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Copyright 2004




Vijay Anand: Weaving Dev into masterly movies

HISTORY is replete with stories of men who were completely eclipsed by their creations, often artistic. Tintin overshadowed the man who drew him into a fine line of comic: Herge, who, in turn hid behind his own name, Georges Remi. Everybody knows Pery Mason, few know Erle Stanley Gardner, who dramatised his lawyer with such brilliance that the fictional character became a hero for many a budding advocate. We know all about Sherlock Holmes, very little of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who made his detective an almost last word in crime detection. Some of Hollywood's legendary studios had to play second fiddle to the stars they made out of men or women. Gregory Peck was a classic example, so was Ingrid Bergman.

Much in the league of these creators was Vijay Anand (died in Mumbai/Bombay on February 23 2004) who literally moulded his elder brother Dev Anand into a classic hero, suave and sartorially elegant. He wrote and directed some of Dev Anand's most enduring films, such as "Kala Bazaar", "Tere Ghar Ke Saamne", "Guide", "Jewel Thief" and "Tere Mere Sapne". And out of these grew a wonderful partnership of director-actor -- one can only think of Satyajit Ray-Soumitra Chatterjee in this context, though these two had a much longer on-screen relationship than the Anand brothers -- that still evokes nostalgia.

But to dismiss Vijay Anand's repertoire of movies as merely an indication of sibling love or even a mad desire to promote a good looking guy for an apparent motive will be unfair. Take, for instance, the 1971 "Tere Mere Sapne", where he adopts a marvellous piece of Western literature, A.J. Cronin's "The Citadel" to reveal fascinating craftsmanship and novel acting methods; Dev Anand's restraint and Vijay Anand's small, yet awesomely intense role made this work one of Indian cinema's all- time greats.

Vijay Anand's touch of neo-realism seen in some of his very early works ("Kala Bazaar", 1960, and "Tere Ghar Ke Saamne", 1963, both with Dev Anand), spirit of film noir (inspired by Scorsese's "Taxi Driver") and humanism (adapted, maybe, from Frank Capra's "It Happened One Night") are reflected in "Nau Do Gyarah" (1957, Dev),"Teesri Manzil" (1966, with Shammi Kapoor in the lead) and "Jewel Thief" (1967, played by Dev Anand).

Vijay Anand had other qualities that placed him quite apart from the largely Bollywood kitsch. His grip over visuals pushed and complemented the narrative, and his images seldom manifested themselves as islands of attractive, but worthless picture postcards, a trait often seen in Indian cinema today.

Yet another strength of Vijay Anand was his fascination with song picturisations: remember the one in "Tere Ghar Ke Saamne" (1963), where Nutan and Dev Anand lisp an entire song as they climb hundreds of steps inside Delhi's Qutub Minar. Here, the sequence is a splendid mix of music, lyrics and story.

Obviously, he was a tad ahead of his contemporaries that left him disillusioned. His brief fling with the Rajneesh doctrine probably gave him little of what he was looking for. One does not remember any significant contribution from him after the 1974 "Kora Kagaz" (a Bengali remake), where his acting was minimalist, yet highly impressive.

However, Vijay Anand seemed to have bounced back a couple of years ago, when he became the Chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification. But he had to resign soon when the Government refused to agree to his suggestion that pornographic movies be allowed in select cinemas.

In the final analysis, Vijay Anand would be remembered not for his reported Rajneesh beliefs or even his advocacy of blue cinema, but for his artistic boldness and mesmeric motion that produced magical imagery.

(This story appeared in The Hindu dated February 25 2004)

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