Throughout a career spanning close to five decades, Deven Verma gave the impression that the camera had caught him in the midst of a normal conversation and he was not even aware of its existence. Verma, who passed away around 1.45 a.m. on Tuesday in Pune, India, at 77, distinguished himself as an effortless and unrehearsed performer.
That his chosen genre turned out to be comedy in Hindi cinema may have pushed a lesser actor into the high gear of ridiculous overstatement but Verma steadfastly maintained a decades-long deadpan. Either by default or design he became a key presence in ironic urbane comic themes even though he had all the fundamental qualities of a general performer of excellence.
Beginning his career in 1961 with B. R. Chopra’s ‘Dharamputra’, Verma went on to do scores of films, many of which were understated comedies that greatly benefitted from his natural flair as an unhurried actor. I do not want get into Verma’s whole filmography here but even a casual look at his body of work from his first comic role in ‘Gumraah’ (1963) shows someone who was mindful that he was standing in front of several cameras without really being affected by them.
Given his temperament as an actor, Verma gravitated towards filmmakers such as Gulzar, Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee who all preferred his approach to acting. Be it Mukherjee’s ‘Golmaal’ (1979) or Gulzar’s ‘Angoor’ (1982) or any number of other films in similar creative vicinity, Verma’s performances were marked by a trademark ease with his lines and his characters.
During its 100 years of existence, Hindi cinema has seen actors such as Deven Verma who lend it the substance and depth that oftentimes its much celebrated and pampered superstars cannot. Verma was a no-frills performer who got into his familiar rhythm without any fuss and invariably left his mark irrespective of the length of the role or the general quality of the film. His passing removes a thoroughly reliable performer.