Sunday, March 09, 2008

Hay you (or The Wizard of Nod)

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.


  1. Never could figure out how that stupid old fart could claim to copy Gregory Peck.
    The scarecrow's a good shot.

  2. that is one of my favorite stories ever! must have read the book a gazillion times the movie better than the book? will try and get my hands on the DVD... thanx...

  3. Love the part where the lady who played the Witch recalls with a deadpan expression how her agent told her she fit the part perfectly.

  4. are so right. He IS the scarecrow!

  5. Dev Anand looks like a poor man's Peck though and acted like The Scarecrow thus giving Indian audiences the inimitable experience of Peck playing The Scarecrow, that too for more than half a century! I think he should receive a Padma Bhushan or Vibhushan just for that, unless he already has.

  6. funny . btw where can i buy this DVD From ? Palika ?

  7. Where did your 'Pregnant King'post go?

  8. about the post that came after this one... the book review.
    i thought its absence now was because of a glitch at my end.
    but seeing the previous comment - i guess not.

    may one ask - what happened?


  9. Prashant: I got it from a Planet M - I don't mind buying DVDs of old, G-rated films from the official outlets, because censorship isn't a problem with such films. But it might be available at Palika too.

    Vineeta, Nina: because of a last-minute change, the review wasn't carried in this week's Tehelka. Will republish the post in a few days, when the official version is out.

  10. I agree that what Dev Anand says is often self-obsessing rambling and I would not rank him as one of India's best actors...but I find it hard to look critically at Dev Anand's acting style. Rather than see his acting as being akin to a straw-brained scarecrow, I take great nostalgic joy in seeing old songs from his movies in the 50s and some from the 60s too. (The slide had begun in the 60s and it is unbelievable that he continues to make movies for another 4 decades!!). Actually, more than nostalgia, I think I am completely sold on Dev because of his optimism and moreso, his passion for life.

    I remember seeing an interview with Dev Anand a few years back. And this 36 year old really was inspired by the 80+ year old's joie-de- vivre for life -- still the same passion for life. I paraphrase from memory but he said something like: "I have lots to do still.. I have many ideas...many things to achieve...many more stories to tell...".

    And I thought to myself.. wow! If he can have such a passion for life, without once thinking that he is 82 or 83 and perhaps does not have many years to live, why should I, as a 36+ year old, think that the best years of my life are over and the opportunity to achieve something big has passed me by.

    If that is not inspirational, what is! (And now I am going to stop..because like the man I am praising, I am now rambling. :))

  11. well..just to check the truthness of this blog..i ve to seee ray bolger..
    THIs is a senseless blame that dev modelled himself on wat ray din in the wizard of oz..
    DEv is a great stylist actor and neither he copied gregory peck nor anyone else..ppl say coz they have to say something..
    ITs not that i m not a gregory peck fan..i m..but reality is that dev style is unique in itself and he must have been inspired by gregory at some point of time in his life but he later developed his own style of swayin head and hands..we are proud of him.....
    we cant compare him with gregory in the same way gregory cant be cmpared with him..both actors prformed in different cultures..
    Dev anand is as good as any international star few ppl know that many hollywood ppl including pearl buck tried to get him in their plots in later 60s..
    the guide was only successfully made..
    they why we say like that..Coz we r mentally not free yet ....we dont lyk our culture our stars our cinemas..ppl lyk this blogger has incurable inferiority complex..
    so plz leave comparing dev wid any hollywood star or comparing raj wid charlie..DOnt do that..see guide and hum dono and enjoy..(also watch roman holiday of gregory peck)..thanx..bye..

  12. I agree wid above post..people comment or crictisize only icons lyk dev..saying him an old fart is so ugly and lyk spitting on the moon(to get it back on their faces).. i think legends lyk him dont get affected . he is one of the most celebrated stars comparable only wid raj dilip and amitabh..many actors copy him but no one could become as successful as is not material that what things became inspirational for him to develop his legendary style..loosers talk..for us indians he is far better than gregory..this is only truth for india regarding dev vs gregory issue..wish him happy birthday..

  13. these persons are idiot saying dev is so and so....
    first see his films try his charishma den compare him with boring international star..