Along with Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand completes the trio of the top male stars from the 1950s and 1960s who established the dominant acting style of post-Independence Hindi cinema. Born in Gurdaspur, Punjab, as Devdutt Pishorimal Anand to a well-off family (his father was a lawyer) Anand received a BA. with honors in English Literature from Government College, Lahore (now Pakistan) and then went to Bombay to join elder brother Chetan in the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA). He began his acting career at Prabhat Studios in Hum Ek Hain (We’re All One), and even did a film for Bombay Talkies, Ziddi (Stubborn), but his first big hit was Baazi produced by Navketan Films, the production company Anand started with his brother Chetan in 1949, and directed by Guru Dutt whom he had met at Prabhat.
Unlike the tragic romantic persona no Dilip Kumar or the Chaplinesque naïf of Raj Kapoor, Anand’s dominant screen persona was of a suave, worldly, smooth-talking man about town. Many of his successful roles were morally ambiguous characters living on the margins of respectable society: the cardsharp in Baazi, the smuggler in Jaal, the pickpocket in House Number 44, the black-marketeer in Kala Bazaar, and the convict in Bambai ka Babu. His more mannered acting deviated from the celebrated and lauded naturalist style of Ashok and Dilip Kumar, and therefore his acting abilities were challenged on occasion by Indian critics who accused him of being a star more than an actor. With his hairstyle and clothes, Anand was a dominant style icon of the 1950s and 1960s with many young men imitating his trademark puff and buttoned-up shirts.
Anand turned director in 1970 with Prem Pujari (Love’s Worshipper), and his Hare Rame Hare Krishna about hippies and drug culture in South Asia introduced Zeenat Aman who transformed the image of the heroine in Indian cinema. Anand has been dubbed the “Evergreen Hero” by the press and the film industry as he continues to produce and direct films starring himself along with young men and women making their acting debuts. While these films are not the commercial successes that he once enjoyed, Anand always manages to find financing due to the goodwill that he enjoys in the film industry and his status as a cultural icon. In 2001, Anand received the honor of Padma Bhushan from the Indian government.