Top critical review
The first third of the book is what I liked best
19 January 2018
Like most people I know, I like fifties and early sixties Dev Anand. I'd be really hard pressed to find anyone who liked anything from Navketan & Dev Anand thereafter. Straight off the bat, I don't like the cover and the title. They really should have used a fifties Dev Anand for the cover. He produced his best cinema then, and the early part of the book is about that. The latter half of the book is mostly him blowing his own trumpet and rambling about this and that. To be fair, when one picks up an autobiography it is only to be expected (which is why "unauthorized" biographies work better), but the second half was really boring. The book-title lacks imagination. Dev Anand was a "romantic hero", yes, but still - too predictable!
He talks about "spicing it up" in the preface and he spices it up alright (it doesn't make for good reading either - so here's another one that the bad sex award committee missed that year) but you really don't know now which of these things actually happened and what bits are being made up for effect.
There is virtually nothing in the book about the business aspect. Just how did he fund those duds? Tireless film-maker he may be, but the man churned out an astounding number of flops one after the other in the eighties, nineties and noughties! There are a series of tiresome chapters in the middle about how he found his "leading ladies" and gave them their big break - abroad mostly - but you've never seen them in another movie since??!! Sometimes you get the impression that Dev Anand wanted to be a traveler more than anything and film making was just an excuse for him to spend time on the road and meet more nubile twenty somethings.Maybe it's just me, but these are names I have never heard - neither the actors nor the movies! No, Seriously!
One of the reasons I picked up the book is because some reviews mentioned that the book is well written. Far from it. He writes like he speaks - with not a little pomposity. I think this is because - like most people from the pre-Independence era he holds things British in awe and this is evident when he prides himself in the use of the language or makes such a great deal about it - but what he's really doing is mixing metaphors or is unintentionally funny - like when he is translating Hindi idioms into English. But then again he is a film-maker and not a writer which kind of explains the way he writes - it's - i dunno - "visual" (if you will and for want of a better word) like that but sometimes the writing gets bizarre and surreal like in the chapter when he is recovering post hernia surgery. (He makes such a big deal about that too. Like he goes to great lengths to keep things hush hush. No one should know he is being operated upon. Like why would anyone care? It's hernia dude. Not life threatening ... Very odd!)
So, only the first third of the book documenting the fifties and early sixties held any interest for me and it was all downhill from there.
On the plus side, Dev Anand had a long, long life. It must not have been an easy task deciding what to pick and what to leave out. Like, for example, there is a chapter about his son Suneil failing at the movies but he does not mention why his daughter didn't take to Bollywood, but he does talk about her divorce? Also, early on in the bio, I would have liked him to dwell a little on why he wanted to become an actor than just have him say that a couple of girls in the neighborhood found him handsome.
It's not a very big book though (for a life that long) and it's nicely divided into short chapters. It could have used a lil more by way of editing, proof-reading, vetting or better - ahem - "post production". But he never bothered doing that with his movies cause by the time he'd finish filming one, he'd have found his next muse already. Fat chance, then!
Again, coming from the pre-independence era, he talks about the partition and independence with emotion and is quite the nationalist, works in a bit of politics into the writing - but not a lot - i liked those asides. A bit of history to punctuate all that time. Not to mention the romance of utopia and idealism, that all but had him launch a political party too, but that didn't see fruition, given that none of this was clearly thought through. Not that one was expecting a blueprint or manifesto for some full-fledged economic theory, a la Ayn Rand. It's not like anybody else has that kind of panacea either, but just saying.
All in all, a pretty honest account nonetheless but somehow not as entertaining as I thought it might be. That said, you take what you get. There's not another book nearly good enough about Dev Anand in the market the last time I looked.
I bought a paperback from Amazon and didn't get a DVD, so the review is only for the book.