Navketan 60 In Search Of A New Dawn
How does one examine the balance sheet of a star-founded film production company that celebrates its 60th birthday with the star himself not only refusing to stop applying grease paint but also leading the all-new cast that might see oblivion like many of their predecessors. The star in question is Dev Anand writer, actor, producer, director, editor, and lyricist. Rushing where others of his tribe fear to tread. In a hurry to complete a murder mystery thriller, and claiming it would be a greater milestone than Guide, a film he had produced and acted in 44 years ago.
Anand has defied critics, left his contemporaries and juniors far behind both actors and film makers (not many are alive, though), continues to amaze trade pundits about the source of finance. For Navketan, after a long innings of six decades, should and wound go down in record books as a maker of maximum box office disasters. Explanations defy even the actor’s own career graph which has more duds than hits, a mere 20 hits from a total of 120 films he has acted it. And nothing has been able to create a dent in his popularity for he still draws more crowds than stars half his age. In six decades Navketan has produced 33 films nine hits directed by a combination of Chetan Anand, Vijay Anand, Raj Khosla and the star himself. Of these 33, Dev has directed 18. Box office score 2 hits, 16 flops. Some of the flops were not just flops, they were disasters.
Yet Dev Anand’s contribution to Hindi film industry defies parallels anywhere in the world. Navketan was instrumental in bringing to fore the exceptional talents of directors like Guru Dutt, Vijay Anand, Raj Khosla; music directors like Ravi Shankar, Uday Shankar, Jaidev, RD Burman; lyricists Sahir Ludhianvi, Neeraj, Amit Khanna, Suraj Sanim apart from other technicians and all hues and colours, and heroines like Kalpana Kartik (Baazi, Aandhiyan, Taxi Driver, Humsafar, Nau Dau Gyrah, House No. 44), Zeenat Aman (Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Ishq Ishq Ishq, Heera Panna), Tina Munim (Des Perdes, Lootmaar), Richa Sharma, who later married Sanjay Dutt (Hum Naujawan)—from amongst those who made it—and nearly a dozen others who disappeared without a trace.
Not too long ago he became the first Indian film star to himself author an autobiography, Romancing with Life which has reportedly sold more than 30,000 copies across the globe at least one of his efforts that have worked. The problem with Anand has been that he has always found fault with others rather than himself for the failure of his films. No matter what the story, and the original thought, the screenplay eventually relies on half a dozen familiar ingredients that have consistently been rejected. It is narcissism at his worst. Perhaps no other actor has sought to project himself above other characters and the demands of the story itself anywhere than Dev Anand, who steadfastly defies age with his speed as well as stamina.
It is not that he is not disappointed with the flops, he does. He has at times shed copious tears when things have not worked his way. “But I console myself, and get ready for the next. Somehow I have never been short of money. Money somehow finds its way to me. I don’t consider my films to be flops. They all try to convey something. The only failure, I guess, has been that the audiences have failed me. I think I am leaving behind beautiful thoughts, and some day people will understand what I have tried to convey through all my films. That’s why Censor and Mr Prime Minister are amongst my most favourite ventures.”
Now in the 60th year of the launching of the once-enviable Navketan banner, Anand is busy giving finishing touches to his yet another attempt at box office victory, Charge Sheet with yet another set of newcomers in the not-so-August company of the favourite Jackie Shroff, Naseerudin Shah and Divya Dutta amongst others. When launched two years ago, it was planned for release on or around September 26, 2009, but now it seems it might see the light of day the same time this year. Also being planned is the re-release of the colourised version of one of his landmark films, Hum Dono that had been ghost-directed by Vijay Anand though on the screen the credit went to publicist-producer, Amarjeet who was to become the guinea pig for his own subsequent disastrous directorial ventures like Teen Devian, Prem Shastra and Gambler. The latter became a sort of launching pad for Shatrughan Sinha’s eventful career.
When visited last month, Dev Anand had been sifting through Siddharth Jain’s text of Navketan 60 a coffee table book to be published by HarperCollins India (and not Penguin that published his autobiography) next year. A fitting tribute (sneers apart) to single-minded determination to reclaim the magic of once most popular Hindi cinema, at times also described as ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Ever Shining Star’ for no other hero has ever played such a long innings. Navketan 60 will also be, in a way, a pictorial history of a segment of the mainstream Hindi cinema, especially if one randomly looks at the August list of stars who have been involved in the making of these films.
The notable heroines: Suraiya-Afsar, Geeta Bali-Baazi, Nimmi-Aandhiyan, Waheeda Rahman-Kala Bazaar, Guide, Madhubala-Kala Pani, Nutan-Tere Ghar ke Saamne, Vyjantimala-Jewel Thief, Nalini Jayawant-Kala Pani, Hema Malini-Shareef Badmash, Janneman, Sachche ka Bol Bala, Censor, Rakhee-Heera Panna, Lootmaar, Anand aur Anand, Rekha-Censor, Smita Patil-Anand aur Anand, Mumtaz-Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Nanda-Kala Bazaar, Hum Dono, Sadhna-Hum Dono, Meenakshi Sheshadri-Sachche ka Bol Bala, Shabana Azmi-Ishq Ishq Ishq, Rati Agnihotri-Swami Dada, Padmini Kolhapure-Swami Dada, Taboo-Hum Naujawan, and more.
The notable actors: Ashok Kumar-Jewel Thief, Rajendra Kumar-Mein Tere Liye, Shammi Kapoor-Censor, Randhir Kapoor-Censor, Rishi Kapoor-Love at Time Square, Salman Khan-Love at Time Square, Aamir Khan-Awwal Number, Govinda-Mein Sola Baras Ki, Jackie Shroff-Swami Dada, Sacche ka Bol Bala, Censor, Charge Sheet, Shatrughan Sinha-Prem Pujari, Shareef Badmash, Raj Babbar-Anand aur Anand, Censor, Nasseruddin Shah-Swami Dada, Sau Crore, Charge Sheet, Ajit-Shareef Badmash, Des Perdes Jaaneman, Gangster, Pran-Des Perdes, Amjad Khan-Des Perdes, Lootmaar, Anupam Kher-Sau Crore, Hum Naujawan, Mithun Chakravorty-Swami Dada, Prem Chopra-Prem Pujari, Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Des Perdes, Sachche ka Bol Bala, Sau Crore, Mr Prime Minister, Amrish Puri-Censor, Prem Nath-Ishq Ishq Ishq, Janneman, Mehmood-Des Perdes, Lootmaar, Johnny Walker-Baazi, Aandhiyan, Humsafar, Taxi Driver. The list is really long.
And now onto the latest masterpiece, a thriller that he hopes to out-do the immortality of Guide. Even his worst detractors wish him a hit. So let’s hope Charge Sheet does become his swansong.
By Suresh Kohli