Turns out the story about Dev Anand modelling himself on Gregory Peck was a myth. Watching the classic 1939 film of The Wizard of Oz on DVD yesterday, I discovered the truth behind a screen persona that has haunted Hindi cinema for over 60 years now.
Behold Anand's real inspiration: the Scarecrow, as played by Ray Bolger.
It's true! Just watch the film. Especially the scene where Dorothy meets the Scarecrow for the first time and Bolger nods his head in that frantic, goofy style, like his brains are made of straw (which of course they are). And the way he crosses his arms in front of his face so that the right hand is pointing leftwards and the left hand rightwards. The jack-in-the-box mannerisms, and his voice, which often seems just on the verge of turning into a yodel. Imagine what an impact all this would have made on the young Dev when he first saw the film at age 16 or 17. "This is just the kind of thing the studios are looking for," he would have said to himself, shaking his head wildly and rushing to catch the next train to Bombay. This may or may not have been the same train in which he discovered "the opening to an ecstasy", as detailed in this post. (Another post on Mr Anand here.)
P.S. The Wizard of Oz DVD has some great extras, including a documentary on the careful restoration of the film and a "Wonderful Wizard of Oz" storybook read by Angela Lansbury. The film is mostly as great as ever too, though some bits towards the end didn't hold up as well as I'd remembered. (The wizard's chamber looked a bit like a villain's den in a low-budget 1970s Hindi film.) Old age. Sigh.