Veeru Devgan's inspiring story is chronicled in Pinki Virani's book, Once Was Bombay: Read an excerpt
In her 1999 book, Once Was Bombay (Viking), veteran journalist Pinki Virani delved into the psyche of a 'dying' city. In a review for the book, Rajdeep Sardesai wrote: "Pinki Virani is not entirely wrong. The great Bombay dream is over unless the dream happens to be that manufactured by a Ramgopal Varma. If Bombay makes the headlines today, it's because someone has been shot on a busy thoroughfare, or because its presiding deity has been disenfranchised by the Election Commission." Then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee cited Virani's work in a speech on collapsing cities.
Once Was Bombay is made up of a number of other stories, and among them is that of Veerendra aka Veeru Devgan. One of Hindi cinema's best known stunt men, Devgan turned to action choreography and film direction during a prolific career in Bollywood. When he passed away on 27 May 2019, aged 85, tributes poured in from the film industry, and also from personages like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who tweeted:
"There is something deeply moving about people like Shri Devgan who took great personal risks to enthrall audiences in an era of no 'visual effects', knowing well that the glory of taking those risks would not be credited to them...He was known for his personal daredevilry, for pushing the limits as an action choreographer as well as for being meticulous about the safety of his team."
In her profile of Devgan, Pinki Virani traces his humble beginnings: from Veeru's entrance into the proverbial "city of dreams" to finding love, family, fame and fortune. Eventually, his son Ajay — launched by Veeru into filmdom — would become one of Bollywood's superstars.
The following excerpt from Pinki Virani's Once Was Bombay recounts a part of Veeru Devgan's tale. It has been reproduced here with due permission from the author and the publishers, Penguin India.
Pinki Virani is the author of the best-selling Bitter Chocolate: Child Sexual Abuse in India and Aruna's Story.
Once Was Bombay by Pinki Virani | Penguin India | Pages 284 | Price: Rs 350
Updated Date: Jun 03, 2019 16:52:27 IST