The shooting of Lootmaar was in progress when its all-in-one writer-producer-actor-director Dev Anand heard that a cinematographer from abroad was in the city. “I can’t recall his name, but on a whim, Dev sahab wanted him to shoot a sequence for his film,” shares his long-time associate Mohan Churiwala, adding that while the cameraman was easily persuaded, they needed a Mitchell camera for him instead of the regular ARRI used by the film’s cinematographer, DK Prabhakar.
When told that Raj Kapoor had one but didn’t give it out for shoots, he sent his son, Suneil, to the showman, requesting him to let them borrow the camera for three-four days. “Without asking any questions, Raj sahab asked the camera to be carried out to Suneil’s car. After the shoot, Suneil went back with a blank cheque from Dev sahab. Raj sahab sent him back saying he had lent his camera to his friend and had not rented it out, he refused to charge even a rupee,” marvels Churiwala.
Talking about the bond between the two actors, he remembers Dev sahab telling him once that if he called Raj Kapoor at 5.30 pm and asked him to be at his office by 6 pm, his friend would only ask questions after turning up on the dot. It was a courtesy Dev sahab extended to him too.
Such was the camaraderie between the duo, that whenever Dev sahab shot at RK Studio, Raj Kapoor’s personal make-up room would be opened up for him. “It had green walls and was lined with photographs, almost like a shrine to his cinematic memories, like the property room, which housed the iconic Joker mask from Mera Naam Joker, along with costumes from every RK film, including the sandals and jewellery worn by the leading ladies and other artefacts,” Churiwala reminisces.
The studio’s iconic Stage One, where films like Awaara, Shree 420, Mera Naam Joker, Satyam Shivam Sundaram were shot, as also the property room and other parts of the studio, were gutted in a fire in September 2017 and it has since been sold.
Back in the good old days, Churiwala recalls how they were treated like royalty when filming Mr Prime Minister at RK Studio. “There were no time restrictions on us, Dev sahab could shoot for as long he wished, with the manager constantly checking to see if he needed anything,” he shares, adding that even though the Kapoors always rolled out the red carpet for him, the actor-filmmaker, tired out by the drive to Chembur, preferred to shoot at Mehboob Studio in Bandra, which was closer home.
There too he had his makeup room and a property room. “But after his art director, TK Desai, following a run-in with the owners was banned from Mehboob Studio, Dev sahab chose to put up sets at RK Studio, Filmistan and Film City rather than drop Desai who had worked with him since Tere Ghar Ke Samne in 1963; his pub set for Des Pardes fetching him a Filmfare award. That was the kind of gentleman Dev sahab was,” he says appreciatively of the evergreen star, who would have turned 98 on September 26.
However, his journey ended with a memorial service at Mehboob Studio on December on 16, 2011, where all shoots were cancelled for the day. Dev Anand passed away at the age of 88, in his sleep while in London on December 3, 2011. His memorial service was held on December 16, 2011 and his ashes were brought home.
The service was attended by several of his leading ladies, including Waheeda Rehman, Asha Parekh, Zeenat Aman, Hema Malini, Tina Munim and Padmini Kolhapure. Among the actors present were Vinod Khanna, Aamir Khan, Fardeen Khan, Farooq Shaikh and Abhishek Bachchan.
“Raj Kapoor’s three sons — Randhir, Rishi and Rajiv — were there too. Dev sahab, who didn’t enjoy socialising much as he was wary of crowds, had attended Raj Kapoor’s birthday bash every year where he would meet Dilip Kumar. When Rishi invited him to his daughter Riddhima’s wedding, he was there too. By then his friend was gone, but their friendship didn’t die,” Churiwala says emotionally.