In his mid-seventies, the grand young man of Indian Cinema has finally decided to do a rare father’s role in his latest project ‘Love at Times Square’. He was in Chennai for a couple of days to catch up with the music recording sessions at Amir Mahal with his music director Lucky Ali.
“I’ve been sitting here for about five hours, up to myself. I haven’t made any calls at all. I haven’t spoken to anyone. But I was celebrating those moments. Now, even as I am talking to you, I’m celebrating life,” Dev Anand, who people around affectionately call Dev Saab, talks to Sudhish Kamath on his approach to life and films.
VERY FEW know that Lagaan was not the first film to have a cricket match climax. Aamir Khan was belting boundaries almost a decade ago in Awwal Number which the director says was a different subject when he took it up. On sports and terrorism.
“I make no conscious effort. Maybe I am different. But I deliberately don’t want to toe anybody’s line. So I’m always on the offbeat line. If the film fails, it just remains an experiment. If the film clicks, it sets a trend. So why should I play safe all the time,” asks Dev Saab.
We remind him that ‘Censor’ didn’t do very well. “I knew that it might not work. Because censorship is not what a common man can relate to. It just addressed a problem faced by a film-maker,” he reasons.
“I am courageous. I look forward to win and I have the courage to lose and be in the race again. And keep watching, I’ll win with this one,” he winks, adding he’s casting Lucky Ali as music director for the first time.
‘Love at Times Square’
Is it a sheer co-incidence that most of his films have English titles? “Yes, it is a co- incidence. Love is almost a Hindi word… Hume Tumse Love Ho Gaya…Times Square is a place…Just like Mount Road. So like Love at Mount Road, this one’s about Love at Times Square,” Dev Saab smiles.
We are tempted to ask where does he get his radical ideas and stories from? “From life. Every day, we see a million things. Something from that strikes you. Then you sleep with it, become obsessed with it, build a script and then make the film,” he explains.
“Love at Times Square is a contemporary Indian love story set in America. Times Square is a character in the film. It all started when I went to receive an award from Hillary Clinton last year. It was a Saturday evening when I saw Times Square. That plays defines joy. Two weeks later, I was returning from San Francisco, when I stopped by at New York. It was a Saturday evening yet again. And I remembered something that happened to me 35 years ago,” Dev Saab recollects with a twinkle in his eyes.
“It is a very personal incident which I will reveal before the release of the film. Anyway, so I got very excited… I work very fast, got the script done. And I shot 7-8 hours of footage on New Year’s Eve at Times Square. When the whole world waits to welcome the new year, the place is wonderful. We have done some great shots.”
But didn’t he say he hadn’t finalised the cast? “Special effects. We would incorporate this with the cast later because it is impossible to shoot on New Year’s Eve with the cast in any case,” he says.
Why has Hindi cinema been obsessed with American brands and locations, especially over the last half of the decade? “TV has brought it. Globalisaton has brought it. Nothing wrong with it. Why not,” asks Dev Saab.
“When I open your heart, you are an Indian. But when you talk, when you write, it’s a different language you are talking. You are wearing a trouser, but you are still Indian. And there are so many Asians in America,” he says.
“It’s a budget of Rs.10-12 crores. If it clicks, it’s big money. If it doesn’t, there’s no money. But this movie is made for an international audience. I’m looking forward to it. I’m in a state of excitement. I’m always in a state of excitement. That’s why I make films,” Dev Saab adds.
“It’s a fantastic profession. Because you are dealing with people, they are discussing you. They say it’s bad… They say it’s good, but they are still discussing you. You are giving them a choice. If they like it, they see it, or they see the next film. You can’t have hits all the time. But you are leaving something for the world for posterity. That’s why I love this great medium.”
(This is an interview I did with him a decade ago for The Hindu.)