Although acknowledged by peers and hailed as trailblazers by generations that follow, many influential artists are often relegated to the side-lines. Vijay Anand is an example as good as any when it comes to this bunch. The man behind masterpieces such as Guide (1965), Jewel Thief (1967), Johny Mera Naam (1970), Tere Mere Sapne (1971) and the hypnotic Teesri Manzil (1966) is not as readily named among the greatest of his era.
It might have to do with the looming shadow of the larger-than-life personalities that surrounded him. Anand constantly battled the overwhelming attention that his elder brother, and in many ways also his mentor, Dev Anand, attracted, but also, in the manner of speaking, saw him take away his credit.
While Anand’s brilliance was a much-discussed subject in the 1990s and 2000s, when cinema-conversant generation of film school-educated movie makers dominated Bombay cinema, one rarely got to know the man behind the screen credit. Goldie: The Man and His Movies offers a fantastic insight into the heart and mind of the avant garde auteur, who managed to stand his own among contemporaries that included the likes of Guru Dutt, Raj Khosla, BR Chopra, Raj Kapoor and the then Young Turks such as Yash Chopra, Manmohan Desai.
Fondly called ‘Goldie’, Vijay Anand practically ‘saved’ his elder brother Dev Anand’s film production company, Navketan Films, which was started to help their eldest brother, Chetan Anand, find box office success. Chetan Anand’s Neecha Nagar (1944), the co-recipient of the first-ever Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival with Rome, Open City, got him laurels but found no takers in Bombay. Dev, a successful star, launched Afsar (1950) to promote Chetan; however, the production sank at the box office. The 19-year-old Goldie then came up with the idea for Taxi Driver (1954), and the film became a runaway hit. Goldie had lost his mother when he was a toddler, and it was Chetan and his wife, Uma, who brought him up initially.
Later, Goldie also spent some time at his sister’s home with her children and finally, it was in Bombay that Dev took him under his wings. An immensely gifted writer, Vijay Anand wrote and directed several plays while studying in college and made quite a name for himself. Films were a natural step, and while Goldie fancied acting, it was writing and directing that took centre stage.
In the 1990s, after the spotlight had long shifted away from him and Vijay Anand had stopped directing his brother, he gave a series of interviews to Anitaa Padhye. It was perhaps for the first time that the filmmaker introspected about his life and career.
Reading Padhye's book, which was originally published many years ago in Marathi, one gets a sense of the disillusionment that inundated this gifted filmmaker throughout his life. A sense of abandonment, probably due to being shunted around in his formative years, appeared to have instilled within Goldie a desire to control all aspects of his life.
While his personal life had many ups and downs that included a doomed marriage and feeling let down by spiritual gurus such as Rajneesh and UG Krishnamurti, Goldie's professional life also featured trouble with peers.
Goldie often got attached with an identity of being a ‘Navketan’ employee that kept people such as Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor at bay. Also, a series of health problems often made him look at life in a light different from his elder brother, Dev, whose joie de vivre was legendary.
For cinephiles, there is perhaps no one who comes close to the all-around talent of Vijay Anand. In an era where films were known either by the director or the producer, Goldie’s best was credited to Dev Anand, who often both starred and produced the film. Did this scar the filmmaker? Could Vijay Anand be a far greater filmmaker than he was had his destiny not been linked to Dev saahab’s?
Film enthusiasts and commentators and fans have asked such questions of Vijay Anand for years. Anitaa Padhye’s book is a must-read for those who seek answers to such questions and more when it comes to Goldie Anand.