The gorgeous Mumtaz who recently celebrated her 75th birthday , fondly remembers one of her favourite co-stars Dev Anand from her beautiful home in London.
“If he was with us, how old would he be today? 99? For me he was forever 18. When he died here in London I couldn’t bring myself to go see him for the last time, although he was just a few blocks away from where I stay. To imagine him lifeless is inconceivable even today,” says Mumtaz with a sigh, recalling her long association with the evergreen superstar.
“We did only two films together. But we knew one another for much longer.Dev Saab’s brother Vijay Anand brought us together. Vijay asked Dev Saab if he’d work with me. Dev Saab said. ‘Why not? She is such a beautiful girl.’ We were paired together for the first time in Vijay Anand’s Tere Mere Sapne.Why not before? You know how this industry is. Dev Saab had his own camp his own favourite heroines like Waheeda Rehman and Hema Malini. I was considered Rajesh Khanna’s heroines.That’s the way it was,” Mumtaz says with a take-it-or-leave-it nonchalance.
She consider Tere Mere Sapne her most difficult and most challenging part. “I should have got the award for Tere Mere Sapne instead of Khilona. Khilona was very melodramatic hence easier to do. In Tere Mere Sapne I had to underplay my character throughout. It was very tough. And Vijay Anand shot me and Dev Saab in tight close-ups in those two beautiful songs Jeevan ki bagiya mehkegi and Hai main kasam lee. I felt very uncomfortable”
Why uncomfortable? “Because the camera was almost kissing my cheeks. I felt very insecure. I had never been shoot so upclose before.Dev saab was a big help. He was a legend by the time worked we together.I was a big star too by then. But we worked together like partners in spite of this being our first film together.”
Next Mumtaz was offered Hare Rama Hare Krishna by Dev Anand. “He offered me both the female leads, the sister and the love interest. I chose the love interest, though I knew it was a far less important role. I know Zeenat Aman benefited immensely from Hare Rama Hare Krishna. It was a brother-sister story. How could I play Dev Saab’s sister after playing his wife in Tere Mere Sapne and doing such intimate scenes with him in that film? The audience would have rejected us as siblings. I agreed to do the other role instead. Maine toh sirf Dev Saab ke liye haan ke diya . He insisted . I am glad I did Hare Rama Hare Krishna. We shot at a stretch in Kathmandu for a month.It was a whole lot of fun.”
Mumtaz reveals that Dev Anand had a special name for her. “He called me Mumsy. Every morning when we shot together he would call me to his makeup room and ask me to choose the handkerchief to be worn around his neck. And he would wear the one that I chose every morning. It was a very big thing for me. I don’t know of anyone else who got to choose Dev Saab’s handkerchiefs ,and that too morning after morning.”
She has only one regret vis-à-vis Dev Anand. “I wish we had done more films together. Just being around him was so inspiring. His endless energy was infectious.When I go, I want to go like Dev Saab, alert agile and ageless.”