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Article Hindi

How Ramesh Deo and Seema landed their career-defining roles in Anand (1971): Birthday special

And got extra payment of Rs10,000 each from producer-director Hrishikesh Mukherjee for a prediction they made about the film.

Suyog Zore

It would not be wrong to call yesteryear Marathi movie star and prominent Hindi actor Ramesh Deo a stalwart of Indian cinema. The actor-director-producer has worked in the Marathi film industry for over six decades and in Hindi for over five.

Born on 30 January 1929 in Kolhapur, Ramesh Deo, now in the tenth decade of his life, began his movie career with a small role in Ram Ram Pahuna (1950), starring the popular leading man of the era, Chandrakant, another Kolhapur native.

Ramesh Deo got his first big break in actor-filmmaker Raja Paranjpe's hit Andhala Magto Ek Dola (1956), playing the main villain. By the end of the decade, he had established himself as a leading man. He went on to play leading roles in many Marathi movies.

But by the mid-1960s, Ramesh Deo had turned his attention to the much larger canvas offered by Hindi cinema with Mohabbat Isko Kahete Hain (1965), playing a supporting role. He went on to act in 285 Hindi films in addition to his 190 Marathi credits.

In his autobiography Ya Sukhano Ya, Ramesh Deo spoke of how he and his wife, actress Seema, got their career-defining roles in one of the most memorable films of the 1970s, Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Anand (1971). Ramesh Deo was shooting for Hemant Kumar's Bees Saal Pehle (1972), playing a villain in the film. He was shooting in Filmistan Studio at Andheri (West) and had to perform one long scene which had many dialogues and movements. The actor nailed the scene in the first take itself.

Seeing this, a stranger approached him and praised his performance. Producer-singer Hemant Kumar joined them and told the stranger about Ramesh Deo's work in Marathi cinema. The stranger was surprised to know that despite playing the leading man in Marathi cinema, Ramesh Deo was willing to do supporting and even negative roles in Hindi films.

Asked about this, the actor replied, "I have worked in only two or three Hindi films. If I start asking for lead roles I won't get even the roles I'm getting now", and left for the rehearsal of the next shot.

A couple of days later, the actor got a call and was asked to come to meet producer NC Sippy at Rupam Chitra the next day at 2pm sharp. Ramesh Deo was anyway never late for any meeting. That day he reached half an hour before the appointed time.

When he entered the room, the stranger he had met on the set earlier was present. That's when he found out that the stranger was none other than filmmaker Hrishikesh Mukherjee.

Mukherjee offered Deo and his wife the role of a married couple, Doctor Prakash Kulkarni and Suman Kulkarni, in his next project. The real-life couple has played husband and wife in as many 73 films, but Anand remains one of their best.

Interestingly, Hrishikesh Mukherjee and NC Sippy both were uncertain about casting Rajesh Khanna in Anand. Khanna was a superstar by then and though his character had died in Aradhana (1969), he had a double role in the film, and so he had returned as the character's son. But in Anand, there was to be no resurrection. This made the filmmakers nervous about how the audience would receive the film. But Ramesh Deo and Seema assured them that Anand would become a jubilee hit. Mukherjee promised to pay each of them Rs10,000 extra if their prediction came true.

As it happened, the couple were on the button. The film became a golden jubilee hit. Mukherjee was true to his word and the Deos, to their surprise, each received a cheque for Rs10,000.

Ten thousand rupees was not a small sum back in the day and the couple had forgotten the director's promise, thinking Mukherjee was just being his usual jovial self. Those, after all, were the days when many filmmakers were known not to release even the payment promised in the cast and crew contracts.