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Dev Anand, Bollywood's stylish Peter Pan dies

London: Legendary Bollywood actor Dev Anand once said that a song from his film Hum Dono gave him the philosophy he has lived by all his life. As the last strains of 'Mai zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya' fade, they leave a void in memory no other star of the Indian film industry can ever fill in grace, compassion and style.

Dev Anand, or Dev Saab as he was fondly called, died in his sleep late Saturday at the Washington Mayfair Hotel in London where he was staying. He was 88. His son Sunil Anand had accompanied him to London for treatment. The hotel staff called an ambulance after family alerted them, but he died before he could be taken to hospital.

The people central to the octogenarian's life, his fans, celebrate Anand's life for his indomitable spirit, old world charm and spirited energy that carried him through his failed romances, career successes, new ventures and frail health till the end.

In his life he has fulfilled several roles; that of actor Guru Dutt's closest friend, Taxi Driver star Kalpana Kartik's husband and mentor for numerous youngsters in the film industry. In his death, Dharamdev Pishorimal Anand is remembered by co-stars and fans as "a man who never said never" and worked till his last breath.

He was born in Gurdaspur of undivided Punjab to a well-to-do advocate Pishorimal Anand on September 26, 1923, Anand graduated in English literature from the Government Law College in Lahore. Even at the height of stardom, Anand never forgot how he started his career - as a military censor office at Churchgate at a salary of Rs 160 – that helped him remain grounded.

When Anand made his debut as an actor in 1946 in 'Hum Ek Hain', little did he realise that he was standing on the brink of a career that will span six decades and see phenomenally hit films made immortal by their flamboyant themes and music.

Before the advent of technicolour, Anand made his appearance in black and white films that flattered his height, charming smile and a pair of dark, brooding eyes. He had his biggest competitor in the late actor Shammi Kapoor but he held his own through a series of heart-warming, romantic roles.

Often compared to Hollywood icon Gregory Peck whom he emulated in his mannerisms and hair style early in his career, Anand was the suave and urban icon for millions of fans. Romancing generations of heroines from Suraiya to Hema Malini, the star of Guide and Paying Guest set more than just a benchmark for actors to come after him – he raised the bar for personal achievement, professional ethics and grace.

By the time his 'Ziddi' was released in 1947 he was a superstar and never had to look back. From 'Baazi' in 1951 to 'Chargesheet' in 2011, it was an untrammeled joyride through six decades of Bollywood. Anand oversaw the growth of the Hindi film industry from the black and white era to technicolour and left behind a unique legacy.

He acted, directed and produced till the end with his last film 'Chargesheet' being released this year when he was all of 88 and still raring to go, as ebullient and ageless as ever.

He was the unchallenged king of the black and white era with movies such as 'Munimji','CID' and 'Hum Dono' and then moved into the coloured age with classics like 'Jewel Thief' and 'Johny Mera Naam'. He provided the launch pad for some of tinsell town's most remembered head-turners such as Zeenat Aman and Tina Munim.

Active till his last breath with his film projects, Dev Anand was Bollywood's true evergreen living legend. He acted as the lead in more than 110 movies. His 2011 release 'Chargesheet', in which he acted and directed as well, became his swan song. The prolific star also released an autobiography Romancing with Life in September 2007.

Fame brought Anand his own share of heartbreaks. While millions of Indian women went to bed with his photographs under their pillows, Anand himself lost his heart to the superstar of the era and co-star, Suraiya. Admittedly, he also came close to proposing to his Hare Rama Hare Krishna co-star Zeenat Aman. But he married Kalpana Kartik after their successful film Taxi Driver.

"I never give myself a chance to get depressed. I think ahead," he would say.

His first colour film, 'Guide', which was directed by his brother Vijay Anand, with Waheeda Rehman in 1965, became a cult movie and is remembered as one of his best works.

President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Speaker Meira Kumar joined millions to condole Dev Anand's death. "Dev Anand was a great artiste who entertained generations of cinema lovers over five decades. He was an embodiment of a life long passion for acting and film making. I join millions of his fans in mourning his death," Singh said in his statement.

A condolence message from film star Rajinikant's family said "Devanandji...we had the proud priviledge of taking your blessings, shaking hands and giving you a hug as we humbly offered "The Legend" award to you two years ago...all of us here who were part of that evening are so moved today..We salute your zest for life and your spirited energy for will always stay in our hearts. We love you so so much and we will miss you too too much...our heartfelt condolences to all family members."

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa said "I was deeply shocked and grieved to learn of the passing away of the legendary 88 year old cine actor Shri Dev Anand. In his passing away, India has lost a great actor, an illustrious son and a true patriot. His demise is an irreparable loss to the film industry as well as to the nation. Shri Dev Anand's death has left a void that can never be filled. I wish to convey my deepest condolences to his family and pray that the almighty may give them the strength to bear this great losswith courage and fortitude."

A close aide of the deceased actor, Chandra Shekhar, (himself 89), said he was 'shaken' when he heard the news from a friend, the first thing this morning.

For his outstanding contribution to Indian cinema, Dev Anand was honoured with the prestigious the 'Padma Bhushan' in 2001 and 'Dada Saheb Phalke Award' in 2002. He co-produced the English Version of "Guide" with the Nobel Laureate Pearl S Buck ("The Good Earth"). Anand won two Filmfare Awards in 1958 for his performance in the film "Kala Paani" and in 1966 for his performance in "Guide", an adaptation of R K Narayan's novel by the same name. It went on to win Filmfare Awards in five other categories including "Best Film" and "Best Director" and was sent as India's entry for the Oscars in the foreign film category that year.

Anand will be remembered for his boyish charm, his trademark hairstyle, his sloping walk, rapid dialogue delivery and most of all for his indomitable spirit that serves as an inspiration for generations of actors after his time. Bollywood has truly lost one of its favourite sons.