When it came to filmmaking, Vijay, like his brothers, too was influenced by the neo-noir Hollywood films. That was very much evident in his directorial debut Nau Do Gyarah (1957), where a truck driver (Dev Anand) and a runaway bride (Kalpana Kartik) fall in love, leading to many misadventures. His next directorial venture Kala Bazar (1960) had all the three brothers acting together for the first time. Dev Anand played a black marketeer who starts off by selling film tickets in black but is later reformed through love. It’s said that Vijay’s childhood memories of seeing movie tickets of Dev Anand’s films being sold in black gave him the idea for this film. The film used footage of the premiere of the film Mother India (1957) to great advantage and with actors like Dilip Kumar, Nargis, Geeta Dutt, Guru Dutt, Raaj Kumar and Rajendra Kumar being featured in it. It became one of the talking points of the film.
His next film was Tere Ghar Ke Saamne (1963), a romantic comedy. It’s said Goldie liked Nutan as an actress, who was said to have the perfect photogenic face. He shot one of the best songs of the actress, Dil ka bhanwar kare pukar in the film. The song was said to be shot on the spiral staircase of Qutub Minar and is a marvel of song picturisation. Nutan and Dev Anand climb up the tower as friends but come down as lovers, the whole courtship being played out amidst the journey.
Indeed, shooting songs aesthetically and using them as extensions of the narrative became something of a trademark for Vijay Anand. In the Tere mere sapne song from Guide (1965), for instance, the morning sun becomes a metaphor for the new-found love between Raju and Rosie. The light Goldie wanted was available only for 15 minutes per day early morning so he timed it to perfection and shot for those 15 minutes each day till he was satisfied. The song Hothon mein aisi baat from Jewel Thief (1967) was shot at the royal palace of Gangtok, Sikkim and showed the heroine in a dilemma as she has learnt a fateful secret. The fast-moving song looked almost like an uncut take. Pal bhar ke liye koi hame pyar kar le from Johny Mera Naam (1970) was filmed on a set representing a house with multiple doors and windows. You can see Dev Anand in a continuous motion serenading Hema Malni from various nooks and crannies. Pal pal dil ke paas from Blackmail (1973) was designed like a daydream. The heroine, Raakhee, reads the letters written to her by the hero, Dharmendra, and imagines he’s there alongside her. It rates as being one of the most romantically picturised songs ever. In Akela gaya tha main (Rajput, 1982), the daydream motif is again utilised, this time on Rajesh Khanna, who is shown riding a horse and thinking about Hema Malini. The film may have flopped but the beauty of the song hasn’t diminished. Composers Laxmikant-Pyarelal too cleverly incorporated the tick-tock sound made by the hooves of the horse into the soundtrack.
He was said to have a finely-tuned ear for music, as can be seen in his various associations with music directors like SD Burman, RD Burman, Jaidev, Laxmikant-Pyarelal and lyricists Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri. It’s said that his songs often felt like dialogue between the hero and the heroine.
It’s said he also directed Hum Dono (1961), though the film’s credits say Amarjeet. Even Dev Anand, who played the double role of two army guys, had said so in his interviews. It has one of the finest songs ever filmed on Dev Anand — Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya. The song has all the landmarks of Vijay Anand’s wizardry. Over the course of the song, one gets to know the mindscape of the protagonist. Jaidev’s music and Sahir Ludhianvi’s lyrics were the soul of the film. The bhajan, Allah tero naam, sung by Lata Mangeshkar, is revered even today. The highlight of the film were the confrontation scenes between Major Manohar Lal Verma and Captain Anand. Shot way before computer graphics came into the picture, they nevertheless successfully gave an illusion that we’re watching two characters, despite a single actor enacting them.
Some credit Vijay Anand as being one of the most prolific of commercial Hindi film directors. Well, come to think of it, Nau Do Gyrah was a road movie, Kala Bazar was neo-realist cinema, Tere Ghar Ke Saamne a romcom, Guide a book adaptation, Teesri Manzil a murder mystery, Jewel Thief was noir, Johny Mera Naam employed the lost-and-found formula, while Hum Dono explored how war and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) changed the human psyche. He was way ahead of his times in doing so.
Vijay Anand reportedly lost interest in direction after three conecutive films , Blackmail (1973), Chhupa Rustam (1973) and Bullet (1976) didn’t perform well at the box office. To overcome the depression, perhaps, he became a disciple of godman Rajneesh and was said to belong to Rajneesh’s inner circle. He married his niece Sushma Kohli in 1978, when he was making Ram Balram (1980). This move led to a huge scandal within the conservative Punjabi community. Subsequent films like Rajput (1982), Hum Rahe Na Hum (1984) and Main Tere Liye (1988), too flopped. His last film was Jaana Na Dil Se Door (2001), which didn’t get released.
He died on February 23, 2004 due to a heart attack and was aged 70 at the time of his death.