Dev Anand: The Original Rebel Hero of the Indian Cinema

Sharaf Rehman, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley


In literature, and to a certain extent, in films, a hero is larger than life human with extraordinary powers and a kind heart. An anti-hero too has supernatural powers, but his motives can be suspect. The films in the late 1930s and early 1940s introduced a hero that was trying to make good, however, his past was less than perfect, and his actions to justify the end results were less than heroic. This kind of hero -a rebel hero - was self-centered and often driven by worldly gains, revenge, or lust. James Cagney, John Garfield, and Humphrey Bogart exemplified the rebel hero in the American cinema. James Mason portrayed similar characters in the British films of the same era. Among the three Indian screen legends of the 1950s and 1960s – Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, and Dev Anand – Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor were always the all-good heroes. Dev Anand was more daring in his choice of roles and often portrayed characters that were involved with crime, gambling, and gangsters. Using contextual analysis, this paper traces the development of the rebel hero phenomenon and Dev Anand as one of the first rebel heroes of the Indian cinema.