Chasing the Sun: Dev Anand's Twilight Film Shoot in S.F.
India-West Staff Reporter
SAN FRANCISCO -- Dev Anand may be a powerful man in Bollywood, but even he can't control when the sun goes down.
Anand, along with the stars and crew of his film Love at Times Square, chased the setting sun along Fisherman's Wharf Nov. 5, leaving a few star-struck Indian tourists and bemused locals in their wake.
The crew had spent the early part of the day in San Jose, Calif., shooting scenes on a grassy hill overlooking the Silicon Valley. By the time they arrived at the tourist mecca of Pier 39, the shadows had lengthened and the young American crewmembers were urging the 78-year-old star, "C'mon, Dev! We're losing daylight!"
While waiting for the camera and lights to be set up between shots, Anand described the project bit by bit, before a production assistant would snatch him away.
"Love At Times Square is a movie people should love," he told India-West. "It's an Indian sentimental love story set here in this country."
Anand describes the film as his "baby" - he wrote the screenplay, he's directing it, his Navketan International Films company is producing it, and of course, Anand appears in the film as well, playing a "Silicon Valley billionaire."
Dressed sportily in a beige jacket and black cap, his trademark scarf piled up around his neck, Anand exuded energy and confidence. As he raced from spot to spot, he quickly sized up the potential of every attraction and how it might look on camera - a food court becomes the background for a love duet; a silver-painted "robot" street performer poses with the actors; and the film's young heroine, Heenee Kaushik, is harnessed onto a bungee trampoline.
"Somebody give me six dollars!" shouts Anand, as Kaushik is strapped in by an attendant. One of the Indian crewmembers chimes in, "Can't they just let us use it for free since we're putting it into a movie?"
"Dev-saab," calls Kaushik, as she bobs up and down on rubber ropes. "Am I supposed to look dazed?"
"No, dear!" he replies. "You are not dazed! You are happy to be here. You are in America!"
Five minutes of bouncing later, the crew moves 100 feet westward, as the sun sinks in the sky. Kaushik, in tight white capri pants, platform shoes and pancake makeup, keeps pace as they walk, but makes time to chat with an older couple visiting San Francisco from New Delhi.
"It was very great to see Dev Anand," says Kuldip Kaur, as her husband, Hakikat Singh, poses for a snapshot with Kaushik. "He's very active! Yes, he's old, but he looks great."
The story of Love at Times Square begins Dec. 31, 1999, and ends exactly one year later at the same place: Times Square, New York City. It's a love triangle between Kaushik and two young men who fight for her attention, played by newcomers Shoaib Khan and Chaitanya.
Khan plays Raj, a wealthy young Silicon Valley businessman, and Chaitanya plays a nice, middle class Indian boy (gee, I wonder which one will get the girl ...). Khan called working with Anand "a great experience," and Chaitanya, a Gladrags Mr. Photogenic award-winner discovered by Anand, said it was "pretty cool" to be here shooting in the U.S. despite the widespread nervousness over the terrorism scare - California Governor Gray Davis had announced days earlier that there was a chance that terrorists could attempt to destroy the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges.
Dev Anand has been acting in films for 57 years, and at 78 years of age, shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, after this film is finished, he is supposed to start work on Raj Mahal Mein Hatyakand, a film based on the massacre of Nepal's royal family earlier this year.
Anand began his career as a film actor in 1946 with Hum Ek Hain, got his first hit in 1948 (Ziddi), and started directing in 1970 with Prem Pujari.
The onetime king of the box office now finds himself in the position of defending his films against a mass of scathing critiques and indifferent audiences. IndiaTimes.com, the online arm of the Times of India, called Anand's last film, Censor, "one of the laughable films of recent times"; the Hindustan Times called him "unrepentant and persistent" after the failure of Censor (adding, "No one will watch Dev-saab's next film, either"); and MTVIndia.com's review said simply: "Why doesn't Dev Anand give up?" India-West asked if it hurt to receive such harsh criticism.
"No," replied Anand. "I was prepared for that. Because when you make a film on censorship you know what you're heading for. I wanted the censorship of my country to be a little more liberalized, and I wanted to say something.
"People said (the Indian censor board) wouldn't pass it - but they passed it. That was the big thing.
"Censorship is not the problem of the common man. His problem is love, food, hunger, separation, divorce, kids, relationships. I knew it. But I said what I wanted to say. That's it! You want to say something to the world and you say it.
"Commercially it was not a success. And I anticipated that."
The shooting of Love at Times Square has not been easy. Anand and his crew were in New York City Sept. 11, where they had planned to make the World Trade Center one of their locations; after the terrorism strike, though, they shot at the Empire State Building instead.
Here in San Francisco, things are going at a suitably crazy pace. "I would say that by American standards, this is pretty chaotic," said key grip Caswell Cooke.
"They didn't apply for shooting permits until the last minute," said a staff member at the San Francisco Film and Video Arts Commission who didn't want his name to be used. "They didn't know where or when they even wanted to shoot. I've had a lot of difficulty with these people ... then again, the nature of this whole industry can be very last-minute."
It's 5 p.m., and the sun has just disappeared behind Ghirardelli Square. The crew debates its chances of getting one final shot before darkness sets in - and weighs the hassle of trying to shoot a scene near the Golden Gate Bridge (impossible, says a production assistant - without a permit, they could be liable for a hefty fine).
Someone thinks of Marina Green, a gorgeous expanse of grass ten minutes away, with ships on one side and San Francisco mansions on the other. "Let's go!" someone says, and Anand is hustled into a waiting car and whisked away.
The following day, India-West asked a member of the production if they'd made it in time.
"No," she said. "It was too late."