Dev Anand loved women. And I mean that in a pure sublime way. There was nothing sleazy about his attachments. He fell in love with his heroines, much in the same way that a painter falls for his model or the poet for his muse. Of all the heroines that Dev wooed and won on screen, the one that he loved the most was Suraiya. He lost her to her over-protective grandmother who just wouldn’t let a Hindu marry her precious grand-daughter.
Religion was never a problem between the debonair Dev Saab and Zeenat Aman. Her overweening ambitions were. After a flop debut in O P Ralhan’s Hulchal, she was re-launched in style by Dev Anand in Hare Rama Hare Krishna. They played siblings in the film and made such a strong impact that all of their subsequent films together as a conventional romantic pair — Heera Panna, Ishq Ishq Ishq, Darling Darling, Kalaabaz, Prem Shastra, Warrant — were miserable flops.
Yet out of his love and a sense of loyalty, Dev Saab continued to work with Zeenat as his co-star until one fine day he woke up to the announcement that his ‘Zeeenie’ had signed a film with Raj Kapoor.
That she had decided to work with his arch-rival did not hurt Dev Saab as much as the fact that she didn’t tell him about the big career move. Zeenat not only shifted allegiance, bag and baggage to the rival camp, she also ended her relationship with Dev Saab to do Rak Kapoor’s Satyam Shivum Sunderam.
The relationship lasted for as long as the film was shot. Recalling her association with Dev Anand, Zeenat Aman once told me, “What does one say about a man who meant so much to one’s career? Dev Saab was indefatigable. To the end he continued to believe in what he did. Do you know, I was on the way out of the country with my mother to join my stepfather in Germany when I got that call from Dev Saab’s office to do Hare Rama Hare Hare Krishna? It wasn’t as though the role fell into my lap. I got to play Janice in Hare Rama Hare Krishna came to me almost by default. Not too many established actresses wanted to play Dev Saab’s sister specially when Mumtaz had already been signed to play the romantic lead. Tanuja had almost been finalized, then she opted out. That’s where I came in. Through O P Ralhan Saab I got in touch with Amarjeet, an associate of Dev Saab at Navketan.”