There’s an interesting story behind your first meeting with Dev Anand.
His son Sunil Anand took me to meet him. I think he had seen one of my advertisements in the morning and so when I was standing in front of him with his son he said, “Subah Subah tumhari tasveer dekhi thi, shaam ko tum mere saamne khade ho. Tumhe ek role dunga main (I saw your photograph in the morning and you’re standing in front of me in the evening. I’ll give you a role).” And then he offered me a role. It was so quick that I didn’t even realise it. I got the role of the second lead. Obviously, the lead was Dev Saab. And then after 15 days he called me. So I went to meet him again. He said that I have given the role to Mithun but still there is a role for you. From the second lead hero I became the second lead villain to Shakti Kapoor sir. 15 days mein mera demotion ho gaya (In 15 days I had been relegated)…
Did you protest?
For me it was a blessing from Dev Saab that his hands were on my head. He laid the foundation for my acting career. He sowed the seeds.
Having worked with him, in which role did you like Dev Anand most, director or the actor?
Dev Saab was just magic as a co-actor and director. He looked after me like a child and guided me throughout. Being with such a legend you cannot be judgemental. He was a legend who gave me the opportunity to act in his film and watching him was magic.
Did you imbibe any qualities or habits of Dev Anand?
I may have imbibed something because Khalid Mohammed had said in his first interview that he (Jackie) is so much like Dev Anand; his speech and everything. Subconsciously, I definitely imbibed his mannerism. My mother used to style my hair like him. I used to love his songs. He has always been my hero, who I looked up to. My mom used to feel that I was like Dev Saab. My mom loved Dev saab and Dharmendra.
How do you look back at your journey with Dev Anand?
It was beautiful, a smooth flow. One would not realise how time flew when you were with Dev Saab. We used to learn from him. I got to see his style from such close quarters; mera naseeb tha (it was destiny). I worked with him in about four to five films. He would always take me in his movies. He would say pahado mein jayenge picture banayenge (we’ll head to the mountains and make movies). And I used to be ready to go with him. I would request other producers and adjust my dates for him; boss ke liye karna hi padta hai (you have to make exceptions for the boss). I had become a star but I used to be in every film he would make so my relationship with him was always there.
You were part of so many of his films, what did he like about you?
I really don’t know but he always took me in his films and I was honoured to be with him. I never asked him but like I told you in the beginning, in my first meeting with him he said he liked my style.
There are many contrasting stories about how Dev Anand used to conduct himself on sets. Some have said he was reserved, others have said he was always bustling. How was your experience?
He used to never sit down, always standing and directing and always active. I remember there is one structure in Panchgani which has a black wall, 15 feet high. He climbed up and asked the cameraman to take a close up. The cameraman asked sir kaise chadhu main (how do I get up there)? Dev Saab said if I can climb, why can’t you? Sir was younger than the youngest.
Any memories of Dev Anand that have stayed with you?
My first meeting with him and that statement that I told you, subah tumhari tasveer dekhi sham ko tum mere saamne ho (saw your photograph in the morning and you’re standing in front of me in the evening). Also there was an action scene I had to perform but I was unable to do. The fight master got angry with me. Dev Saab intervened and said take it easy, naya ladka hai, seekh jayega, usko batao kaise karne hai (he’s a new kid, he’ll learn, teach him how it’s done), don’t shout at him. That is what I learnt from him and I apply that in my case to any junior who comes into the industry. I treat him like my child.
Would you ever like to remake any of Dev Anand’s films?
Almost all his films like ‘Tere Mere Sapne’, ‘Guide’, ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna‘. He asked me to direct a film for Navketan films. He told me I will be there with you, direct one film for us.
Did he mean to mentor you?
I wonder even in his book he wrote one and a half pages for me. In 60 years of his career in films he wrote a page on me. There were so many people but he wrote those two pages for me. He gave me an autograph and wrote there is a touch of spirituality in our relationship. I have loved him since my childhood and I am lucky to have got a chance to work with him.