Jackie Shroff has designated himself the biggest fan of Dev Anand.
“People say I copy his mannerisms. I don’t think anyone can be like Dev Saab. He was one of his kind.The way he wore his shirts and scarves. He was the most debonair star of our cinema” extols Jackie Shroff.
Till Dev Anand’s last his self-declared Biggest Fan Jackie Shroff continued to connect with his idol once every fortnight.
Says Jackie, “It was a selfimposed rule. I had to catch up with Dev Saab, had to speak to him. It wasn’t for him, it was for my own sake. I hero-worshipped Dev Saab, from the first to the last. It was genetical. My mother was his biggest fan. She passed it on to me.My earliest memory is of being sent to school by my mother with that famous ‘Dev Anand Puff’ hair. My mother used to comb my hair like Dev Saab every morning. And I made sure it stayed in place.”
Luckily for Jackie he didn’t go with the Dev puff to meet his idol.
Laughs Jackie, “No no no. By then Dev Saab’s hairstyle had changed. I first met his son Suniel. We were both doing Hindi diction classes together. Suniel suggested I meet his father for a film that Dev Saab was making. I pinched myself in disbelief. Coming face-to-face with one’s idol is a very tough thing to do. There’s every likelihood of disappointment. Not with me. My love for Dev Saab continued over the years. There was no one like him. He was everything to me. ”
Interestingly Jackie ended up playing henchman to Shakti Kapoor in Dev Anand’s Swami Dada after being offered the second lead. “That’s right. I was to play the second lead to Dev Saab. Then he got a big star (Mithun Chakraborty) for that role. He felt sorry for me. He told me there was one role still open. I had to stand quietly behind Shakti Kapoor throughout Swami Dada. Was there any question of saying No??? Did anyone ever say No to Dev Saab? From that time when I did Swami Dada for Dev Saab, then my jump to a leading man in Dev Saab’s Saache Ka Bol Bala, to Censor and Chargesheet…Dev Saab just had to ask. I’d blindly do any role big small, cameo, walk-on for him. ”
Prod Jackie about the quality of Dev Anand’s later cinema and Jackie sneers, “Who cared about what his films were or were not? I worked in his films because of him. And I went to see his films only for him. That man even at that age was so innocent, so free of guile and wickedness.Dev Saab was a complete pureheart. And his fans knew it. I being the biggest.He was the eternal wanderer. A true hero. ”
Dev Anand was also Jackie’s spiritual guru. “He taught me so much about life and about cinema and about goodness heart and kindness to others. I never ever saw him raise his voice at anyone. I try to be like that. People say I resemble him physically. That’s the biggest compliment. I certainly copied him in my romantic songs. You know, I was a complete wild street-kid when I came into movies. It was Dev Saab’s screen presence that taught me how to romance women on screen. Off screen I was known to be quite junglee. ”
Dev Anand’s one refrain to Jackie? “Koi nayee ladki hai kya? Achcha chalo ussko bhejo mere paas…Dev Saab was constantly on the look-out for new talent.The fact that some of his most prized female discoveries chose not to work with him after he groomed and made them into stars, really really hurt him. Dev Saab would search for new girls on the rebound. That’s the sad truth. ”
Jackie was preparing to direct a film for Dev Anand when the evergreen superstar passed away.
“Would you believe it, he offered me a film to direct under the Navketan banner! A film for a banner that gave us Guide and Tere Mere Sapne. Can you imagine what it meant to me to be asked by my hero to be part of his dream? I think my life was fulfilled the day Dev Saab asked me to direct a film for him. ”
Jackie’s spiritual guru sent him hand-written letters offering advice and wisdom. “They are my most precious possessions. They’ll be handed over to my son one day. I’ve them laminated and on the wall.One day when I build my home in the hills (where I belong) these framed letters would occupy pride of place. Dev Saab loved the hills. We were shooting for Chargesheet in Mahabaleshwar when he tasked me to move to the hills. I will one day. Like I said, no one says no to Dev Saab. “