Dev Anand’s ‘Chargesheet’
It has been ready and in the cans for almost two years now for want of buyers. No one except for the octogenarian writer-producer-director-editor-lyricist and, of course, the leading man himself knows what he has done. For unlike most others who have trade trial runs of their about-to-release movies to gauge audience reaction, a Navketan production was always a closely guarded secret till the initial years of the hero himself started to wield the megaphone. It was like a packaged product the quality of which could be felt only after it was put to use. Sadly, down the years after successive flops hardly any distributors demonstrate an inkling of faith in the company’s new product despite numerous private screenings the film trade calls ‘trials’. Yet, a zillion hats off to the maker’s irresistible charm even at the age of 88 that he manages to see his prized product to the theatres across the country. While a single flop makes another producer duck under cover, and take to the ‘bottle’ to drown his sorrows, Dev Anand continues to scale newer lower depths, the quality and content being the least importance.
That’s height of arrogance, or the ultimate narcissistic attribute. Exactly three years ago when asked, soon after his return from Cannes after a special screening of Guide, he said: “I was myself mesmerised by the innovative sets and structure of the film and the way the story moved. I wish Goldie was alive.” When persisted, he said: “Every film I make is fiction. Give me a two-hour gripping screenplay and I will make a film (he writes his own screenplays). A thought is not enough (ultimately that is what it is reduced to). Besides, I am always trying to make a better film than Guide. My new film Chargesheet is a product of my creative mind. Who knows it might be better, and a bigger hit than Guide.” Not many outside the Hindi film industry today know that both Chetan and Goldie themselves aspired to be actors themselves, and unsuccessfully faced arc lights both as leading men and character actors. Talking once in the context of Dev and Goldie, veteran actor Pran confided: “One was a brilliant director who lost his way in trying to become an actor; the other was a successful actor who never saw his charm wane in trying to be a director.”
Sixteen flops of the eighteen films directed in three decades, beginning with Prem Pujari in 1970 (not including three duds made under publicist Amarjeet’s Nalanda Films banner: Teen Devian, Gambler and Prem Shastra though credit cards carried names of Amarjeet and B R Ishara as directors). “I don’t live in the past,” he is often heard proclaiming. “My energy doesn’t come from Red Bull. It comes from people like you, my fans, my own creativity, and my own feelings. I want to share something to the world which nobody else has. All my thinking is original. I have tremendous energy when I am at work. Chargesheet is the best example. I am geared up, excited and raring to go. I will be sitting on top of the mountain and wait for what the world has to say.” But the truth is he is never in tinsel town when a new film of his is released. And obviously needs rechargeable energy supplements to wish his disappointments away.
There is no denying this incorrigible optimist quality of sagacity, stamina, strength. The fate of Chargesheet is a foregone conclusion. He must put a stop to what some critics call ‘senile cinema’. But then he also suffers from pangs of obduracy. With all the basic elements that make films succeed missing from his productions, it is doubtful it will make a dent at the box office. There is no denying an originality of thought when he works on a story. The idea is invariably culled out of newspaper headlines that start to stink like any other perishable commodity by the time he completes a ‘quickie’. The script is ready even before the next dawn, complete with dialogue in English subsequently ‘literally’ translated (let grammars be damned). The same is the case with the lyrics. That’s the man’s unquestionable devotion to his work. The problem starts soon after with casting. With no other interest (invaluable traits in human life), he is rearing to go on the floors to keep his batteries charged. By the time this task gets completed with compromises, the original dumped as sour grapes, studio floors booked, filming gets underway in right earnest with the ‘evergreen actor’ calling the shots, himself hardly in front of the camera except for master shots.
Money somehow drops from the skies (he sold part of his residential complex; a small apartment, a cottage in Bengaluru, and lately the FSI of his prized Pali Hill theatre complex; reissue and satellite rights of films). Once much of the film is canned, with roles of every actor cut to less than the original size, the star gets into action. Solo. It is mostly own close-ups, interacting even with pillars, peeping out of almost every frame of the rough cut. So far so good. With no buyers in sight, the process of cutting and chopping gets underway because there is nothing else to keep the filmmaker preoccupied. It is now I, me, and myself. Everything else is damned. The film is ready for release. But there are no buyers. It is now back to the editing table to eliminate the rough edges. Any scene can begin or end anywhere. Logic is spurned with the undeserving disdain.
Come September 27 and Chargesheet distributed by Warner Bros India will hit the screens, hopefully, across the globe. Lets hope, wish, pray it turns out to be what he has impatiently waited since the 1975 hit Des Perdes and Chargesheet is a swansong! Let the resonance of the cheer explode, as he wrote in the closing chapter of his autobiography Romancing with Life, “Into vibrations, echoing and reechoing everywhere, scattering themselves and mingling with the breeze that blew them into all directions…deafening applause that gave way to a melodious cheer comprising only two words: ‘DEV ANAND!’…And that one single moment became an eternity for me.”
By Suresh Kohli