The celebrated actor Dev Anand would have been 100 years old in 2023. He passed away in 2011 at the age of 88. On Anand’s 84th birthday, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh had released his biography “Romancing With Life”. Romance and creativity remained the very texture of Anand’s life. Coincidently, Prime Minister Dr. Singh shares his birthday.

Dev Anand, even in his advancing years, had a special place in the hearts of people as an ‘evergreen’ hero. He exemplified rare optimism in life, and comprehended it as a succession of fascinating tomorrows.

Generations of Indians grew up seeing him perform on screen. His unforgettable roles in some of the best known movies of his time are landmarks in the world of cinema. He gave depth, dimension and content to what was later known as stardom.

It is said that perception in public life is considered as truth. There was hardly any difference between perception and truth when we see Dev Anand of the mid-20th Century and then of the 21st Century.

He ruled the hearts and minds of the people in India and abroad with his youthfulness, good looks, stylistic nods, and above all his exceptional work as an artist. Who can forget the trademark tilted cap of Dev Anand which is integrally associated with his enduring image as a romantic hero.

Through his cinematic performance spanning half-a-century Anand created an era. He was no formula hero who sang a song, courted a heroine, fought a villain and led a happy life thereafter.

At the backdrop of most of his films remained a valuable social theme marked by originality of thought and action. Entertainment and education remained central to his cinematic creation and action.

His evolution as an artist constituted an endless quest for new ideas. His thirst for something fresh and positive made him more forward looking. What is truly unbelievable about him was his exploration of new realms of endeavour and excellence.

His relentless engagement with production of motion pictures even at an advanced age testified to his verve and creativity. He was not the one who approved of remix and remake which is the dominant trend of our times. Mindless duplication of something done in the past degenerates the mind and destroys creative spirit.

Dev Anand was a protagonist of new vision and new action. His life pulsating with romance was an affirmation of this world view. There was a serious cerebral dimension to his glamorous life marked by cinematic action.

He felt that if he borrowed from the past he would remain intellectually bankrupt. His indictment of the age of remake and remix was born out of his critical and creative approach to life.

An exceptionally optimistic person Anand always looked for new horizons of cinematic expression and excellence. Therefore he was not excited on hearing that his landmark film “Guide” was being remade.

I think Dev Anand was one of the rare ones who acted without the baggage of the past memories. Firmly grounded in reality he was irresistibly driven by the call of the endless and fascinating tomorrows.

In his own words he for the first time looked back to write his autobiography “Romancing With Life”. He looked ahead to churn out new ideas, concepts and thoughts, and looked back to leave behind this superb autobiography for posterity.

The continuous flowering of his creative faculties was enduring. Dev Anand was unstoppable, no matter what his age was. His inexhaustible energy and will power were spell binding. The process of ageing probably propelled him to be more creative and active.

‘Romancing With Life’ conveyed the timeless work of Dev Anand, an ageless wonder. The evergreen hero had something basic and profound about him.

Some of his pronouncements taught us about his romance with philosophy as well. His statement “The mind is capable of climbing as high as any mountain and going as deep as any ocean” brought out the depth and vastness of his outlook. It summed up his limitless zest and love for life at the heart of which remained romance.

But how did he accomplish so much overcoming the weariness of age? Answering a question, “Where do you get energy to go on?” he, like a child, said, “I don’t know”. The words that followed was eloquently expressive of his fertile mind nourished and nurtured in the wonderful world of romance. He said, “I still feel I have a lot of energy. I feel I have done nothing yet, believe me!”

No wonder Dev Anand is hailed as an eternal optimist, ever ready to act regardless of his age. In 2002, at the age of 80 he was honoured with the coveted Dadasaheb Phalke Award for his outstanding contributions to cinema.

For most people that is the evening of life. But such was the optimism of Dev Anand that he could see the rising sun in the evening sky. In his true characteristic way he looked ahead and dedicated the Phalke Award to his future.

His romance with life was truly unparalleled, endless, instructive and inspiring. He was an artist who saw infinity in finite life. He continues to do so even after the disintegration of his physical body and through his enduring legacy rooted in his life and cinematic work.

S. N. Sahu served as Officer on Special Duty to President of India K R Narayanan, Views expressed are the writer’s own.