How Dev Anand lost out on the lead in Teesri Manzil

On the evergreen star’s fifth death anniversary today (3 December), a look at the film that got away.

Sonal Pandya

Filmmaker Nasir Husain, early on in his career, wrote for Subodh Mukerji’s films Munimji (1955), Paying Guest (1957) and Love Marriage (1959) — all featuring Dev Anand. Husain himself directed Dev saheb, as the star was popularly known, in Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai (1961). So when he was about to embark on his next project, it was only natural that Dev Anand was cast in the lead. The film was Teesri Manzil (1966).

At the book launch of author Akshay Manwani’s Music Masti Modernity, Husain’s children Mansoor and Nuzhat, along with nephew Aamir Khan, were at hand to talk about the man and the filmmaker. They divulged many behind-the-scenes anecdotes, including the unbelievable tale of how Dev Anand was cast out of the film and Shammi Kapoor walked in to play Rocky.

Shammi Kapoor and Asha Parekh in Teesri Manzil

Aamir Khan explained, “Teesri Manzil, Goldie uncle [Dev Anand’s younger brother, actor-director Vijay Anand] was not directing. Shammi Kapoor was not in the film originally. It was Dev saheb who was playing the lead and Nasir saheb was directing it, [with the] story, screenplay, dialogues written by Nasir saheb. Goldie uncle was directing a film called Baharon Ke Sapne (1967) for NH Films. Baharon Ke Sapne was a script that Nasir saheb had written during his college days. It’s a very offbeat kind of a film. Goldie was making Baharon Ke Sapne with Rajesh Khanna and Ashaji [Parekh] and Teesri Manzil was Dev saheb and Asha aunty.”

While the two films were set, at an engagement party at tony Pali Hill in Bandra, Mumbai, for the actress Sadhana with RK Nayyar, Dev Anand and Nasir Husain had a major disagreement. Aamir recalled that “apparently, Nasir saheb overheard him saying that, ‘Nasir jo hai woh mere saath badi film bana raha hai, colour film hai aur Goldie ko usne koi black and white film de di hai. Koi naya ladka aaya hai, Rajesh karke. [Nasir is doing a big colour film with me and he has given Goldie a black and white film with some new chap Rajesh].

"He [Nasir Husain] got very upset. I had checked this with Sadhanaji also. I asked her, 'Did it happen?' She said yes. So they had to be pulled apart. I can never imagine Nasir saheb trying to hit someone and, for that matter, I can’t imagine Dev saheb trying to hit someone. They were both such gentle souls, so sophisticated. But khair, hota hai [it happens].”

This allowed Kapoor, a former hero of NH Films, to come back in the fold. “The next day, apparently, Nasir saheb called Goldie uncle to the office and said, “Your brother is saying this. So now, you are going to direct Teesri Manzil and I’m going to direct Baharon Ke Sapne. But Dev is not in Teesri Manzil.” And then he called up Shammi uncle. I had checked this with Shammi uncle also. Because, before that, they had had a bit of an altercation, and that’s how they got back together. That’s how this film was finally made with Shammi uncle in it instead of Dev saheb who was originally there.”

 Dev Anand, Joy Mukherjee and Shammi Kapoor
Photo: NH Films/Nuzhat Films

In Music Masti Modernity: The Cinema of Nasir Husain, author Akshay Manwani confirmed what a loss Teesri Manzil was to Dev Anand. “Dev Anand once admitted to Rauf Ahmed in an interview, 'I created my biggest rival. With every film I let go, he [Shammi Kapoor] shot to fame.’ While this may be true, considering that Husain’s Tumsa Nahin Dekha was written keeping Anand in mind and that both Junglee and Teesri Manzil turned out to be spectacular hits in Shammi’s career, the two actors were quite unlike.”

Anand never worked again with Husain and, sadly, after the blockbuster Teesri Manzil (1966), neither did Kapoor.