Bollywood’s ‘Debonair Dev’ dies at 88

(AFP) Bollywood romantic hero and fashion icon Dev Anand has died aged 88, prompting a flood of tributes on Sunday from across India’s Hindi-language cinema industry.

The Press Trust of India news agency said in a report from London that Anand, who with Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar reigned supreme in the golden age of Bollywood, died of a heart attack in the British capital on Saturday.

He had been in the city for a medical check-up and had been in poor health for the last few days, the agency said, quoting anonymous family sources.

Often compared to the US actor Gregory Peck because of his matinee idol looks, “Debonair Dev” was best known for his boundless energy and passion for film. He starred in more than 100 movies.

He made his debut in “Hum Ek Hain” (We Are One) alongside his friend Guru Dutt in 1946, and was still working well into old age, starring in “Chargesheet” — made by his own production company — this year.

“I cannot live without my films, my cinema and my work,” he told in 2007.

“For me, until I die, movie-making and acting will always be my first and last love.”

Current stars from Amitabh Bachchan and Anupam Kher to Shabana Azmi and Shah Rukh Khan mourned Anand’s passing on the micro-blogging site Twitter, praising his youthful optimism and joie de vivre.

Kher said he was “kind, passionate, courageous, forthright, charming, encouraging, contemporary, always a leader and a great human. Will miss him”.

The writer Salman Rushdie wrote: “RIP Dev Anand. I grew up watching your films. Sorry to say goodbye.”

Dev Anand was born on September 26, 1923 in Gurdaspur in the Punjab area of British-ruled India that is now part of modern-day Pakistan, and was educated in Lahore.

He came to India’s film and entertainment capital Bombay (now Mumbai) to forge an acting career and soon found roles at the famous Bombay Talkies and Filmistan studios.

His fame reached its height through films like “Munimji” (Accountant, 1955), “C.I.D.” (1956), “Kalapani” (Black Water, 1958), “Love Marriage” (1959), “Kala Bazaar” (Black Market, 1960), “Hum Dono” (Both of Us, 1961) and “Guide” (1966).

“Hum Dono” was re-released in colour earlier this year.

Anand’s films frequently tackled contemporary issues in a way that was then pioneering but has since become commonplace. Off-screen, he was also politically active.

In the mid-1970s, he headed a group of celebrities who opposed then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s emergency rule, and briefly launched his own political party.

Anand was seen as a style icon, never without his trademark scarf or the latest fashions. His romantic conquests were catalogued in purple prose in his autobiography, “Romancing With Life”.

He helped launch the careers of young actresses like Zeenat Aman, who starred in “Hare Raama Hare Krishna” — his critique of the hippie movement — and Mumtaz, who appeared in “Tere Mere Sapne” (Our Dreams), both in 1971.

Another was Tina Munim, who starred in Anand’s last recognised hit “Des Pardes” (Home and Away) in 1978 and later married the industrialist Anil Ambani.

Anand had a supreme self-confidence and energy that drove his many acting, producing and directing projects, believing he had a unique creativity and vision to share.

Anand, who received India’s third-highest civilian honour in 2001 and earned a string of film industry awards, married the actress Kalpana Kartik (real name Mona Singha) in 1954. They had two children, a son and a daughter.

His brothers, Chetan and Vijay, were both film directors. Their sister, Sheel Kanta Kapur, was the mother of Shekhar Kapur, the Oscar-nominated director of “Elizabeth” and “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”.

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