He was born on September 26, 1923 in Gurdaspur in Punjab to a well-to-do advocate, Devdutt Pishorimal Anand. He graduated in English literature from the Government College, Lahore (now in Pakistan). His love for acting made him leave his hometown. After a flop debut with Hum Ek Hain in 1946, Dev Anand met Guru Dutt at Prabhat Studio and struck a rapport with him. His first success came with Ziddi (1948).
In 1949, he turned producer and launched his own "banner" Navketan, which continues to churn out movies year after year. Though his maiden attempt at direction, Prem Pujari, flopped, his second directorial effort Hare Rama Hare Krishna with Zeenat Aman created a record of sorts.
Dev invited Guru Dutt to direct the crime thriller Baazi in 1951. Lyricist Sahir's song Tadbeer se bigdi huyee proved to be prophetic and Dev went on to become a "star". His style was lapped up by the audience and imitated. Some of his hit films were Munimji, CID, Paying Guest, Gambler and Tere Ghar ke Saamne.
In 2001, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan, an honour by the Government of India. He was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, 2002, for lifetime contribution to Indian cinema.