Dev was born Devdutt Pishorimal Anand in Gurdaspur in undivided Punjab to a well-to-do advocate, Pishorimal Anand. He graduated in English literature from the Government College, Lahore (now in Pakistan). His love for acting made him leave his hometown for the centre of the Hindi film industry, Mumbai. Dev began his career in the military censor office at Churchgate, Mumbai, for a salary of Rs. 160.
He was soon offered a break as an actor by Prabhat Talkies to star in their Hum Ek Hain (1946). While shooting for the film in Pune, Dev struck a friendship with fellow actor Guru Dutt. Soon, they were swapping shirts, double dating and sharing dreams. They made a pact: if Dev produced a film, Guru Dutt would direct it; if Guru Dutt produced a film, Dev would act in it.
Dev was offered his first big break by Ashok Kumar, his favourite star. Kumar spotted Dev hanging around in the studios and picked him as the hero for the Bombay Talkies production, Ziddi, costarring Kamini Kaushal (1948) which became a success.
In 1949, he turned producer and launched his own company Navketan, which continues to churn out movies. Though his maiden attempt at direction, Prem Pujari, flopped, his second directorial effort Hare Rama Hare Krishna in 1971 with Zeenat Aman was a big success.
As promised, Dev gambled on Guru Dutt as director for the crime thriller, Baazi (1951). The dice rolled in favour of this creative collaboration; the Sahir Ludhianvi, lyricist song, Tadbeer se bigdi huyee taqdeer bana de, proved prophetic and Dev became a true star.
He also played a few characters with a negative shade, like in Jaal (1952). His films Rahee and Aandhiyan, were screened there along with Raj Kapoor's Awaara. In the same year, Taxi Driver was declared a hit. Dev's heroine was Kalpana Kartik again, and the two decided to marry in a quiet ceremony.
Marriage and the birth of son Suneil in 1956 did not affect Dev's career. A rapid-fire style of dialogue delivery, an array of hats (see for example Aye meri topi palat ke aa), and a penchant for nodding while speaking became Dev's style in films like Munimji, CID and Paying Guest. His style was lapped up by the audience and was widely imitated. He starred in a string of box office successes for the remainder of the 1950s.
Despite his characteristic style, Dev's detractors cast aspersions on his acting abilities and questioned his inclusion in the hallowed Raj Kapoor-Dilip Kumar league. Dev made them eat humble pie with his class act in Kala Pani (1958), as the son who is willing to go to any lengths ? including sweet-talking a courtesan into believing he is in love with her ? to clear his framed father's name. He won the Best Actor Award for the film.
He was romantically involved with singer-actress Suraiya and the two of them paired in six films together. During the shooting of a song sequence in the file, a boat capsized and Dev Anand saved Suraiya from drowning. She fell in love with him but her grandmother opposed the relationship. Suraiya remained unmarried all her life.
His first film in colour, Guide with Waheeda Rehman was based on the novel of the same name by R. K. Narayan. The impetus for making a film from the book came from Dev Anand himself, and he met and persuaded Narayan to give his assent to the project. Dev Anand tapped his friends in Hollywood to lauch an Indo-US co-production that was shot in Hindi and English simultaneously and was released in 1965. This is regarded by many as his best work to-date.
Guide, directed by younger brother Vijay Anand, silenced the staunchest of critics. Dev played Raju, a voluble guide who supports Rosy (Waheeda) in her bid for freedom; but is not above thoughtlessly exploiting her for personal gains. Combining style with substance, Dev gave an affecting performance as a man grappling with his emotions in his passage through love, shame and salvation.
Guide was Dev's creative acme. He reunited with Vijay Anand for the much-hyped Jewel Thief, featuring a bevy of beauties led by Vyjayanthimala and including Tanuja, Anju Mahendru, Faryal and Helen.
Their next collaboration, Johnny Mera Naam (1970) was a big hit. The film was released in the same year as Raj Kapoor's magnum 'flopus' Mera Naam Joker (it was a commercial failure). Unlike Raj and Dilip who slowed down in the Seventies, Dev continued to be a romantic hero.
His maiden attempt at direction, the espionage drama, Prem Pujari flopped, but Dev got lucky with his sophomore directorial effort Hare Rama Hare Krishna. It talked about the prevalent hippie cult. Zeenat Aman, who played the mini-skirt sporting, pot-smoking protagonist Janice, became an overnight sensation. Dev also became known as a filmmaker of trenchantly topical themes.
The presence of his discoveries ? the zestful Zeenat and later, the elfin Tina Munim (heroine of Dev's last recognised hit Des Pardes in 1978) ? fuelled Dev's image as the evergreen star even when he was well into his fifties.
Dev Anand is one of those few Indian actors/filmmakers who are politically aware and active and are ready to stand up for the cause that is dear to them. He was the one who led a group of film personalities who stood up against the Internal Emergency imposed by the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. He actively campaigned against her with his supporters in [Indian parliamentary elections in 1977 while very few among the film fraternity showed the courage to fight against the authoritarian regime.
Most of his films are an expression of his world view and have dealt with socially relevant subjects. He always emphasises this in his interviews. He thinks that his films represent his personal points of view.
Dev Anand's films are best known for their great music. Some of the most popular Bollywood songs were from his films. His association with music composers O. P. Nayyar, Sachin Dev Burman and his son Rahul Dev Burman, lyricists Majrooh Sultanpuri, Neeraj, Shailendra, and playback singers Mohammad Rafi and Kishore Kumar produced some very popular songs.