As I stood there shaking hands with him when he came to receive the Dada Saheb Phalke award, the years seemed to melt away. It was as though I was in my pre-teens, having just watched Nau Do Gyarah , Munimji , Paying Guest or whichever film I first saw starring Dev Anand.
I can remember going straight into the bathroom, wetting my hair and trying to work up the stylish pompadour. Dev Anand was my absolute favourite screen personality and I religiously caught every single film he ever made.
My friends say I am an inveterate optimist, that's why I came back to India after nearly two decades in the US. The optimism has its roots in my early exposure to Dev Anand's films.
Since the late 1950s and through the early 1960s, he was my favourite hero, not necessarily because he was a good actor but because he stood for hope.
While Dilip Kumar represented the tragedy of the Indian condition, Raj Kapoor the misbegotten ideology that messed up India, Dev Anand stood for what India could be, smiling and stylish with a song on the lips.
Dev Anand represents the most modern of all creative idioms: Find talented people and let them grow. Through his organisation, Navketan, we were introduced to Guru Dutt, S D Burman and dozens of others, who entertained generations with movies and music that today are part of our memories.
About the time Dev Anand began to be recognised as an entertainer, the operative mood in Indian films was down-in-the-mouth, a victim of the colonial experience. The theme song was Duniya mein hum ayein hain to jeena hi padega, jeevan hai agar zahar to peena hi padega .
Along came Dev Anand with his worldview expressed best in the song from the film Hum Dono : Barbadiyon ka shok manana fuzul tha, har fikr ko dhuein mein udata chala gaya .
His films filled me with hope, the ultimate global value that was in short supply in India at that time.
Congratulations on the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, and thank you Dev Saheb, you instilled me with optimism about India before I reached my teens.
In the words of your immortal song: Jeevan ke safar mein raahi... de jaate hain yaadein . Indeed, you have given me, a fellow traveller in the world, a rich lode of memories, never mind your lyricist's other lines, which I have left out in the ellipsis.
This article appeared in The Times of India on February 16, 2004.
I am posting it as a tribute to my personal hero, Dev Anand, who died on December 4, 2011.