, Awwal Number was the movie which made Aamir Khan’s career. It was a story of a terrorist plot hatched by a disgruntled cricket player (Aditya Pancholi playing the role of Sourav Ganguly, the pissed-off superstar) being foiled by Dev Anand, who is, hold your breath—the coach of the team, the captain of the team and the commissioner of police all rolled into one.
One man, one post? Humbug.
Blending cricket, music, international intrigue, flying balloons and skirts Awwal Number remains a high water mark for Indian movies.
Then came one of his masterpieces circa 2001. Dev Sahab ran into trouble with the Censors during the production of “Main Solaah Baras Ki” (This “main” in the title, I found out, does not refer to Dev Anand because of the use of the feminine “ki”) —small-minded men and women who could never appreciate Dev Sahab’s dazzling camera work and out-there-stories. Rather than giving interviews and press releases, Dev Anand did what a true artist would do—he slapped them back using his creativity, exposing what really goes on inside the closed doors of censor meetings.
Using the famous “movie-inside-a-movie” approach and as mentioned by another reviewer the “Rashomon” technique of intertwined plots, Censor marks the high noon of Anand’s creative genius.
The story of Censor is about a celluloid masterpiece Aanewala Kaal directed by who else but Dev Anand (Vikramjit) which falls foul of the censor committee for its bold theme and gratuitous cleavage shots. In a casting coup that gives us a glimpse into Dev Anand’s supreme sense of irony—the Censor board consists of Mamata Kulkarni (yes you heard me right), the sozzled Jackie Shroff, Amrish Puri and Madam Rekha. Each of the censors have reasons for blocking the masterpiece—as an example, one of the committee members makes a lewd pass at Vikramjit which he being honest and upright (morally that is) naturally rebuffs.
Looking at it from the said censor’s point of view, imagine being rejected by an 80-year old. Naturally she takes it to heart and decides to kill Dev Anand’s baby ie the movie. [Sidenote: A lot of people have suggested that this “seduction by a member of the Censor Committee thing” is actually inspired by a real life incident faced by Dev Anand when he was 79. Related bit of trivia: Asha Parekh was the chairman of the censor board from 1998–2001.]
Meanwhile Miss Maggie (Archana Puran Singh), an Academy committee member, sees Vikramjit’s movie, smuggles it out of the country where it becomes a rage and snags two Oscar nominations. Needless to say, it wins all of them and even the Oscar of all Oscars (ie the greatest movie EVER) and Dev sahab gives a moving speech to the world which changes hearts all around. A proud moment for all Indians indeed—even though it takes place on film.
After “Censor” Dev Anand announced plans to make a movie on the shooting of the entire Nepali royal family by the crazed prince. That plan was shelved officially because Devji didnt want to do another Nepal movie (after Hare Ram Hare Krishna) but whispers went around that the crazed prince had brandished a gun at Dev Anand once he learnt that he had decided to do a movie on him. Instead Dev Anand made “Love At Times Square”—a romantic triangular love story set in the Big Apple ala Breakfast at Tiffany’s which had Dev Anand playing an Indian billionaire who donates money to Mayor Gulliani to rebuild a ravaged New York City. Woody Allen meets Keshu Ramsay—-as one famous critic called it.
Then came the supreme controversy. Dev Anand’s decision to do a biopic on Ravi Shankar and Anoushka and Norah Jones was met with stiff resistance from the Shankars. Again it was whispered that the sisters didn’t want Dev Anand to play Ravi Shankar but it was fairly obvious that they did not want their story of out-of-wedlock impregnation of other people’s wives being revealed to the world.
But the international hype was huge. Nicole Kidman and Salma Hayek auditioned for the roles of the two sisters but Dev Anand rejected them on the grounds they were “too old”. Irony. However when Anoushka called Dev Anand a “jerk“, he had taken all that he could take and pulled the plug on the movie. After all as he pointed out, it was he who was flattering the Shankars by publicizing their story. Bloody ingrates.
Dev Anand had by that time moved onto greener pastures. He had become besotted by another idea–born out of his disgust with the political system. Mister Prime Minister was born. Essaying the role of the newspaperman in Bhuj (Johnny Master) and the billionaire tycoon (Prem Batra), Dev Anand gives the performance of a lifetime—busting an Al Qaeda operative masquerading as a “village shoeshine chamiya” , kissing a girl old enough to be his granddaughter…err make that granddaughter’s daughter (goodbye Imran Hashmi), rapping away like 50 cents to the lyrics of “Missterrr Prime Ministerrrrr ha ha ha“(A must-hear), shaking his head like an out-of-control spring doll and true to form, keeping the camera on exposed navels and cleavages—just like any 82 year old who wears a black wig would do.
[Trivia sidenote: The name of the lucky girl who Dev Sahab kisses (she is his wife in the movie) is a PhD from Harvard (or so she claims) and was discovered by Dev Anand when he saw her in a Bendadryl commercial. Note to actresses who want to land a Dev Anand movie–get modeling assignments for medical products, Dev Anand will surely notice you then]
However bastard Bengalis never forgot how Dev Anand outed the Sourav Ganguly character in Awwal Number. When Mr Prime Minister was released, only one viewer turned up to see the movie first day first show. Just one.
And no, it was not Dev Anand. Because he was attending the world premier of the movie. Not in New York. Not in LA. Not in Paris. But in an ice-cream parlour in Ahmedabad.
Is he finished at 82? Will he hang up his hat? No sir. Dev Anand, who has said that his aim is to win the Oscars, gives a final shout out.
The matinee idol said he does not believe in blowing his own trumper, it is for the viewers to judge.
”If you like it, give a clap and smile. And, if you don’t, I’ll come back and produce another film on some contemporary theme”.
So go and watch “Mister Prime Minister” and give a clap and a smile. Else we shall all be responsible for the consequences.
Not convinced yet?
Fact 1: A few days ago, Abu Salem, international terrorist and known murderer, confessed to everything and started bawling like a baby supposedly “out of repentance”.
Fact 2: “Mister Prime Minister” was released just a few days before Fact 1 happened.
Coincidence? Or effect-cause?
I shall leave that for you to judge.