Chetan Anand (1921-1997) was a noted director, producer, and screenplay writer of Hindi cinema. As a highly acclaimed filmmaker, he received the Palme d’Or award (then known as ‘Grand Prix’) at the Cannes Film Festival in 1946 for his directorial debut film ‘Neecha Nagar’ (1946), becoming the first Indian film to gain recognition at the international level. He is popularly known as the elder brother of Hindi film actor-directors, Dev Anand and Vijay Anand.
Chetan Anand was born on Monday, 3 January 1921 (age 76 years; at the time of death) in Gurdaspur, Punjab, British India; however, some sources claim that he was born in Lahore (now in Pakistan), Punjab, British India. He studied Hindu scriptures at Gurukula Kangri in Haridwar, Uttarakhand. He graduated from an English medium government college in Lahore.
Height (approx.): 5′ 6″
Hair Colour: Grey
Eye Colour: Black
Vijay Anand belonged to an upper-middle-class Punjabi Hindu family in Gurdaspur, Punjab.
Parents & Siblings
His father, Pishori Lal Anand, was an advocate. He lost his mother at an early age. Chetan Anand had six siblings, three brothers – Manmohan Anand, Vijay Anand (filmmaker), and Dev Anand (actor, director, and producer) – and three sisters – Sheel Kanta Kapur (Indian filmmaker Shekhar Kapur’s mother), Usha Madhok, and Bonnie Sareen.
Wife & Children
In 1943, Chetan Anand married Uma Chatterji, a Bengali Christian woman of Brahmin heritage.
Soon, they became parents of two children, Vivek Anand and Ketan Anand (filmmaker).
A couple of years later, the duo parted ways but remained legally married to each other as the law did not permit divorce even on mutual consent of partners at that time.
Chetan Anand, after being estranged from his wife, Uma Anand, fell in love with the Indian actor Priya Rajvansh, who made her debut in Hindi Cinema as a lead actor with Chetan Anand’s film ‘Haqeeqat’ (1964). It is claimed that Uma Anand brought Priya Rajvansh into Chetan Anand’s life. She reportedly saw Priya performing at a function in Chandigarh, where she approached her and gave her Chetan’s card to contact him. Priya, however, moved to London, where she pursued an acting course at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). After completing the course, Priya shared her portfolio with Chetan Anand, who was looking for a girl to play the role of ‘Heer’ in the film ‘Heer Ranjha’ (1970). Chetan Anand, after looking at Priya Rajvansh’s portfolio, telegrammed her to come to Bombay (now Mumbai) as soon as possible. After receiving the telegram, Priya came to Bombay, where he met 16 years senior Chetan Anand. The film ‘Heer Ranjha’ went through some delay following Chetan, along with Priya and the team, started working on the film ‘Haqeeqat.’ Reportedly, Chetan and Priya fell in love with each other during the making of the film ‘Haqeeqat’ in 1960.
The Love and Companionship
Moin Beg, one of Priya’s close friends, talked about her relationship with Chetan Anand and revealed that they both were in a live-in relationship. Since Chetan Anand was still legally married to Uma, his relationship with Priya could not take a legal identity. Chetan and Priya lived as a couple and had no children together. According to Moin Beg, Chetan Anand and Priya had an amazing understanding. Chetan was dependent on her regarding a visit to a doctor or working on scripts. They did have different opinions sometimes, but they managed to be on the same page. Moin added that Chetan Anand used to fondly call Priya ‘Bimbo,’ and whenever she used to get upset, he just had to say “Aur kya ho raha hai Bimbo?” to make her smile. While talking about Chetan Anand and Priya Rajvansh’s chemistry as a couple, Moin Beg said,
He (Chetan Anand) was totally dependent on her, whether it was regarding the doctor or his scripts. They did have a lot of arguments. And when she got angry, she’d sulk. To pacify her, Chetan saab just had to say, ‘Aur kya ho raha hai Bimbo (his pet name for her)?’ And she’d start smiling. Chetan saab and Priya were at peace with each other. They had a fabulous understanding.”
On 27 March 2000, Priya Rajvansh was murdered at Chetan Anand’s Ruia Park bungalow in Juhu, Mumbai for which Chetan Anand’s sons, Ketan Anand and Vivek Anand, along with some employees, were charged by police officials for her murder. Ketan and Vikek were given the sentence of life imprisonment; however, they were granted bail in 2022 after spending two years in jail.
Chetan Anand made his directorial debut with the Hindi-language film ‘Neecha Nagar’ in 1946; Neecha Nagar became the first Indian film to gain recognition at the international level after winning the Palme d’Or award (then known as ‘Grand Prix’) at the Cannes Film Festival in 1946.
In 1949, he founded ‘Navketan Films,’ a production house, with his younger brother Dev Anand and directed its first feature ‘Afsar’ (1950). Chetan directed ‘Taxi driver’ in 1954, starring Dev Anand and Kalpana Kartik; the film was shot on the outskirts of Bombay (now Mumbai) in around 45 days based on a script by Vijay Anand and Uma Anand, and it came out to be Chetan Anand’s first box office success and Navketan’s biggest grosser film till date.
Chetan Anand went on to direct many films including ‘Arpan’ (1957), one of Indian cinema’s earliest war films ‘ Haqeeqat’ (1964), ‘Heer Raanjha’ (1970), ‘Jaaneman’ (1976), and ‘Kudrat’ (1981).
Chetan Anand directed ‘Param Vir Chakra,’ an Indian television serial portraying the real life of Param Vir Chakra gallantry award winners, in 1988. The series was broadcasted on the DD National channel.
In 1960, Chetan Anand established his own production company, ‘Himalaya Films’ and teamed up with cinematographer Jal Mistry, music director Madan Mohan, lyricist Kaifi Azmi, and actor Priya Rajvansh. The first film produced by Chetan Anand was ‘Saheb Bahadur’ (1977); it was produced under the Himalaya Films production company. Anand produced ‘Haathon Ki Lakeeren’ in 1986.
Chetan Anand made his debut as an actor with the film ‘Humsafar’ in 1953. He appeared in many other films including ‘Kala Bazar’ (1960) and ‘Kinare Kinare’ (1963).
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- 1946: Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival for the film ‘Neecha Nagar’ (1946)
- 1965: National Film Award for Second Best Feature Film for ‘Haqeeqat’ (1964)
- 1982: Filmfare Best Story Award for the film ‘Kudrat’ (1981)
Chetan Anand died on 6 July 1997, at the age of 76, in Mumbai.
A Purported Dispute Regarding Property Ownership
Reportedly, Chetan Anand left a considerable portion of his wealth to Priya Rajvansh in his testament, which included the possession of Anand’s lavish beachfront bungalow in Juhu, Mumbai. According to the will, Priya was not granted the authority to sell the bungalow, which would instead revert to Chetan’s sons on her demise. Chetan Anand made this decision considering Priya, who could live for the rest of her life in the house she had made memories with Chetan for two decades, and his sons, who would not be deprived of their father’s property. According to some sources, the relationship between Priya and Anand’s sons turned unpleasant when Anand fell sick. On 27 March 2000, Priya Rajvansh was murdered at Chetan Anand’s Ruia Park bungalow in Juhu, Mumbai for which Chetan Anand’s sons, Ketan Anand and Vivek Anand, along with some employees, were charged by police officials for her murder.
- Chetan Anand belonged to a family of actors, directors, producers, and screenwriters of Hindi Cinema.
- Following his inclination towards politics, Chetan Anand became a member of the Indian National Congress in 1930; Chetan worked for BBC in the same year.
- In the early 40s, Chetan Anand, while teaching History at Doon School in Dehradun, Uttarakhand, wrote a script based on emperor Ashoka, which he later showed to the Indian film director Phani Majumdar in Bombay. Phani, in 1944, cast Anand as the protagonist in the film ‘Rajkumar,’ which was never released due to some problems.
- Chetan Anand was associated with the Indian People’s Theatre Association (ITPA), Bombay (now Mumbai).
- According to some sources, Chetan Anand appeared in the Indian Civil Service (ICS) examination in London as he devotedly wanted to serve in Indian Civil Service.
- In 2007, Chetan Anand’s wife, Uma Anand, and son Ketan Anand wrote a book titled ‘Chetan Anand: The Poetics of Film,’ which covers Chetan’s journey in the Hindi cinema, starting from his struggling days as a writer to his rise to fame as a filmmaker. In 2008, Ketan Anand made a documentary on Chetan Anand’s life journey with the same title.
- In 2007, the retrospective of his films was featured at the Stuttgart Film Festival and the India International Centre in New Delhi.
- In 2013, a commemorative postage stamp on Chetan Anand was released by India Post.